When you’re trying to find quality HVAC services, you likely want a technician that knows what they’re doing. Many service companies advertise experienced staff, but how can you know for certain? One of the easiest ways to confirm if an HVAC technician has experience is by looking for their certifications. HVAC certifications should demonstrate proficiency in services like air conditioning repair, installation and maintenance services as well as other central aspects of the industry.
There are a variety of HVAC certifications available. Some are designed around a core body of knowledge professionals should have, while others are a result of industry standards for energy efficiency and sustainability. We’ll review key details about a few of the most common HVAC certifications you’ll see in your search for services.
The North American Technician Excellence certification is the largest program for HVAC proficiency, with tens of thousands of certified technicians. Other organizations like the ACCA and the federal Environmental Protection Agency collaborate with the NATE program to standardize the certification exams. To pass, participants must meet 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 offered for entry-level technicians while the second set of exams provide full certification along with senior-level status:
- Ready-to-Work Certificate – This certificate provides core knowledge and skill sets that can supplement any education or training already completed. The Ready-to-Work certification is particularly beneficial for recent graduates of trade 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 – Once a technician has been in service for two or more years, they can be tested for full NATE certification. Technicians will need to pass both the core exam as well as a specialty exam for installation or servicing specific types 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 another in air conditioning—to be eligible to apply for the senior certificate.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers was founded in 1894. ASHRAE and its members offer research and education about HVAC systems with the intent to encourage sustainability, energy efficiency and healthy indoor air quality. Through their efforts, 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.
Most of ASHRAE standards are focused on commercial properties and industrial facilities, as they typically have the highest rates of energy expenditure. They’ll determine 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 affects energy use.
Another national HVAC accreditation organization, the ACCA stands for Air Conditioning Contractors of America. This organization calls for rigorous training and facilitates sessions for members to complete both on-site and online. Contractors looking for accreditation have two programs to select 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 like homes and apartments.
- The New Homes Program: The New Homes track specializes in designing and installing HVAC systems with ENERGY STAR®-certified equipment for qualifying homes. Random audits are performed to ensure members maintain their proficiency.
Industry Competency Exams are administered 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 cover similar topics. Testing is provided 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 have to pass both a core exam as well as specialty sections for services like furnace installation, service or even knowledge of components. Commercial ICE certifications don’t include the core exam and will cover all relevant knowledge rather than specialty sections.
EPA Section 608
The Environmental Protection Agency provides in-depth regulations within 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 work with equipment capable of releasing refrigerants to pass a certification test. To earn the Section 608 Technician Certification, the test will be specific to the equipment the technician works with and administered by an approved organization.
The HVAC Excellence Certifications of Achievement encompass a broad range of competency tests for different levels of proficiency in the HVAC industry. For example, the Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology (H.E.A.T.) + student outcome assessments are designed 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 better standard of service. Benefits of hiring certified HVAC technicians include:
Demonstrates proficiency and dedication: Technicians who are committed to their customers’ sense of comfort will seek out certifications to improve their expertise. When you find a service company in West Columbia 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 lower costs and speed up services: Professionals who spend the time and resources necessary 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 reduce labor expenses.
If you’re looking for certified HVAC services in West Columbia, consider requesting an appointment with Tri City Fuel & Heating. Get in touch by giving us a call at 803-265-4208 today.