How to get HVAC Certification
HVAC certification is a professional achievement above and beyond the initial technician training. Certification is a testament to a professional’s level of knowledge and ambition. There are several certifications that are recognized industry-wide. These include the EPA certification, NATE certification and the HVAC Excellence certifications.
Watch the video below to learn why it was deemed necessary to develop an industry standard for competency.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) via the Clean Air Act requires that anyone who will open a container or system
that holds a controlled refrigerant to be certified with Section 608 of the Clean Air Act. Obtaining this certification is required before a technician can begin to professionally service, repair, install or maintain equipment. There are four levels within Section 608 in which one can be certified. All four categories do not have to be passed as it depends on the daily duties and equipment serviced by the technician.
Here is a list and description of those four levels.
- Type I HVAC technicians that service, repair and maintain small appliances like household refrigerators, vending machines or window air conditions should become certified in the Type I category.
- Type II This category certifies those who primarily service and dispose of high pressure refrigeration equipment such as supermarket refrigeration systems or residential air conditioning equipment and heat pumps.
- Type III Professionals servicing systems using low pressure refrigerant, such as chillers, are covered by Type III.
- Universal This category is for professionals who want to be able to service, maintain, dispose of, and repair all types of refrigeration systems.
The EPA Universal Exam consists of:
|A total of 100 multiple-choice questions|
|25 core questions|
|25 questions about Type I|
|25 questions about Type II|
|25 questions about Type III|
Passing the EPA exam requires that you answer correctly 18 out of 25 questions in each section. This means achieving a passing grade of 72% for each section, not just the exam as a whole . Certification can still be awarded even if a prospective HVAC professional fails to pass every section. The Universal certification will not be awarded in this case. Instead, certifications will be awarded in whatever category type was passed with a score of 72%. For example, someone who fails the Type II section but passes Type I and Type III will be awarded Type I and Type III certifications. The exam can be retaken and you only have to retake the failed sections.
The video below will give you an idea of what the exam questions are like.
NATE stands for North American Technicians Excellence. NATE was founded in 1997 as a non-profit certifying organization for the
heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industry.
How to obtain a NATE Certification
The first step in the process is to pass the Core exam. The exam consists of 50 questions and a grade of 70% or better is needed to pass the exam. The Core exam tests a candidate’s general knowledge and understanding of c0nstruction and HVACR in the following areas:
- Basic Construction
- Basic Science
- Achieving Desired Conditions
- Temperature and Humidity Measurements
- Basic Electrical
The next step in the NATE process is to pass a Specialty exam. The Specialty exams contain 100 questions each and again a score of 70% or higher (75% for the senior level) is needed to in order to pass the exams. An experienced technician will be able to take the Core and one Specialty exam in one testing session (four hours). There are three levels of each specialty exam in the various subject matter: Installation, Service and Senior. The difficulty of the exams increases as you go from Installation to Senior. In order to be eligible for the Senior designation candidates are required to be certified in two specialties at the service level. Anyone who passes an exam at the Service level will also be awarded the Installation level.
The specialties in Installation and Service include the following:
- Air Conditioning
- Air Distribution
- Air to Air Heat Pump
- Gas Heating (air)
- Oil Heating (air)
- Hydronics Gas
- Hydronics Oil
- Light Commercial Refrigeration
- Commercial Refrigeration
The certifications are valid for a time period of two years. Prior to the end of the two years you will have to recertify. You have the option of choosing between two ways of achieving recertification.
|1.||Earn sixteen approved continuing education hours (CEH) in your specialty and reapply.|
|2.||With this option you can simply retake the specialty exam.|
NATE also administers the Industry Competency Exams (ICE). These exams are focused on entry-level technicians who have one year or less of professional experience. Candidates are tested upon standards agreed upon by the HVAC industry. There are over 300 schools in the United States that require participation in at least one exam in order for a student to graduate. In order to keep ICE tests current with new technology, the questions of the exams are validated each year by an industry group consisting of manufacturers and contractors.
Here is a breakdown of the exams.
|Core||Specialty Sections (Installation, Service, Components, Applied Knowledge)|
|Safety, Tools, Soft Skills||Air Conditioning|
|Heat Transfer and Comfort||Air Distribution|
|Start-up Heating||Start-up A/C|
|Service Heating||Refrigerant Recovery|
|System Design||Installation Start-up|
|Preventative Maintenance||Service and Repair|
HVAC Excellence Certifications
HVAC Excellence was established in 1994 as a not for profit organization to benefit the HVAC/R industry. Their goal is to improve industry competency through setting standards and verifying that those standards have been met. They offer different programs based on the stages and careers in the industry. There are programs for educators, students and technicians. Currently they have certified more than 170,000. For more information about HVAC Excellence and what they have to offer visit their website.
HVAC Excellence realized that a nationally recognized and standardized test was needed to for an accurate assessment of student knowledge. It is not possible to accurately compare grades given by different instructors and organizations needed a way to measure whether Federal, State and institutional requirements were met through instruction. The programs were established to meet this need to measure competency.
Here is a list of the HVAC Excellence Certifications:
- Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning, Technology (H.E.A.T)
- H.E.A.T. Plus, this tests for computer literacy, math, employability skills, work ethic, safety and a hands-on performance test in
addition to the areas covered in the H.E.A.T. exam.
- Employment Ready Certifications in: Electrical, Electric Heat, Gas Heat, Oil Heat, Air Conditioning, Light Commercial Air Conditioning, Light Commercial Refrigeration, Heat Pump, System Diagnostics and Troubleshooting, Basic Refrigeration and Charging Procedures, Carbon Monoxide Safety, Residential and Light Commercial Hydronic Heat, Fuel Oil Combustion, Natural Gas Combustion, Combustion Appliance Zone, and Carbon Monoxide & Combustion Analysis.
