Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS)

The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) recognizes this Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS) as the Red Seal standard for the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic trade.

Red Seal Occupational Standard Series

Disponible en français sous le titre : Mécanicien/ mécanicienne de réfrigération et d’air climatisé

NOC: 7313

Designation Year: 1964

RSOS Products for Download

The Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic Red Seal Occupational Standard is developed by Canadian trade representatives. It collects information about the trade as it is practiced across Canada.

This RSOS information is combined in several ways to generate several RSOS Products, each of these is based on information contained in the complete RSOS, and is geared to user needs:

Product Purpose
Red Seal Occupational Standard - Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic A complete description of all trade activities, skills and knowledge. The Standard defines the trade by collecting and organizing elements together.
Trade Profile - Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic A quick snapshot of all trade activities in the standard. It can be used to self-assess experience. It can be used to introduce a concise summary of all trade activities to those wanting to learn about the trade. It can also be used for gap analysis.
Red Seal Exam Self-Assessment Guide – Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic (PDF, 446 KB) Use this self-assessment tool to rate your own understanding and experience with the tasks of the trade that are on the Red Seal examination.

General Information

Description of the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic Trade

“Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic” is this trade’s official Red Seal occupational title approved by the CCDA. This standard covers tasks performed by refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics whose occupational title has been identified by some provinces and territories of Canada under the following names:

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic X X X X     X X X   X X X
Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Systems Mechanic           X              
Refrigeration Mechanic         X         X      
Refrigeration System         X                
Refrigeration System - Class 1         X                

Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics install, maintain, service, and decommission residential, commercial, industrial and institutional heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration units and systems. They also connect to and service air delivery systems, install and service hydronic and secondary refrigerant systems and associated controls. Their duties include laying out reference points for installation, assembling and installing components, installing wiring and cabling, to connect components and equipment to an electric power supply and calibrating related controls. They also measure, cut, bend, thread and connect pipe to functional components and utilities.

Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics maintain and service systems by inspecting and testing components, brazing or soldering parts to repair defective joints, adjusting and replacing worn or defective components and reassembling repaired components and systems. As part of service and commissioning, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics start up, test, charge, adjust, calibrate, balance, measure, verify maintain and document systems.

In addition to their regular duties, some mechanics may also prepare work estimates and design systems for clients.

Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics work with a range of tools and equipment including hand, power, charging, diagnostic and measuring, hoisting and rigging, and recovery and recycling tools and equipment.

They may be employed by heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration contractors and manufacturers, property owners, retail establishments, and institutional and public sector employers. They also may be self-employed. Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics may work on systems and units in office buildings, restaurants, food and beverage processing plants, ice arenas, supermarkets, hospitals, the  marine and   mining sectors as well as bio-medical, scientific and research and development fields. They may also work on refrigerated trucks, automotive air conditioning systems, box cars and appliances.

In some jurisdictions, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics may be required to work on fuel-fired equipment and therefore may require additional licencing.

Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics work in various locations such as rooftops, mechanical rooms and computer rooms. The work may be performed indoors or outdoors year round and may require extensive travelling. Much of the work is performed independently.

Inherent risks in this trade include working at heights and in confined spaces, and working with compressed gases, flammable and toxic materials, and utilities such as electrical and hazardous chemicals. Hazardous work environments and weather conditions are also factors. Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics must be aware of the physical demands and potential for personal injury when performing tasks.

Key attributes for people entering this trade are strong client service, writing, oral communication and problem solving skills, an eye for detail, and the ability to be independent and self-directed. Coordination and manual dexterity are also important, as are mechanical and mathematical abilities. Good physical condition and the strength to lift heavy components are also valuable.

This standard recognizes similarities and overlaps with the work of steamfitters/pipefitters, plumbers, gasfitters, sheet metal workers, industrial mechanics (millwrights), electricians, instrumentation and control technicians, riggers and stationary engineers.

With experience, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics may act as mentors and trainers of apprentices in the trade. They may also become specialized in one area of the trade, advance to supervisory positions or become instructors.

Essential Skills Summary

Essential skills are needed for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Through extensive research, the Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated nine essential skills. These skills are used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life in different ways.

A series of CCDA-endorsed tools have been developed to support apprentices in their training and to be better prepared for a career in the trades. The tools can be used independently or with the assistance of a tradesperson, trainer, employer, teacher or mentor to:

  • understand how essential skills are used in the trades;
  • learn about individual essential skills strengths and areas for improvement; and
  • improve essential skills and increase success in an apprenticeship program.

