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Refrigeration/​Air-conditioning Technician

Kaihangarau Pūrere Whakamātao

Alternative titles for this job

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians install, service and maintain refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

Pay

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians usually earn

$47K-$80K per year

Senior, qualified or specialised refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians usually earn

$80K-$100K per year

Source: careers.govt.nz research, 2020.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a refrigeration/air-conditioning technician are good due to a shortage of workers.

Pay

Pay for refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians varies depending on experience and level of responsibility.

  • Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians usually earn between $47,000 and $80,000 a year.
  • Senior or specialised refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians usually earn $80,000 to $100,000 a year.

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians may earn more than this if they work overtime, are on call or are self-employed.

Source: careers.govt.nz research, 2020.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians may do some or all of the following:

  • advise clients on different refrigeration/air-conditioning systems
  • consult with clients and refrigeration/air-conditioning design engineers about system installation
  • assemble and install pipe work
  • install or oversee the installation of refrigeration/air-conditioning systems
  • check existing systems for leaks and faults
  • repair and maintain refrigeration/air-conditioning systems
  • test and balance systems once they are installed.

Skills and knowledge

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians need to have:

  • knowledge of mechanical, electrical and electronic systems
  • knowledge of gas systems, atmospheric pressure and temperature
  • some basic knowledge of physics and chemistry
  • understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of various refrigeration/air-conditioning systems
  • skill in interpreting building plans and other working drawings.

Working conditions

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians:

  • usually work business hours but may also work evenings and weekends, or on call
  • work indoors and outdoors on construction sites, container ships and building sites, in commercial buildings and at private homes
  • work in conditions that can be dusty, dirty, hot or cold, and may work at heights or in confined spaces such as ceiling cavities
  • may travel to work on projects.

What's the job really like?

Antony East

Antony East

Refrigeration Technician

After taking on a job as a labourer at a refrigeration company and discovering he had "a bit of mechanical aptitude", Antony East decided to follow it up with an apprenticeship in refrigeration.

"It's a challenging job and really enjoyable. The range of refrigeration systems is amazing. You can work in apartments, supermarkets or on container ships – the possibilities are endless."

"It's always different"

"It's a real challenge fixing faults because there are always so many possible options. Doing maintenance all the time comes in handy because you get to learn how to repair different problems pretty quickly."

Variety is the key for Antony, who says he never knows what he will be doing next. "I can be working in a chiller or on a roof – it's always different. The principles are all the same at the end of the day, but you're forever working in a different place on a different fault."

Lots of opportunity

"It's one of those trades where you really feel in control of your destiny. You've got the ability to advance in so many different directions, whether it's a sideways direction within refrigeration or getting into management or going overseas. It's a very interesting job."

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements to become a refrigeration/air-conditioning technician.

To become a fully qualified refrigeration/air-conditioning technician you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning – Trade (Level 4). The industry training organisation Competenz oversees refrigeration/air-conditioning apprenticeships.

Employers usually prefer refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians to have a driver's licence.

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but maths, physics, digital technologies, construction and mechanical technologies, processing technologies and English to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.

For Year 11 to 13 learners, trades academies and the STAR and Gateway programmes are good ways to gain relevant experience and skills.

These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.

Personal requirements

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians need to be:

  • accurate and safety-conscious
  • practical 
  • organised
  • good communicators
  • good at making calculations and problem solving
  • able to work independently or in a team
  • able to work well under pressure
  • comfortable working in enclosed spaces and at heights.

Useful experience

Useful experience for refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians includes:

  • plumbing and gasfitting
  • work in an engineering workshop
  • electrical work or experience in an engineering company.

Physical requirements

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians need to have a good level of fitness and be strong as they may need to carry heavy refrigeration/air-conditioning equipment.

Registration

Qualified refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians need to be registered and licensed with the Electrical Workers Registration Board.

To work with compressed gas you must hold an approved filler compliance certificate.

Find out more about training

Competenz
0800 526 1800 - info@competenz.org.nz - www.competenz.org.nz
Institute of Refrigeration, Heating & Air Conditioning Engineers (IRHACE)
(09) 273 0044 - www.irhace.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians are in demand due to:

  • increased demand from food suppliers, supermarkets and other chilled food retailers
  • the aging workforce of refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians
  • too few apprentices being trained to meet demand.

Air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanic appears on Immigration New Zealand’s construction and infrastructure skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians from overseas to work in New Zealand.

Your chances of securing an apprenticeship are best if you first take a pre-trade course, according to the Institute of Refrigeration, Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers. 

According to the Census, 1,485 air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Employers and clients varied

Most refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians are self-employed, or work for private companies specialising in the sale, design, installation and maintenance of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems. Their clients may include:

  • meat processing companies
  • cool stores
  • supermarkets and other retail food outlets
  • construction companies
  • hospitals and hotels
  • homeowners.

Sources

  • Allfree, M, policy and development manager, Institute of Refrigeration Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers, Careers New Zealand interview, March 2017.
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List', 17 December 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘Engineering Technicians’, accessed August 2020, (www.occupationoutlook.mbie.govt.nz).
  • Payscale, ‘Average Heating, Air Conditioning, or Refrigeration Mechanic / Installer Hourly Pay in New Zealand’, accessed August 2020, (www.payscale.com).
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • TradeMe, ‘Trades and Services Salary Information’, accessed August 2020, (www.trademe.co.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians may progress to set up their own refrigeration or air-conditioning business.

They may specialise in either refrigeration or air-conditioning systems.

A female air-conditioning technician inspecting an air-conditioning unit in an office

Refrigeration/air-conditioning technicians repair and maintain air-conditioning units

Last updated 2 September 2020