Heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC&R) is an essential industry that shapes our cities and towns and impacts daily life in surprising ways.
From big data to passive house builds, it is an industry that offers innovation and opportunities. It also plays a major part in spurring energy efficiency and preventing climate change.
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What is HVAC&R?
HVAC&R is a defining feature of our modern existence, but few people outside the industry talk about it. It keeps us comfortable and productive. It even keeps us alive.
Offices, schools, cars, homes, hospitals, shopping centres, restaurants, and even the International Space Station all need good HVAC&R.
In Australia, the industry is worth over $38 billion, uses more than 24% of the country’s electricity, and accounts for around 11.5% of our carbon dioxide emissions.
Applicable to both residential and commercial buildings, HVAC&R refers to the systems used to condition and move air. It includes, but not is limited to, technology that is used to warm/cool spaces.
It consists of:
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The transfer of heat through air or water distribution systems. This can be convection-, conduction-, or radiation-based.
Most homes in Australia will need to be heated during the course of a year. Depending on the climate, heating and/or cooling can account for 20 to 50% of energy used in Australian homes.
Ventilation is the process of bringing air from outside a building inside, circulating it, and later dissipating it into the environment. One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve the air quality of a building is to control the indoor airflow through ventilation.
Mechanical ventilation offers a controllable, responsive way to provide adequate indoor air quality.
Once considered a luxury, air conditioning has become an essential facet of everyday living. More than four million Australians use at least one air conditioning unit.
As temperatures are predicted to increase as a result of climate change, air conditioning will be even more prevalent in the coming decades. Today’s cooling innovators and companies are not simply focused on beating the heat. Their technology looks at ways air conditioning can operate as efficiently as possible to reduce the burden on our energy grids and environment.
For more on air conditioning, you may be interested in taking our online introductory course – Air Conditioning 101. This course provides a basic understanding of how air conditioning and ventilation works in buildings. It will also familiarise you with the language and terms associated with this technology.
The world of refrigeration extends far beyond more visible applications such as domestic fridges, ice rinks or supermarket display cabinet chillers. Refrigeration is present in a broad range of sectors. It plays an often-overlooked role in healthcare, energy and the environment.
Its significant contributions to society also underscore its economic importance. In Australia, the refrigeration industry is estimated to contribute about 1.7% to national GDP.
Buildings provide a safe and healthy environment where people can live, work and become more effective in what they do. The building services industry brings safe, comfortable and efficient buildings to life by applying a blend of scientific, design and engineering principles.
Building services plays an important role in creating an energy-efficient and low-carbon future for us all, with building services engineers taking a whole-of-system approach covering all aspects of the built environment.
Despite playing a major role in global emissions, HVAC&R isn’t often a phrase associated with climate change. But the industry intersects with climate change in a number of ways.
We invite you to listen to our AIRAH on Air podcast episode – What you need to know about HVAC&R and climate change – below.
For more information on HVAC&R and climate change, please visit this page.
With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting millions of lives around the world, people are understandably concerned about how the disease is spread and whether air conditioning, refrigeration, ventilation, or other related HVAC&R systems could play a role.
For more information on HVAC&R and COVID-19, click here.
In Australia alone, HVAC&R employs more than 298,000 people – and it’s still growing.
As an industry, HVAC&R ensures we have healthy and productive places to live, work and play.
Jobs in the built environment include mechanical engineers; building scientists; controls and automation specialists; manufacturers; sustainable developers; and more. Work can include, but is not limited to, the design of systems; the installation, repair and maintenance of systems; selling the latest technologies; and research and development.
To explore training and career pathways, as well as our job portal, please visit airah.org.au/careers; watch our student engagement webinar (June 2021) to learn about career opportunities; and read the HVAC&R Nation cover story "A cool career" (February 2019) for information on what's being done to attract a new generation to the industry.
AIRAH also offers free student membership to those currently undertaking an Australian qualification. Join us today to take advantage of our range of professional development and networking opportunities.
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This page was last updated January 13, 2023