The tools are available online or for order at:

The application of these skills may be described throughout this document within the skills and knowledge which support each sub-task of the trade. The most important essential skills for each sub-task have also been identified. The following are summaries of the requirements in each of the essential skills, taken from the essential skills profile.

  • Reading

    Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics read a variety of materials including technical bulletins, manufacturers’ specifications and manuals to obtain detailed information on equipment installation and troubleshooting procedures. They read work orders to ensure that the correct piece of equipment is being installed or maintained according to client requirements. They may also refer to wholesaler catalogues to assist in the selection and ordering of parts and equipment.

  • Document Use

    As part of document use, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics consult company and work site procedures. They interpret information in tables, charts and graphs, and codes and regulations, and apply that knowledge when performing a task. They also use drawings to understand job requirements. Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics adhere to hazard signs and warning labels that are part of WHMIS to prevent injury to themselves and others.

  • Writing

    Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics update logbooks and complete written documents such as service reports, work orders, warranty claim forms, permits, and legislated and company documents. They may prepare sketches and update as-built drawings.

  • Numeracy

    Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics use numeracy in a range of tasks. For example, they measure lengths of ducting and piping. They calculate areas and volumes of ducting and piping assemblies to meet operating specifications. They use diagnostic and measurement tools to troubleshoot and verify the proper operation of equipment. They compare equipment temperature and pressure trend graphs to equipment specifications and operating parameters to monitor systems. They also estimate time and material costs.

  • Oral Communication

    Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics communicate with other tradespeople to coordinate the installation, maintenance and service of HVAC/R systems. They interact with clients to identify system requirements and to obtain problem descriptions. They may also call suppliers to order parts, speak with manufacturers’ representatives to obtain technical information and engineers to discuss design specifications.

  • Thinking

    Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics use problem-solving skills to troubleshoot equipment problems and resolve client issues. They determine the most efficient and economical equipment for a job and repair options available. Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics plan their work schedule considering factors such as priority, safety, time to complete and travelling time for a job. They schedule maintenance work to minimize down time.

  • Working with Others

    Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics providing installation, maintenance and service can work independently or as part of a team alongside co-workers, subcontractors and other trades. They interact with clients and others in a professional manner. Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics mentor apprentices.

  • Digital Technology

    Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics adjust parameters on automated control systems. They use remote access and on-board functions to monitor and diagnose problems. Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics use electronic instruments for diagnosis. They may use software, electronic devices and the Internet during the course of their work.

  • Continuous Learning

    Continuous learning is important for refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics due to ongoing changes in technology and an increased emphasis on the environment and energy efficiency. They need to keep informed about new types of equipment, energy sources, materials, computer controls and available client options. They must also keep up-to-date on code and regulation changes that govern their work. Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics learn through reading manufacturers’ literature and trade journals, and by visiting manufacturers’ websites. They can also take advantage of seminars and information sessions put on by equipment manufacturers, suppliers, unions and their employers.

Trends in the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanics Trade


There is a growing variety of energy efficient equipment such as variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems and variable speed drives (VSDs). VRFs are being used in all sectors, replacing and retrofitting equipment. There is an increase in the use of variable frequency drives (VFD) and electronically commutated motors (ECM) to control fans, pumps and compressors.

Electronic controls are becoming more sophisticated. There is an increase in the use of advanced electronic control systems such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled transducers and thermostats that require original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specific software and interface hardware cables. These systems and controls are being engineered with greater detail and complexity due to increasing needs for efficiency and reliable operation. Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics are required to have an increasing knowledge of computers and automated control systems as a result.

Remote access technology is becoming more common, not just in large commercial but in light commercial and residential applications. It facilitates remote troubleshooting by refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics. Mechanics may have to use electronic devices for troubleshooting and configuring heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) equipment.

In the chiller industry, there is a growth in the use of magnetic bearing technology and compressors to effect an increase in efficiency.

In commercial applications, digital compressor capacity controls are being used more frequently to increase efficiency and effect variable capacity control. There is an increase in the use of hydronic systems and geothermal heat pumps including the generation of hot water via the heat pump.

Some of the changes in these new technologies are driven by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards and Green Building technologies.


