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What Do HVAC Certifications Mean?

March 25, 2022

When you’re looking for quality HVAC services, you generally want a technician that knows what they’re doing. Lots of service companies advertise expert staff, but how can you know for sure? One of the easiest ways to confirm if an HVAC technician is knowledgeable is by checking their certifications. HVAC certifications can demonstrate proficiency in services like air conditioning repair, installation and maintenance services as well as other key aspects of the industry.

There are multiple HVAC certifications available. Some concentrate on a core body of knowledge technicians should have, while others are a result of industry standards for energy efficiency and sustainability. We’ll review key details about some of the most common HVAC certifications you’ll find in your search for services.

NATE

The North American Technician Excellence certification is the largest program for HVAC proficiency, with tens of thousands of certified technicians. Many organizations like the ACCA and the federal Environmental Protection Agency assist with the NATE program to standardize the certification testing. To pass, participating technicians must meet a minimum score of 70%. To maintain NATE certification, technicians must receive additional education or retake an exam every two years.

Total certification is a multiyear process consisting of four separate tests. The first two are specific for entry-level technicians while the other set of exams provide full certification including senior-level status:

  1. Ready-to-Work Certificate – This certificate offers 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 trades programs.
  2. HVAC Support Technician Certificate – After 6 to 12 months of experience, this exam is offered to teach fundamental topics relevant to full NATE certification.
  3. Core and Specialty Certification – Once a technician has been in service for two or more years, they can achieve NATE certification. Participants will need to pass both the core exam as well as a specialty exam for installation or servicing specific kinds of HVAC equipment.
  4. Senior-Level Efficiency Analyst Certification – Senior status is the highest NATE certification available. Technicians have to be certified in two specialty services—one in heating and another in air conditioning—to be eligible for applying for the senior certificate.

ASHRAE

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 healthy 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.

Many 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 serviced. ASHRAE also researches how the engineering and architectural design of the building itself affects energy use.

ACCA

Another national HVAC accreditation organization, the ACCA stands for Air Conditioning Contractors of America. This organization calls for rigorous training and hosts sessions for technicians to complete both on-site and online. Contractors looking for 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 like 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 expertise.

ICE

Industry Competency Exams are offered by NATE to make sure technicians meet industry standards for entry-level (one year or less) experience. These are distinguished from the NATE certification exams but review similar topics. Testing is available 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 instead of 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 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 equipment the technician works with and administered by an approved organization.

HVAC Excellence

The HVAC Excellence Certifications of Achievement cover a broad 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 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 request 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 see a service company in Portland 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 devote the time and resources needed 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.

If you’re looking for certified HVAC services in Portland, consider requesting an appointment with Three Rivers Heating & Cooling. Get in touch by giving us a call at 503-213-4433 today.