Air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanic

What they do

Air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics assemble, install, maintain and repair heating, cooling and refrigeration systems and equipment. They may install ducted air-conditioning in a family home, or build large walk-in refrigeration units for businesses needing mass food storage. They bolt and build units into buildings with brackets, piping, gas and water lines, cabling and wires. Following pre-set specifications, they use motors, pumps, filters, switches and gauges to put together the heating or cooling system that is required for the job.

In WA, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics are mainly employed by installation service maintenance and manufacturing firms that service shops, hotels and factories. Others can find work with firms that specialise in cold storage, food treatment plants and refrigeration on ships.

Working conditions

Air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics work wherever they are required to install heating and cooling systems. These locations can be indoors or outdoors, at factories, industrial plants, restaurants, licensed premises, offices, private dwellings or construction sites. Their work environments can often be cramped, noisy, dirty or humid. Sometimes, they may have to work at heights. They usually work normal business hours, but may be required to be on call, day or night, to conduct emergency repairs.

Tools and technologies

Air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics use drills, spanners, screwdrivers, hammers, welding equipment, pumps and grinders to install and repair heating and cooling units. Since their working environment can sometimes be hazardous, they are often required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), which may include bright and reflective safety gear, hard hats, earmuffs, goggles, masks and enclosed steel-capped boots.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become an air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanic, you usually need to undertake an apprenticeship.

The refrigeration and air-conditioning mechanic-fitter apprenticeship usually takes 48 months to complete and is available as a school-based apprenticeship.

The engineering tradesperson mechanical (refrigeration and air-conditioning) apprenticeship usually takes 42 to 48 months to complete and is available as a school-based apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Required registration and licensing

To work as an air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic in Western Australia, you will need obtain a Restricted Electrical Licence issued from the Building and Energy Division of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety. To work with refrigerant chemicals in Australia, you will need to apply for a refrigerant handling licence from the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC).