Residential Vs. Commercial-Industrial HVAC Work

HVAC/R presents a highly rewarding professional path for HVAC/R technicians, manufacturers and dispatchers. But before digging into it, you must make an important decision: residential or commercial-industrial HVAC/R? Can you work in both sectors or should you specialize in either area?

What is the key difference between commercial and residential HVAC?

We have to start from somewhere, and that’s citing the difference between commercial and residential HVAC/R services. In many aspects, the two areas are similar.


HVAC/R training often focuses on residential HVAC/R services to train students on how to serve customer homes. Normally, the projects are small but, in many cases, you will work on multiple cluster projects, especially during the peak seasons. Most HVAC/R companies dispatch one or two technicians to handle a single home, depending on the report fed by the client. Residential HVAC/R services typically aren’t complex and don’t require a huge workforce to get the job done.


Commercial HVAC/R projects demand intensive manpower and skills. Industrial HVAC/R systems can be more complicated compared to their residential counterparts. These projects can be more time-consuming and require a team to complete the task successfully.

Generally, all HVAC/R careers are demanding in their own unique ways. As discussed above, while commercial work might require you to focus on a single project for days or weeks, residential work covers a bigger scope of projects.

What’s the difference in training?

Whether you want to specialize in residential or commercial HVAC/R work, you will need to undergo intensive training to earn a certification. All HVAC/R Technicians must be insured, licensed and adequately trained before procuring projects. Usually, in school, students begin the journey as general technicians. At some point, after having a better understanding of the industry, you may be required to specialize in either subset. You will then be required to undergo practical training to acquire skills that are instrumental in shaping your career as an HVAC/R Technician.

Why you might vouch for residential HVAC work

If you choose to go with HVAC/R work, it means you agree to interact with numerous homeowners at ground level. You must be well versed in the installation, maintenance and repair of small home HVAC/R systems. You should be personable with customers to help keep them at ease. You will get to finish projects quickly and move on to others, therefore expect to see a wide variety of places, meet a lot of people and prepare to solve various HVAC/R challenges.

Why you might choose commercial HVAC/R

You are the right person for commercial HVAC/R work if you like working on complex systems that may take days or weeks to install, maintain, replace or repair. You will encounter various businesses and companies looking to have functional commercial and industrial HVAC/R units. Your HVAC/R program might require you to train a little more compared to your friends on the residential side, given the intensity and amount of work needed to complete commercial projects.

What is the pay difference?

On average, residential HVAC/R contractors earn an income faster since their projects are easier and quicker to complete. This makes it easy for residential contractors to become self-employed just a few years after their HVAC/R training. Commercial HVAC/R contractors can fetch a good amount of money after every project due to the complexity of the tasks. Either way, you can expect to earn well as an HVAC/R Technician regardless of the subset you decide to specialize in.

Are you still in doubt about which of these subsets you should choose? Contact ETI School of Skilled Trades at (888) 830-7678 for more information. Let us guide you in the right direction when choosing between residential and commercial-industrial HVAC/R work.


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