Earning HVAC certifications show employers and clients that you are a highly capable and skilled technician. Certified technicians are held at a higher standard and often sought out for specific jobs. The bottom line is that getting certified will put your skills in high demand and set you apart from your colleagues.
We have gathered information on some of the most important certifications for HVAC techs below:
EPA 608 and 609
An EPA 608 certification is required to work with any type of refrigerant containers. In order to purchase refrigerants — or even work on systems or containers that store refrigerants — you must be certified. There are three levels to the EPA 608 certification:
- EPA 608 Type I allows an HVAC tech to handle small appliances that contain less than 5 pounds of refrigerants (like a refrigerator, vending machine, or residential air conditioner).
- EPA 608 Type II will allow the HVAC professional to service and dispose of equipment with high-pressure refrigerants (such as a large air conditioner, heat pumps, or a commercial refrigerator).
- EPA 608 Type III allows the handling of low-pressure refrigerants (like a chiller).
The EPA 609 certification is required if you’re going to work on air conditioners in vehicles. You must have this certification in order to buy any refrigerants meant to cool compartments of motor vehicles. The EPA 609 exam is made up of 25 questions and is open-book.
The OSHA 30 Hour General Information Training course is a voluntary course that promotes workplace safety and health. The course also helps workers become more knowledgeable about workplace hazards and their own rights. It is common for employers to require an OSHA certificate or have technicians complete the course as part of their training. The course can be taken online, and you will receive an OSHA card upon completion.
Course topics include:
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Fire Detection and Prevention
- Flammable and Combustible Liquids
- Machine Guarding
- Industrial Hygiene
- Lockout Tagout Procedures
- And more
NATE (North American Technician Excellence)
The NATE certificate exam is the most common knowledge-based exam given to HVAC professionals to test competency. You will need to work as an HVAC technician for 2 years before you are eligible to take the NATE certification exam. You can become certified in many different areas. Passing both the core exam plus your specialty exam (depending on your chosen area of expertise), is required to become NATE certified.
NATE specialties include:
- Air conditioning
- Air distribution
- Hydronics gas
- Hydronics oil
- Light commercial refrigeration
- Commercial refrigeration
- Heat pumps
- Oil heating
- HVAC efficiency analyst (This specialty will require additional training)
Unlike other certifications, NATE certifications do expire approximately 2 years after they were issued. Technicians must complete 16 hours of continuing education credits every 2 years and submit proof of credit completion to NATE to keep their certification from expiring.
ESCO Institute (HVAC Excellence)
The ESCO Institute offers HVAC Excellence certification exams that act as a benchmark in the HVAC industry for specialized knowledge. Their exams cover a variety of topics and are taken at different stages in a technician’s career. The standardized exams are offered at three levels that increase with difficulty: Employment Ready, Professional, and Master Specialist.
There is no prerequisite for the Employment Ready Certifications, but the Professional certifications require 2 years of experience and the Master Specialist requires at least 3 years of experience. Employment Ready and Professional exams range from 50-100 questions, while the Master Specialist exam also requires a hands-on demonstration to pass.
There are many other ESCO certifications, and you can view all of them on ESCO’s website.
The National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3)
NC3 is a network of education providers and corporations that have a shared mission of producing an efficient and highly-skilled workforce. Individuals receive HVAC industry-validated certifications to demonstrate their qualifications.
NC3 offers 4 different residential HVAC certifications:
- Refrigeration and Diagnostics
- Variable Speed Motors
- Air-to-Air Heat Pumps
They also offer one commercial HVAC certification, Building Automation Systems. This certification covers all the following in one program:
- Intro to HVAC Systems Building Control
- Set Points
- Chiller Plant Control
- Data Logs
No matter which certification(s) you choose to earn, getting certified shows employers that you’re serious about your trade. If you’re thinking about becoming an HVAC technician and earning certifications, connect with an HVAC trade school near you.
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