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Refrigeration Mechanic

If you’re thinking about a career as an HVAC/R technician, then you may want to take that one or two steps further and specialize as a commercial refrigeration mechanic. Or, as they call it in the industry, a “refer guy.” In short, you’ll specialize in commercial refrigeration. Your advanced knowledge is rewarded with a better paycheck than your fellow HVAC/R techs—and they already make a nice sum!

What Is A Refrigeration Mechanic?

As a refer man or woman, you will need to have some serious skills: You’re working on some big and oh-so-sensitive stuff. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could potentially be blown into smithereens, and that’s simply unacceptable to those who love you.

No matter what your skill level is, there are some basics you’ll need to know:

  • Piping and brazing
  • Troubleshooting and installation of compressors
  • Systems that prevent dripping and condensation, called “anti-sweat” systems
  • Diagnostics for electrical problems
  • Safe systems evacuation
  • Troubleshooting skills

However, when you’re a full-fledged refrigeration mechanic, there are career-specific "must knows" that come with the job. There will be special tools and equipment used to repair or install the commercial refrigeration units that you’ll have to be proficient with. Reading blueprints provided by manufacturers will be an important aspect of your job; you need to know how to properly install the equipment. Testing to ensure the equipment is running properly falls on you, as well. You installed it; you make sure it’s working. Seems fair enough. And, if you mess it up, you’ll have to fix it—so it bears repeating that being able to troubleshoot is a definite must.

How To Become A Refrigeration Mechanic

You’ll start out in your education process much like the rest of the HVAC/R tech wannabes.

There are two types of programs:

  • Trade school: It takes six months to complete trade school, and you’ll get a certificate upon completion.
  • Community college: Programs take two years to complete if you attend full time. An associate degree will be awarded at graduation.

Some people are able to be trained through an apprenticeship, and that takes 3-5 years for full training. Fulfillment requirements vary by state.

Any person handling refrigerants must be licensed. The license you need will be determined by the type of coolants you’re dealing with. Learn more about the types of certifications anyone in HVAC needs.

Refrigeration mechanics need the Section 608 card, and your training will presumably prepare you to pass that exam with flying colors. Every state has additional requirements that you’ll need to satisfy. For example, some states may expect you to have an additional 4,000 hours of on-the-job training, plus 48 classroom hours, plus an apprenticeship or 2-5 years in the field in order to take the certification exam. Your actual training will be given by a senior refrigeration mechanic, who will impart his or her learned wisdom onto you.

Very often, refrigeration mechanics will earn additional certifications that make them stand out to potential employers. It’s always a great idea to stand out!

Salary And Job Outlook

The salary for refrigeration mechanics can be determined by your industry, company, state, and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2023, refrigeration mechanics made an average of $59,620 a year, with the top 10 percent earning $84,250 or more.

It's a promising time to begin your career as a refrigeration mechanic. Between now and 2032, the BLS predicts that demand for refrigeration mechanics will increase 6 percent, which is faster than the national average for all occupations.

Maintenance and repair work will remain the mainstay for most HVAC professionals, but new installs will pop up every now and again.

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