The Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry is heating up (pun intended) and is primed for a foundational shift in the make-up of its labor force. Since its inception, the HVAC industry has primarily been composed of a male workforce.
However, we must not forget the women who helped to transform the industry and those who will surely follow in their footsteps.
Women in HVAC history
Like many other industries, HVAC has its own unsung heroes. These women helped to shape the future of modern heating, ventilation, and cooling.
Born in Kentucky in 1892, Margaret Ingles was fascinated by science from an early age. In 1916, Ingles became the first woman to receive a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kentucky, and the first woman in the United States to receive a professional degree of Mechanical Engineer.
In 1921, Ingles joined the American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers, a research lab, where she dedicated herself to studying air conditioning and air quality. During her time at the lab, she was able to perfect a machine that measured the amount of germ-laden dust in the air.
In addition, she was responsible for developing a sling psychrometer, which allowed for the effective measurement of temperature while incorporating humidity present in the air. This was one of the first steps toward developing air conditioning as we know it today.
Alice Parker grew up in a home that was always too cold during the winter. When the family went to sleep, the wood fire would burn out, leaving her toes and fingers numb by morning. Most homes at the time depended on either wood or coal to heat the home, and Parker decided to change that.
In 1919, after earning an engineering degree, Parker invented a safer, more efficient method of using gas to heat a home. Her gas furnace was the first iteration of the modern furnace found in many homes today.
Women in HVAC Careers
Despite the examples set by Ingles and Parker and their contribution to the industry, the trades have notoriously remained a male-dominated profession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report in 2019, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. labor force, but make up just 2% of the heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers profession.
However, this number is on an upward trend. In 2010, women made up just .8 percent of the HVAC profession. This could be due to women seeing a growing opportunity in an industry that is already rife with labor shortages.
According to the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation, the HVAC industry is barreling toward a workforce shortage in just a few years, as hundreds of thousands of technicians begin to retire. As a matter of fact, by 2022, the HVAC industry will need 115,000 trained technicians to meet expected industry demands.
HVAC as a Career Path
The lifestyle a career in HVAC can provide is nothing to scoff about. In fact, the average national salary for an HVAC technician is $52K.
Because of the building demand for qualified technicians, women are seeing a growing trend of opportunity to join an industry that has historically been dominated by male counterparts. And with the growth of the HVAC field expected to continue to climb, with job availability to hit 4% growth by 2029, there is no lack of opportunity for women to enter the industry.
In addition to the growing force of female HVAC technicians, the industry is also seeing an upward trend of women-owned HVAC businesses.
As women of the future stand upon the shoulders of those who came before, the HVAC industry will continue to grow and prosper with the contributions made by the strong, independent women who choose to join this trade.
If you would like to learn more about a career in HVAC, consider joining your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning team.