Many years ago, in their search for ways to make their environment more comfortable and convenient, people have come a long way from the fireplaces that used to warm their homes and from the little ice houses where they used to store their food and liquids. In the 1920s, the production of synthetic coolants such as Freon established relatively inexpensive, effective refrigeration systems. By the 1950s, the same systems were used to cool air in home air conditioning units. Vapor compression is still used today to run cooling systems. During the early part of this century, HVAC technician jobs and its progress in mechanical refrigeration consisted largely of advances in refrigeration, the working fluids of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems. As these substances are cycled through refrigeration equipment, they change back and forth from a liquid to a gas and from a gas to a liquid. As these changes take place, the refrigerants alternately absorb and release heat. In this way, they are able to transfer heat from an area to be cooled and release it elsewhere. Moreover, air-conditioning and heating systems today are often referred to as environmental control systems. They control not only the temperature but the humidity and even the cleanliness of the air in homes, offices, stores, factories, schools, and other buildings. With modern refrigeration, foods, drugs, and other perishable items that may store safely for longer periods of time, and improved techniques for freezing foods have made home freezers or combination of refrigerator-freezer standard equipment in most U.S. households.
Early civilized people had already demonstrated their interest in works relative to HVAC jobs. They built buildings with central heating and ventilation systems, but the knowledge of their methods was lost during the Dark Ages in Europe. During the Industrial Revolution, piped steam heating began to appear in factories, churches, assembly halls, and other large buildings. The uncomfortable drying effect steam heat had on air quality led, around 1830, to the introduction of piped hot water heating, which does not rely on such high temperatures. Ventilation for comfort and health became a greater problem as buildings were designed to hold more people, and various arrangements were devised to combine heating with circulation of fresh air. The scientific study of air-conditioning including the regulation of the moisture content of the air, received a big boost in 1911 when Willis Carrier, an American inventor, published the results of years of his research. Air conditioning was developed initially for industrial applications, particularly in textile mills. By 1930 or so, it was becoming common in stores, theaters, and other large buildings. With its HVAC employment, the ever-increasing use of refrigerators, freezers, and climate control equipment, the need for skilled mechanics in this field has, likewise, grown and now provides many different job opportunities. In maintenance work, these mechanics inspect and examine the various parts of the system to detect leaks and other faults. They must adjust the compressors and motors, as well as the thermostatic control to keep the temperatures at specified normal levels.
Initially, HVAC engineering jobs and equipment for refrigeration systems were simple, with limited capacity to heat, cool, and regulate air quality, including its maintenance. The skills needed to maintain such equipment were comparatively easy to learn. Most technicians and mechanics for this early equipment were trained by manufacturers and distributors. But as the field has expanded over the years and the equipment has become much more sophisticated, workers have had to acquire more and more specialized knowledge and skills. Broad instruction is now frequently provided at public and private schools and by trade associations. The activities of today’s technicians are diverse, reflecting the differences among the various branches that have grown to maturity in the industry.
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