- Specialty Certifications in System Performance, Duct and Envelop Testing, Green Awareness, Residential Heat Load Analyst, R-410A, Residential Energy Auditor, and Certified Carbon Monoxide Inspector.
- Professional Level Technician in Residential Air Conditioning, Light Commercial Air Conditioning, Light Commercial Refrigeration, Heat Pump Service, Heat Pump Installer, Gas Heat, Electric Heat, Combustion Analysis, Residential and Light Commercial Hydronic Heat, and a Core exam.
- Master Specialist in Gas Heat, Oil Heat, Heat Pumps, Air Conditioning, Light Commercial Refrigeration I, Low Pressure Hydronic Heat, and Combustion Analysis.
- Certified Subject Matter Educator Air Conditioning, Light Commercial Refrigeration, Gas Heat, Heat Pumps, Electrical, Light Commercial Air Conditioning, Electric Heat, Oil Heat, and a Core exam.
- Certified Master HVACR Educator The exams are: Electrical, Air Conditioning, Light Commercial Air Conditioning, Light Commercial Refrigeration, Electric Heat, Gas Heat, Oil Heat, Heat Pumps, and a Capstone exam. In order to earn the title of Certified Master HVACR Educator and instructor must pass six of the exams with a score of 80% or higher. This is the highest credential that HVAC Excellence can provide an educator.
The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) was founded in 1989 as a non-profit association at a meeting of 25 people to discuss the idea of forming an association to represent professional air duct cleaning companies.
Participants of the meeting realized the need for an industry standard to promote source removal of air duct contaminants as the only acceptable means of cleaning ductwork. NADCA was formed to perform this task and the organization produced the DucTales newsletter distributed to member companies.
Today NADCA is also known by the tagline: The HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association and it also provides professional certifications.
NADCA certifications include:
- Air Systems Cleaning Specialists (ASCS) The exam includes all aspects of HVAC system cleaning and microbial remediation, including field experience and knowledge, industry standards and codes, as well as operation principles for both commercial and residential systems. The length of the exam is 150 questions.
- Ventilation System Mold Remediator (VSMR) This credential ensures an understanding of microbial contamination, how to perform project assessment and how to apply industry standards. The ASCS is a prerequisite for this credential.
- Certified Ventilation Ispector (CVI) This exam verifies a professionals knowledge of diagnosing IAQ issues, inspecting HVAC systems and discussing this information with the client. Exam length is 100 questions.
- Certified Ventilation Consultant (CVC) This credential ensures professionals have industry experience in residential and commercial settings as well as having the knowledge, skills and abilities to inspect, clean and remediate HVAC systems.
NADCA also offers the Ventilation Maintenance Technician (VMT) training program. This online program helps new HVAC cleaning technicians develop high quality skills and experience. This training programs is self-paced and consists of five modules:
- HVAC Ductwork and Acess Openings: Types of ductwork and how to create and seal access openings.
- Basic Safety: Topics discussed include, safe ladder usage, safety for small tools, energy source lockout procedure and personal protective equipment.
- Containment Level 1: Methods for creating HVAC system and work area containment.
- Cleaning Methods: Essential methods for the cleaning of residential and commercial jobs.
- Equipment: This module goes over the various tools used icluding: air compressors, pressure washers, wet/dry vacs and agitation tools.
Candidates that pass each module with a score of 70% or better will receive a VMT Certificate of Completion.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) was found in 1894 as an international organization focusing on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability within the industry. Their goal is to improve human well-being in the built environment through sustainable technology.
ASHRAE provides six certifications:
- Building Energy Assessment Professional (BEAP) This credential ensures an ability to audit and analyze residential, commercial, and industrial buildings including determining project scope, collecting data, analyzing building performance, interpreting results, evaluating alternatives, submitting recommendations for energy conservation measures, and assisting with the implementation of these recommendations.
- Building Energy Modeling Professional (BEMP) This program certifies and individual in two main areas: 1. Ability to evaluate, choose, use, calibrate, and interpret the results of energy modeling software when applied to building and systems energy performance and economics
2. Competence to model new and existing buildings and systems with their full range of physics.
- Commissioning Process Management Professional (CPMP) The purpose of this program is to help building owners, developers, standards writing agencies, and others assess the capability of individuals to develop and manage the whole building commissioning process with the owner.
- Health-Care Facility Design Professional (HFDP) This program will certify a candidates well-rounded understanding and knowledge of medical terminology and facility operations as they affect HVAC/R design in healthcare facilities.
- High-Performance Building Design Professional (HBDP) This certification ensures a well-rounded understanding and knowledge of how HVAC/R design is integrated into high performing buildings to achieve the overall goal of producing a sustainable HVAC/R design.
- Operations and Performance Management Professional (OPMP) Certifies a well-rounded understanding and knowledge of the management of facility operations and maintenance and their impact on HVAC/R systems’ performance.
ASHRAE also offers two HVAC Design training courses (Level I & Level II) through their Learning Institute. These training sessions cover the fundamental and technical aspects of designing, installing and maintaining HVAC systems.
ASHRAE is quite student friendly with many resources on the website geared towards students as well as sponsoring a design competition, a student bookstore, internship program and a scholarship program.
Not all jobs within the HVAC industry require third party certification. Despite this fact, it is a great idea for everyone involved in the industry to gain at least some level of certification. It has been shown that certified professionals have a higher earning potential than those who are not. Many more doors to employment and career advancement opportunities are opened for certified individuals. It is a good idea to start working on the certifications before you need them as this will make the process easier and less stressful.