Installing an air conditioning system can be a technical process requiring a variety of skills. Air conditioners also contain refrigerants that can release large amounts of dangerous fluorocarbons into the atmosphere. For this reason, air conditioning installers and technicians often must hold more than one trade licence.
Types of Air Conditioning Systems
There are several types of air conditioning systems:
Licensing of Air Conditioning Installers and Technicians
State authorities licence air conditioning installers, but all states adhere to Australian standards and regulations. Because air conditioning installers “handle” refrigerants, Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) standards and safe work practices apply to air conditioning installations. Air conditioning installers and technicians throughout Australia must hold one of two types of ARC licence:
A Full licence authorises the holder to install, service, commission and decommission any type of refrigeration or air conditioning unit. A Restricted licence allows the holder to install single split system air conditioners only and servicing is restricted to adding refrigerant or removing refrigerant when decommissioning a system only.
The state-by-state entries below list what other types of licences are required in individual states and territories. In many states, a restricted electrician’s licence is also required.Air Conditioning by State
In New South Wales, NSW Fair Trading issues licences to air conditioning installers. A “specialty licence” in NSW, Fair Trading defines air conditioning installation as “any work required to install, maintain and service an air-conditioning system.” The only exception is a self-contained domestic plug-in system, which does not require installation by a licensed technician. A licence to install air conditioning also authorises the licence holder to perform any “associated electrical wiring” work that is needed to install the system.
There are two types of air conditioning licences in NSW:
A Restricted licence is sufficient for installation of most domestic split systems. It does not authorise the holder to service, maintain or repair the system or install multi-head split systems. Only RAC licence holders can carry out these jobs, but a Restricted licence holder can introduce new refrigerant to a single head split system or remove refrigerant when the system is decommissioned.
Energy Safe Victoria issues licences to air conditioning installers in Victoria. Air conditioning and refrigeration installers in Victoria must hold a Restricted Electrical Workers Licence in order to install any air conditioning system other than a simple system that can be plugged into a wall outlet.
A Restricted Electrical Workers Licence for air conditioning will be restricted to air conditioning and refrigeration only and there are two licence classes:
In addition, air conditioning installers in Victoria must hold an appropriate ARC licence. This can either be a full licence or, if they are installing a split system, a restricted licence.
The Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) governs all trades related to the building industry in Queensland, including air conditioning. In addition to an appropriate ARC licence (see “Licensing of Air Conditioning Installers and Technicians” above), refrigeration and air conditioning installers in Queensland must hold “Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Mechanical Services Including Limited Design” licences. The licence limits the scope of work to installing, commissioning, servicing, repairing or designing air conditioning systems or refrigeration units for buildings:
This licence is sufficient for most residential air conditioning installations.
Your installer will have one or both of two classes of licence. Only enter into a contract with a licensed Contractor and installation work must be carried out or supervised by a licensed Supervisor.
The Office of Consumer and Business Affairs governs the licensing of trades in South Australia. The Office considers refrigeration and air conditioning systems installation as a part of the building industry and issues “building work supervisor” licences with “standard conditions” included for the scope of work the installer is authorised to carry out. In the case of air conditioning, the licence may be:
The general “Air Conditioning” licence includes installation of “fixed appliances that circulate airflow within a building that provides heating and/or cooling of the building space.” It does not include associated electrical or plumbing work unless the technician is also registered to perform that type of work.
As is the case throughout Australia, air conditioning installers in South Australia must also hold licences issued by the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC).
In Western Australia, the Department of Commerce issues trade licences. In addition to needing an appropriate ARC licence (either unrestricted or restricted to installation of split systems), the WA Department of Commerce requires installers of air conditioning systems to hold a Restricted Electrical Licence. The specific licence required by air conditioning installation technicians is a “Refrigeration and Air conditioning Mechanics Licence.”
In order to obtain their licence, the applicant must prove they have sufficient training and experience under supervision to install all types of refrigeration and air conditioning units they intend to install as part of their regular occupation. Your installer may hold one or more categories of licence, including:
Each one is a separate category, so look for a licence that authorises your air conditioning installer to carry out Domestic installations. Also don’t forget to inspect their ARC licence. Both licences must be current in order to be valid.
The Department of Justice governs the licensing of air conditioning installers in the island state. All air conditioning installers and mechanics in Tasmania must hold the appropriate nationally mandated ARC licence. An ARC licence can be one of two classes:
Because installing air conditioning systems usually includes the installation of electrical wiring and other electrical installations, air conditioning technicians in Tasmania must hold Restricted Electrical Licences. For refrigeration and air conditioning, a contractor’s licence is not required.
Your air conditioning installer must hold both an ARC licence and a Tasmanian Restricted Electrical Licence to install your system. If they repair or service your air conditioning system, they must hold a full RAC licence from the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC).
In the ACT, trades related to the building industry are regulated by the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA). Air conditioning installers and technicians must hold Restricted Electrician’s licences that stipulate their activities are restricted to “refrigeration and air conditioning.” No separate licence applies to the further restriction of installation of split systems as it does in other states.
It is also possible to hold a restricted permit that allows qualified installers who do not have enough experience to hold a trade licence to gain the work experience necessary to qualify for a licence. Permit holders are usually apprentices working under the supervision of licensed employers.
As is true throughout Australia, air conditioning installers and technicians in the ACT must also hold the appropriate ARC licence. For more information, see “Licensing of Air Conditioning Installers and Technicians” above.
In the Northern Territory, an air conditioning installer or technician must obtain a Restricted Electrical Licence from the NT Electrical Workers and Contractors Licensing Board. The licence restricts allowable work to:
The restricted licence is suitable for most domestic installations.
As is the case throughout Australia, an air conditioning installer in the Northern Territory must also hold an ARC licence for the type of installation or servicing they carry out. See “Licensing of Air Conditioning Installers and Technicians” above for more information about ARC licences.