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Commercial HVAC Services vs Residential HVAC Services

Commercial HVAC Services vs Residential HVAC Services

Alison Bright // January 22, 2024

Commercial HVAC Services vs Residential HVAC Services

Maybe you own a thriving residential HVAC business. You are the go-to service provider for your community. You earn a satisfying living and enjoy the relaxed diversity each day brings. But now you might think about exploring commercial HVAC and the challenges that come with it.

Or maybe you are an HVAC apprentice. You might wonder whether you should focus on the commercial or residential side of the business.

Commercial vs residential HVAC? It’s a decision many technicians confront in their careers.

While commercial contracts may offer higher profit margins, they also involve larger investments longer timelines, and more complexity.

Residential HVAC work has a separate set of issues. Peak periods in summer and winter can be hectic, with reduced schedules in the off-season. It is also more upfront and personal.

In this article, we will examine what residential and commercial HVAC work entails. We’ll compare the education and experience needed for both types of work. What are the advantages and disadvantages in pay, effort, education, and experience?

Let’s break it down.

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What is Residential HVAC Work?

Residential HVAC work keeps people comfortable in their homes. You work in houses, apartments, and condominiums. The indoor temperature, humidity, and air quality are in your hands. You install, maintain, and repair heating and cooling systems.

Besides the technical abilities you need, effective communication skills are important. You must be friendly and interact with homeowners and residents with patience and clarity.

Services include the installation and maintenance of central heating and air conditioning units. Thermostats, ventilation systems, and ductwork are also supported.

HVAC work for residential clients may involve routine inspections, troubleshooting, and repairing components. You may install an entire HVAC system if the existing one is inefficient. Changes in environmental regulations require compliance. New housing construction requires the latest HVAC technology, so you need to stay up to date with current trends in the industry.

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What is Commercial HVAC Work?

Commercial HVAC work optimizes the environments of large-scale buildings. Offices, schools, hospitals, and shopping centers need quality temperature and airflow. Commercial HVAC systems must keep hundreds (even thousands) comfortable.

Commercial systems can involve complex technologies. Enormous rooftop units combine heating, cooling, and ventilation functions into a single package. Systems often serve entire floors or building sections. Work can include setting up a tailored climate control solution for a new shopping mall. You might conduct regular maintenance on an air circulation system in a warehouse.

Does Commercial HVAC Require More Education?

The education required for HVAC work can vary based on the specific job and the state or region you live in. Most employers require a high school diploma or GED. Good mechanical and math skills, as well as physical fitness, are valuable qualities.

Technology and HVAC systems are becoming smarter. A postsecondary education or an apprenticeship to learn the latest advances is beneficial. Many community colleges and trade schools offer HVAC certification or associate degree programs. Combining classroom instruction with hands-on training is an advantage.

On-the-job training is part of every HVAC technician’s career. Learning your trade from experienced professionals who pass down their knowledge is at the core of the HVAC profession.

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Commercial HVAC requires more education and training than residential HVAC. Commercial HVAC systems are more complicated and larger and need advanced skills. They also require knowledge of specialized equipment, such as:

  • Chillers - Chillers generate chilled water in the air conditioning process that cools facilities.
  • Boilers - Boilers use pressurized electricity or combustible fuel to heat water to provide heating.
  • Air Handling Units (AHU) - Often placed in the basement or on the roof, an AHU regulates and circulates air that enters from the outside.
  • Building Automation Systems (BAS) - Computer networks that automate and control entire HVAC systems. Rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) push constant change. BAS requires technicians with cutting-edge programming and troubleshooting skills.


Getting certified for a particular skill or system can improve your prospects for commercial work. With greater skills comes the potential for higher income.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE): NATE is a non-profit organization offering voluntary certification for HVAC technicians in residential and commercial services. Although not required for all HVAC work, getting certified can be an asset.
  • HVAC Excellence: Established in 1994, HVAC Excellence offers certifications on different levels, from employment-ready to professional to master specialist.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The EPA requires that all technicians who work with refrigerants have EPA Section 608 Certification.

Does Working on Commercial HVAC Pay Better than Residential HVAC?

Commercial HVAC systems are often more complex and require specialized skills. This can lead to higher salaries for experienced technicians. Commercial HVAC companies are also more likely to offer benefits packages. Health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off can enhance your earnings.

  • At, you can learn how much commercial HVAC technicians earn. This ranges from $58,500 in North Carolina to $87,750 in New Hampshire. The average salary in the United States is $68,250 per year. For a non-commercial HVAC technician, the average salary is $72,800 in New Hampshire and $57,303 in North Carolina, with the average pay in the U.S. listed as $58,500.
  • According to Glassdoor, the average estimated pay for a commercial HVAC technician is $63,240 per year in the United States. The average salary is $59,461 per year.
  • Payscale lists the average non-commercial HVAC technician salary in the U.S. as $22.25 per hour.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the median annual wage for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers was $51,390 in May 2022.

4 More Differences Between Commercial and Residential HVAC Work

1. Size and Complexity

Commercial systems sprawl across buildings and demand intricate knowledge. You are often part of a team and must deal with others like architects and contractors.

Residential systems are smaller and often easier to understand. Your reputation relies on the community you serve.

2. Working Conditions

Commercial work may involve scaling rooftops and braving confined spaces. You might face working nights and weekends when activities inside the buildings stop.

Residential settings offer daylight hours and easier access. But navigating occupied homes comes with its own set of challenges.

3. Safety Concerns

Increased exposure to hazardous materials. A higher risk of falls. Electrocution. These are some concerns when it comes to commercial HVAC work.

Residential work comes with risks like cuts and burns and may need heavy lifting.

4. Clientele

In commercial work, you will deal with businesses, property managers, and institutions. You build long-term contracts for stable income.

Residential work revolves around individual homeowners and all their quirks. Jobs are often on-call, leading to income fluctuations. You may be responsible for invoicing and bill collection, as well as warranty work.

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Actionable Tips

  1. Do Some Self-Reflection: Assess your skills today. This can help you to decide between commercial and residential HVAC. Try to align your career with your strengths. Consider seeking advice from experienced professionals for guidance.
  2. Sign Up for a Class: That way you can stay updated on industry trends. This helps to ensure your expertiseremains competitive in the evolving HVAC landscape. Look for online resources and webinars as uncomplicated ways to expand your knowledge.
  3. Start Networking: Join HVAC forums and events. They provide valuable insights and mentorship opportunities. This expands your professional connections within the HVAC community. Join in discussions to build a reputation as a knowledgeable professional.
  4. Explore Specialization: Focus on a niche area within HVAC. This way, you can become a sought-after specialist. This opens doors to increased demand and job satisfaction. Identify emerging trends and technologies to stay ahead in your chosen specialization.
  5. Come Up with a Short-Term Plan: Draft a brief career plan. Think of specific goals for the near and distant future. Provide a clear path for your HVAC career growth. Share your plan with a mentor or colleague for more guidance and accountability.

Wrapping It Up

An outstanding resource to guide you along your career path is the forum. This is an online community dedicated to HVAC professionals to discuss the industry.

Whether you prefer the scale of commercial work or enjoy the personal touch of residential projects, the future of HVAC is excellent. According to the BLS, the job outlook is growing faster than the average of all occupations.Commercial HVAC services vs residential HVAC services? It’s a decision many technicians confront in their careers. Explore the differences in our article.

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