Refrigeration Mechanic

Industrial refrigeration mechanics install, repair and maintain the air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment used in a wide range of applications.

This involves reading and understanding mechanical, electrical and architectural drawings and the use of hand and workshop tools, brazing and soldering equipment and measuring instruments.

Refrigeration mechanics install units, make the necessary electrical connections and also undertake the maintenance and repair of the units. A good knowledge of electrical principles is essential as these mechanics must be able to trace a fault and make repairs and adjustments, which may be electrical or mechanical.

In more detail, they schedule work with customers and initiate work orders, house requisitions and orders from stock, estimate, order, pick up, deliver and install materials and supplies needed to maintain the equipment in good working condition, read blueprints to determine the location, size, capacity and type of components needed to build the refrigeration system and fabricate and assemble structural and functional components of refrigeration systems, using hand tools, power tools and welding equipment. 

Other tasks they need to do are to lift and align components into position, using a hoist or block and tackle, lay out reference points for the installation of structural and functional components, using measuring instruments, drill holes and install mounting brackets and hangers into the floor and walls of the building, and mount the compressor, condenser and other components in specified locations on frames, using hand tools and acetylene welding equipment.  Wiring is installed to connect the components to an electrical power source. 

They need to test lines, components and connections for leaks, dismantle malfunctioning systems and test the components, using electrical, mechanical and pneumatic testing equipment, braze or solder parts to repair defective joints and leaks and perform mechanical overhauls and refrigerant reclaiming.  Assistants need to be supervised and instructed and records of repairs and replacements made and causes of malfunctions need to be kept. 

Personal Requirements

  • at least 16 years old
  • mechanical aptitude
  • able to think logically
  • enjoy working with your hands
  • able to liaise well with clients
  • mathematical aptitude
  • able to pay attention to detail
  • interested in problem-solving
  • accurate and work carefully
  • able to work without direct supervision

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • Grade 9 Certificate.
  • Some employers prefer higher qualifications

What to Study

There are 3 ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification. 2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.


  • air-conditioning and refrigeration contracting companies
  • wholesalers and manufacturers
  • large industrial plants
  • public service sections
  • carbonated soft-drink industry
  • self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can start own business

Further Information

The Steel & Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA)
6th Floor, Metal Industries House
42 Anderson Street, Marshalltown
Johannesburg, 2001
Tel: (011) 298-9400

Getting Started

  • visit construction sites, technical schools and service shops
  • take shop courses to help become familiar with the use of tools
  • try to obtain vacation work as an assistant to a refrigeration mechanic
  • arrange to speak to a refrigeration mechanic about his type of career
  • contact the Department of Labour about learnership possibilities in your area

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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