Refrigeration and Air Conditioning


Refrigeration design engineers design refrigeration systems for making frozen foods, such as ice cream, or for chilling products such as fruit, flowers, meat and dairy foods. Air-conditioning design engineers design air-conditioning systems for large office buildings and institutes such as hospitals.

Tasks and Duties:

  • discuss specifications for refrigeration or air-conditioning systems with clients
  • visit sites of proposed systems with clients and analyse requirements
  • may analyse existing systems and recommend design improvements
  • design new systems using computer-aided design (CAD) software and draughting equipment, or may instruct a draughtsperson to do so
  • calculate costs of constructing designed systems, or of repairing and/or modifying existing systems
  • contract the construction and installation work to refrigeration and/or air-conditioning installation companies
  • may oversee work of contractors who build and install systems
  • check that finished systems comply with the design
  • organise testing and balancing of systems once they are installed


Refrigeration/air-conditioning design engineers need excellent communication skills, including good listening skills to enable them to work with clients to arrive at satisfactory design solutions. They also need to communicate their ideas clearly to a wide range of professionals and give and follow instructions. Refrigeration/air-conditioning design engineers must have the ability to organise and manage projects efficiently. They must also be able to analyse situations and solve problems. Report-writing and computer skills are also important.


A refrigeration/air-conditioning design engineer must know about the advantages of different refrigeration and air-conditioning systems and how these work in different buildings and climates.

Personal Qualities:

Refrigeration/air-conditioning design engineers should be imaginative, creative, patient and flexible as they may have to deal with unexpected design problems. They also need to work well alone and in teams and should be safety-conscious. They should have good people skills as they are dealing with a very wide range of different people.

Physical Requirements:

A reasonable level of physical fitness is required as climbing is often involved in this work. Refrigeration units in particular are large and high, and ladders have to be used to reach them. They must also have good colour vision as electrical work is involved.

Educational Requirements:

NCEA Level 1 in English, maths, science, graphics and workshop technology with a preference for the same subjects at Level 2

Entry Requirements:

A current drivers license is normally required.

Useful Experience

Engineering workshop or assembly experience is useful. Experience of working in a team and experience in organising people and projects are also useful.

Training on the job

Apprentices are taught practical skills on the job with evening classes, correspondence and block courses supplementing the practical training and providing training in the theory requirements.

Work Places

Refrigeration/air-conditioning design engineers divide their time between their office and construction sites. They may travel from their office to various sites in the same city, or to other towns and cities. Many large companies obtain overseas contracts and this requires refrigeration/air-conditioning design engineers to travel overseas.


Salary varies between $30,000 and $70,000 per year depending on qualifications, skills, and, experience.

Further Information

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