When you’re searching for quality HVAC services, you generally want a technician that understands what they’re doing. Lots of service companies advertise experienced staff, but how can you know for certain? One of the most consistent ways to verify if an HVAC technician is knowledgeable is by looking for their certifications. HVAC certifications can demonstrate proficiency in services like air conditioning repair, installation and maintenance services as well as other central aspects of the industry.
There are multiple HVAC certifications available. Some concentrate on a core body of knowledge technicians should possess, while others are a result of industry standards for energy efficiency and sustainability. We’ll take a look at key details about a few of the most common HVAC certifications you’ll find in your search for services.
The North American Technician Excellence certification is the largest program for HVAC competency, with tens of thousands of certified technicians. Other organizations like the ACCA and the federal Environmental Protection Agency assist with the NATE program to standardize the certification testing. To pass, participants must achieve a minimum score of 70%. To maintain NATE certification, technicians must receive continuing education or retake an exam every two years.
Total certification is a multiyear process consisting of four separate tests. The first two are designed for entry-level technicians while the second set of exams provide full certification along with senior-level status:
- Ready-to-Work Certificate – This certificate offers core knowledge and skill sets that can reaffirm any education or training already completed. The Ready-to-Work certification is especially beneficial for recent graduates of trades programs.
- HVAC Support Technician Certificate – After 6 to 12 months of experience, this exam is offered to teach fundamental topics relevant to full NATE certification.
- Core and Specialty Certification – After a technician has been in service for two or more years, they can receive NATE certification. Participants will have to pass both the core exam as well as a specialty exam for installation or servicing specific kinds of HVAC products.
- Senior-Level Efficiency Analyst Certification – Senior status is the highest NATE certification available. Technicians need to be certified in two specialty services—one in heating and one in air conditioning—to be eligible to apply for the senior certificate.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers was created in 1894. ASHRAE and its members offer research and education about HVAC systems with the intent to promote sustainability, energy efficiency and high indoor air quality. Through their work, ASHRAE creates industry standards with federal recognition. These standards apply not only to HVAC equipment, but to the buildings themselves as well as their other systems.
The majority of ASHRAE standards are relevant to commercial properties and industrial facilities, as they often have the highest rates of energy expenditure. They’ll research how HVAC system design can be improved as well as how equipment should be installed and maintained. ASHRAE also researches how the engineering and architectural design of the building itself impacts energy use.
Another nationwide HVAC accreditation organization, the ACCA stands for Air Conditioning Contractors of America. This organization promotes rigorous training and offers sessions for members to complete both on-site and online. Contractors wanting accreditation have two programs to choose from:
- The Existing Homes Program for Residential Service and Installation (RSI): This track ensures technicians can install, replace and maintain HVAC equipment placed in residential properties including homes and apartments.
- The New Homes Program: The New Homes track focuses on designing and installing HVAC systems with ENERGY STAR®-certified equipment for qualifying homes. Random audits are conducted to make sure members maintain their proficiency.
Industry Competency Exams are handled by NATE to make sure technicians meet industry standards for entry-level (one year or less) experience. These are separate from the NATE certification exams but review similar topics. Testing is offered for residential HVAC equipment as well as light commercial heating and cooling. Separate tests are even available for commercial refrigeration.
To be ICE-certified for residential equipment, technicians will need to pass both a core exam as well as specialty courses for services like furnace installation, service or even knowledge of components. Commercial ICE certifications don’t include the core exam and will review all relevant knowledge rather than specialty sections.
EPA Section 608
The Environmental Protection Agency provides substantial regulations for the HVAC industry. One of the most well-known sets of regulations is the federal Clean Air Act. Under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, the EPA requires technicians who handle equipment capable of releasing refrigerants to pass a certification test. To earn the Section 608 Technician Certification, the test should be specific to the systems the technician works with and administered by an approved organization.
The HVAC Excellence Certifications of Achievement encompass a wide range of competency tests for varying levels of proficiency in the HVAC industry. For example, the Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology (H.E.A.T.) + student outcome assessments are offered for high school students who have completed qualifying HVAC education programs. Other testing is offered for those seeking employment as well as for experienced technicians trying to get Professional or Master Specialist accreditation.
The Benefits of Certified HVAC Technicians
When you receive service from technicians who are certified by organizations like NATE, ASHRAE and the ACCA, you’re giving your HVAC system a higher standard of service. Benefits of choosing certified HVAC technicians include:
Demonstrates proficiency and dedication: Technicians who are committed to their customers’ sense of comfort will seek out certifications to prove their expertise. When you see a service company in Orlando offering NATE- or ICE-certified staff, you’ll know they go the extra mile to improve their services such as air conditioning installation.
Can help reduce costs and speed up services: Technicians who devote the time and resources required for these certifications often use less time and fewer resources when servicing your equipment. Not only can things like furnace repair, maintenance and installation proceed more quickly, but the faster progress can also lower labor expenses.