There are new piping materials (copper/iron alloys for higher pressure refrigerants, plastic pipe for small systems) that require changes in installation procedures and pipe sizing charts. There are alternative pipe fastening systems such as pressed or crimped fittings which do not require brazing.

There are a variety of alternative refrigerants (carbon dioxide, ammonia [R717], hydrofluorocarbon [HFC] and hydrofluoroolefin [HFO]) and oils which require increased safety requirements, new regulations and special consideration during installation and servicing. The use of hydrocarbon refrigerants and their more combustible properties are being found in small unitary equipment. The industry’s use of new refrigerants has created a greater focus on installing, servicing and piping practices.

The use of microchannel aluminum heat exchangers requires new repair and servicing techniques.

Health and Safety:

Due to increased health and safety concerns and regulations, indoor air quality (IAQ) is a priority when installing and servicing systems. As well, governing agencies have an increasing enforcement causing refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics to be much more aware of compliance requirements such as working with pressure vessels, handling environmental spills, applying refrigerant recovery/disposal procedures, and handling hazardous materials and waste.

Occupational health and safety training such as Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), first aid, fall arrest, aerial platform and confined space are necessary in today’s working environment.


Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics are often called upon to recommission and update system maintenance procedures to reduce energy consumption and to return to design operating parameters.

In this time of environmental awareness, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics need to take greater care in the planning, installing and servicing of HVAC/R systems. They must be conscious of issues such as ozone depletion, global warming, noise pollution and the effects of the use of chemicals in the servicing and maintenance of equipment. They should also promote the use of environmentally friendly chemicals, components and accessories.

Document Use:

Increased documentation and record keeping now play a greater role in refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics’ daily tasks. Electronic document use continues to increase. Cell phones and tablets are used on location for invoicing, work orders and to check manufacturers’ specifications. There is an increasing demand for mechanics to work with clients to explain and interpret documentation.

There are a variety of legal requirements to document refrigerant usage, pressure testing and piping systems. These requirements vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Industry Expected Performance

All tasks must be performed according to the applicable jurisdictional codes and standards. All health and safety standards must be respected and observed. Work should be done efficiently and at a high quality without material waste or environmental damage. All requirements of the manufacturer, client specifications, the Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Acts, and WHMIS regulations must be met. At a journeyperson level of performance, all tasks must be done with minimal direction and supervision. As a journeyperson progresses in their career, there is an expectation they continue to upgrade their skills and knowledge to keep pace with industry and promote continuous learning in their trade through mentoring of apprentices.

Language Requirements

It is expected that journeypersons are able to understand and communicate in either English or French, which are Canada’s official languages. English or French are the common languages of business as well as languages of instruction in apprenticeship programs.


The CCDA and ESDC wish to express sincere appreciation for the contribution of the many tradespersons, industrial establishments, professional associations, labour organizations, provincial and territorial government departments and agencies, and all others who contributed to this publication.

Special thanks are offered to the following representatives who contributed greatly to the original draft of the standard and provided expert advice throughout its development:

  • Ishtiaq Ahmed - Ontario
  • Lee Blakely - Saskatchewan
  • Ray Bollinger - British Columbia
  • Ken Brown - United Association Canada
  • Matt Buss - British Columbia
  • Shawn Davis - Nova Scotia
  • Gino DiFebo - Ontario
  • Eric Ellefsen - New Brunswick
  • Jeremy Flamand - Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada
  • Cory Foxall - Alberta
  • Bart Golebiewski - Ontario
  • Jamie Horsman - New Brunswick
  • Don Lyons - Saskatchewan
  • Dennis MacCormac - Prince Edward Island
  • John MacInnis - New Brunswick
  • Ken Pearcey - Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Brad Peters - Manitoba
  • Tony Place - Nova Scotia
  • Bill Playford - Manitoba
  • Dallas Shepherdson - Alberta
  • Donald Smith - Alberta
  • Robert Syrota - Manitoba
  • Maurice Tarrant - Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Ellison Watkins - Northwest Territories
  • Ryan Wegwitz - British Columbia
  • Roy Whiten - Yukon

This standard was prepared by the Apprenticeship and Regulated Occupations Directorate of ESDC. The coordinating, facilitating and processing of this standard were undertaken by employees of the standards development team of the Trades and Apprenticeship Division and of the Government of Nova Scotia, the host jurisdiction for this trade.