The HVAC industry is a very competitive field in the United States. There are many technicians vying for the most lucrative jobs and contracts. In order to successfully compete with these technicians, you must acquire the appropriate HVAC certifications and licenses. Different states have their own sets of rules and regulations for HVAC technicians and contractors. However, at the national level, there are two very well-known and respected certifications you can acquire. One is offered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the other by the North American Technician Excellence (NATE). Possession of these certifications demonstrates to employers and contractors that a technician has sufficient HVAC training and knowledge to succeed at and complete the job at hand.
The Federal Clean Air Act states that technicians who work with regulated refrigerants must become EPA-certified. The EPA defines four types of certifications that a technician can acquire:
- kind I: Allows a person to work on small appliances that contain at most 5 pounds of refrigerant.
- kind II: Allows a person to work on medium, high, and very high pressure appliances.
- kind III: Allows a person to work on low pressure appliances.
- Universal: Given to those who have attained all three of the certifications listed above.
In order to acquire EPA certification, a technician has to pass a paper exam. This exam has four definite parts, each containing 25 multiple-choice problems. The passing score on each section is 70% (that is, you must answer at the minimum 18 of the 25 problems in a given section correctly in order to pass that section). The first section is named the chief. It covers material that applies to all of the other three certification areas. This material includes EPA regulations, the environmental impact of refrigerants, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and more. A technician first has to pass the chief in order to acquire any of the certifications above. The other three sections correspond to topics applicable to the kind I, kind II, and kind III certifications.
NATE offers a variety of certification types for a number of specialty areas within the HVAC industry. However, these certifications are not absolutely mandatory to perform any HVAC work. Despite this being the case, the majority of contractors and employers are familiar with this credential, and are more likely to want to work with a technician possessing NATE certification.
Each specialty area for NATE certification belongs in one of three categories: Installation, Service, and Senior. The first two contain the following specialty options:
- Light Commercial Refrigeration
- Commercial Refrigeration
- Hydronics Oil
- Hydronics Gas
- Oil Heating (Air)
- Gas Heating (Air)
- Air-to-Air Heat Pumps
- Air Conditioning
- Air dispensing
The last category (Senior) is coupled with the HVAC Efficiency Analyst certification. To acquire this certification, you must first acquire two other NATE certifications belonging to the Installation and/or Service categories. observe that only certain specific pairs of certifications will meet this requirement.
in spite of of the specialty, a technician has to take and pass two written exams, the chief exam and the Specialty exam, before receiving any certification. The chief consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. The passing score is 70%, so you must answer at the minimum 35 of the 50 questions correctly. This exam covers general topics including safety, tools, applicable science, and more. however, the Specialty exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions. The passing score is again 70%, so you must answer at the minimum 70 of the 100 questions correctly. This Specialty exam covers topics applicable to the specialty area in question.