Is HVAC Engineer a Good Career? (Future of HVAC Engineering)


After I graduated from college as a bachelor's degree holder in mechanical engineering, my first job was as an HVAC engineer. After more than 7 years of working as an HVAC engineer, I have a pretty good idea if HVAC engineer is a good career.

Generally, HVAC engineer is a good career because the demand for heating and cooling in buildings is rising every year. Thus, the future of HVAC engineering is bright. Furthermore, HVAC is a major contributor to climate change and thus, HVAC engineers play an important role in fighting climate change.

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HVAC is a huge industry. Although there are already many HVAC engineers in the market, HVAC engineers are still in high demand around the world due to several factors.

Why HVAC Engineer is a Good Career?

HVAC is essential. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning is a must in most buildings. As the global temperature rises, the demand for cooling has never been so high before.

Demand for Air Conditioner is Rising Exponentially

International Energy Agency (IEA) had conducted a study to show that the demand for air conditioners is rising exponentially around the world. As of now, people in most countries still have yet to have an air conditioner in their house and they are soon going to get one due to the rising of income.

Percentage of Households with Air Conditioner

Furthermore, IEA estimated that more and more air conditioners will be made in the future and they made a projection on global air conditioner stock all the way to the year 2050. It shows an exponential growth of air conditioner stock [source].

Global Air Conditioner Stock

The reason why the demand for air conditioners is rising is simple; the world is getting hotter, the population is growing and more people can afford to buy an air conditioner.

With the increasing demand for air conditioners around the globe, the future of HVAC engineering is bright. As an HVAC engineer, your skills and experiences will be valuable.

High Efficiency Air Conditioner is Needed Urgently

Some people worry that global warming and climate change issues will shut down air conditioners and thus, HVAC engineers may lose their job. In fact, it is the opposite.

Talented HVAC engineers are needed to improve the design of the air conditioning system in order to reduce power consumption and therefore, carbon emissions.

Many people misunderstood that air conditioners are causing global warming and climate change. However, the underlying issue is that air conditioners consume a lot of electricity that power plants burn fossil fuels to generate.

So, HVAC engineers need to design the most efficient HVAC system as well as the most efficient air conditioners to help fight climate change while power plants are switching from burning fossil fuels to generating electricity using hydro, wind and solar power.

As an HVAC engineer, there are a lot of opportunities in R&D, manufacturing, design, installation and maintenance of the HVAC system as the world comes together to fight climate change.

Is HVAC Work Hard?

In the HVAC industry, there are a lot of different fields you can specialize in. Generally, there are two types of HVAC engineers; a) HVAC project engineer and b) HVAC design engineer.

HVAC project engineers are mainly responsible for the installation of the HVAC system. They usually work on building construction projects and their work is physically demanding. Learn more about project engineer duties and responsibilities in my previous blog post.

On the other hand, HVAC design engineers are responsible for the design of the HVAC system. They also work on building construction projects but their technical knowledge is more demanding.

Compared with other jobs related to mechanical engineering such as plumbing and fire protection, HVAC involved more things. As an HVAC engineer, not only that you need to deal with air conditioners and ventilation fans, but you also need to handle piping, ducting, wiring and control system.

In a building construction project, the HVAC system is often the largest and most complicated MEP service depending on the type of the building. If you advanced to a higher position, you also need to manage more people than other MEP services.

Throughout my 7 years of working as an HVAC engineer, I realized that HVAC project engineers focus more on organization and management while HVAC design engineers focus more on the technical aspect of the HVAC system.

If you ask me, I think most HVAC project engineers have a tougher time than most HVAC design engineers.

Does HVAC Engineering Pay Well?

While salary is heavily dependent on geographical location, HVAC engineering generally pays quite well than other mechanical engineering jobs such as plumbing, fire protection and building security.

However, as the world is heading towards industrial revolution 4.0, building automation engineers and BIM engineers may be more demanding than HVAC engineers. But, their field of study is different from HVAC.

Because HVAC is a huge industry (bigger than building automation and BIM modeling), job availability is not a question. Hence, there are a lot of opportunities for you to get promoted into different HVAC positions such as HVAC construction manager and HVAC project manager.

See my blog post on the difference between a project engineer vs a project manager.

Back then when I was a project manager, my salary almost tripled that of my salary when I was a project engineer. However, being an HVAC project manager, you need to have a slightly different skillset. But, your overall HVAC knowledge is still carried forward.

Can You Become a Millionaire from HVAC?

Some people asked a straightforward extreme question; can you become a millionaire from HVAC? Well, you certainly can but it depends on which path you decided to take.

I worked with many HVAC contractors and some of them are indeed a millionaire. They run a medium-sized HVAC contracting company. To give you an idea, a single project can earn them 100 months' worth of salary. So, a few projects can definitely make them millions.

However, just like other businesses, nothing comes easy. There are plenty of HVAC contractors who go out of business and even go bankrupt. So, it really depends on how you manage the business.

Nevertheless, it is not necessary for you to become an HVAC contractor in order to earn more money and become rich. With your skills and experience in HVAC, you can be a technical consultant that charges by the hour.

Besides, you can become a contracted project manager which can earn way more than a full-time project manager. Moreover, you can save money to invest in things that you understand and let your money grow.

Many engineers think that they can't do well in investing because they don't have a degree in account and finance. But, it is not true. Engineers can certainly do well in investing with their strong analytic and interpretation skills.

If you are interested to know more about investing, you can check out my blog post on how to invest as an engineer where I cover the basics of investing.

Conclusion

Cooling demand is increasing every year. More innovative solutions and better designs are needed to improve the efficiency of air conditioners and the HVAC system in general in order to fight climate change. Hence, the future of HVAC engineering is bright and HVAC engineer is a good career.


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