What Is PLC in HVAC?

There are many technical skills that an HVAC technician needs to know. Some of these have been around for decades while others are relatively new and in-demand. Knowledge of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) is one such skill that is at the forefront of technological change. PLCs are a type of computer that assists with automation. In the world of HVAC/R, they help professionals automate processes of multiple systems, perform round-the-clock diagnostics, and eliminate common errors before they lead to any end-user difficulties.

By learning how to operate PLCs, an HVAC tech can prepare themselves to expand their roles and take on greater job responsibilities. They also become qualified to work in large-scale environments, such as commercial, industrial and construction HVAC/R. Before you can learn the basics of PLCs, however, it’s important to clarify your full understanding of all the HVAC fundamentals. In a training program, PLCs are part of the larger curriculum that cover all the skills and education required to earn an HVAC/R diploma.

What is HVAC/R?

HVAC/R is an abbreviation of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration. This is a term that refers to the installation, repair, and ongoing maintenance of residential (domestic), commercial and industrial HVAC and refrigeration systems. People who are trained and licensed to work on this equipment are called HVAC/R technicians.

From hospital air filtration to a household furnace, HVAC/R techs work in many settings and perform essential tasks that make them valuable members of their communities. In recent years, HVAC trade schools have expanded their programs to include specialized refrigeration training. This is because HVAC/R is gradually becoming the new standard in the field. The additional knowledge of refrigeration science, systems and technology help students perform more jobs and qualify for greater opportunities after graduation.

Part of working with such complex machinery involves understanding how to use technology to simplify the job. Automation helps HVAC/R technicians perform a variety of tasks that make systems more efficient, and the primary way to automate HVAC units is through a PLC.

What is PLC in HVAC?

Programmable logic controllers (PLC) are industrial computers that have been ruggedized or optimized to function well in high-intensity environments. These can be environments with high temperatures, a lot of movement, extreme wind and so on. In HVAC/R, PLCs offer control over many independent functions. Temperature control, air pressure, and zoning can all be monitored, adjusted, and automated by an HVAC technician with a programmable logic controller.

While they are not used everywhere, a PLC is an essential piece of equipment for an HVAC technician who works in construction or with industrial HVAC systems.

How Do PLCs Supplement HVAC Systems?

A PLC allows an HVAC technician to access a system through the internet. They can communicate with other technicians wirelessly and automate many functions simultaneously. In the past, different functions required their own separate controllers. The PLC is a uniform approach to modern HVAC/R technology that makes diagnostic assessments and system management more efficient.

How Do PLCs Work?

PLCs are programmable devices, so the trained HVAC/R technician can program the computer to operate how they want. Software that has different functions are often installed, which allow a tech to drop and drag various inputs into their own code. This helps them alter how a PLC runs, what diagnostics it monitors and what functions it tells the HVAC system to perform.

Using a Variable Frequency Drive (VDF), dampers and valves, a PLC can command an HVAC to maintain a particular level of air flow. It can also regulate temperatures in a targeted area.

In many industries, a certain level of air flow and precise temperature are essential to operations. Consider a hospital or industrial plant that needs impeccable air filtration, or a greenhouse that needs a specific temperature for plants or cultures to grow. Even mild fluctuations can result in massive losses or critical consequences. PLCs offer greater stability and security for the HVAC technicians responsible for maintaining these systems.

What Are the Advantages of Using a PLC in HVAC?

A PLC is fast, flexible, and reliable. It is easy to change and offers a low energy consumption while assisting with diagnostics. With an automation of various elements, including counter, timer, and comparators. It makes an HVAC/R technician’s job much easier. The easy operating interface simplifies complicated diagnostics and unifies them in one environment.

Improved accuracy and dependability are two more benefits to programmable logic controllers. They grant HVAC/R technicians greater freedom and control over how they perform their jobs without negatively impacting system performance or efficiency. For this reason, PLCs are becoming favored in industrial and critical environments whereas DDCs, direct digital controls, are still often used in commercial and domestic properties.

How Do You Learn PLC Programming for HVAC?

In an HVAC/R trade school, students learn everything they need to know about HVAC and refrigeration systems, including how to maintain them with PLCs. An HVAC/R with PLC diploma track adds an additional course of study to the program that focuses on how to program a PLC for HVAC, different programming languages, theories and more.

Throughout a HVAC/R course, students will work on real PLCs and HVAC systems to test their growing knowledge and practice their programming skills. Instructors with first-hand experience offer one-on-one support, tweaking code and helping each student learn only the best methods of working with PLCs.

In addition to writing code, HVAC/R students will learn how to write ladder diagrams. These are the “building blocks” of programmable logic controller code. They will also learn how to read and interpret ladder diagrams, modify existing code, and create schematics that help them implement different commands.

Final Thoughts

If you want to become a HVAC/R technician, earning your certification with an HVAC/R with PLC diploma will give you the greatest head start at finding a job. The ability to work with PLCs allows you to apply for more jobs, take on more responsibility and qualify to work for construction firms as well as domestic and commercial HVAC companies. With an HVAC/R with PLC diploma, the sky’s the limit.

HVAC Diploma Program

Ready to start working toward your HVAC/R diploma? The HVAC/R with PLC Diploma Program offers students the technical and practical knowledge and skills to perform heating, refrigeration, and air conditioning maintenance, installations, and repairs. Students will also learn basic skills related to the programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Graduates from this program will be able to fill positions at construction firms, as well as residential and commercial refrigeration and air conditioning companies

Ready to move from the classroom to a career? Florida Technical College is here to help. Contact us to learn more about completing the HVAC/R technician diploma program at Florida Technical College.

DISCLAIMER: These examples are intended to serve only as a general guide of possible employment opportunities. There are many factors that determine the job an individual may obtain and NUC University – Florida Technical College (NUC-FTC) cannot guarantee its graduate any particular job. Some positions may require license or other certifications. We encourage you to research the requirements for the particular position you desire.