HVAC Technician Certification Guide

Tony Case
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What is HVAC Technician Certification?

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) is a multi-billion dollar industry that provides us with comfort in our homes and buildings. For this service, HVAC technicians are paid well and respected by their clients for maintaining and installing HVAC units. However, to become a HVAC technician, the training is long and costly. The average training program is a two-year program, and after that, the HVAC technician has to take the NATE exam to be certified to work in a HVAC field.

Due to the high cost, HVAC government certifications, and the competition of HVAC technicians, many people are not able to become HVAC technician unless they have financial aid or financial support by their family. To solve this problem and to give HVAC technicians a better chance of success when they start their careers, the NATE has developed an HVAC training program much less costly and much shorter than the traditional training programs. When one passes the HVAC Careers test and the NATE Residential Practice Exam, they are given the status of a HVAC technician with only a HVAC Technician Card. And to the surprise of many, the HVAC Technician Card is enough to work in a HVAC field.

Advantages of Achieving Professional Certification

Increasing demand for certification in HVAC installation, maintenance and repair leads to a high number of vocational opportunities. There is assured job placement in the HVAC industry. Some people are unsure about pursuing HVAC certification because they do not think that it will be worth the effort. The good news is you cannot go wrong by pursuing HVAC certification. In fact, there are a number of advantages when hiring professionals who are certified. Some of the advantages are highlighted below:

  • The very first advantage is that those who are certified are likely to fall in a well-paying job as compared to those who are cert-less. Most organizations seeking HVAC services are interested in hiring those who are certified as they are assured of quality services.
  • Using contractors who are certified means that you will have peace of mind that the services offered will be of high quality and that you will not be compromising on the quality of work. This is because the certification is a guarantee that the person is familiar with the modern techniques of the industry. Hiring a certified contractor is as good as hiring a professional one.
  • Another advantage of hiring HVAC professionals who are certified is that they are more professional. That is, many of them are passionate and take their work with great seriousness. This means they will design and execute a plan well and that they will take their work personally.

HVAC Training Options

There are several excellent avenues to get a quality education in the heating and cooling industry that include both solid classroom and hands-on learning. If you are serious about working with residential and light commercial heating and cooling systems, you will most likely need to have a national HVAC certification. You can pursue the HVAC certification through a variety of avenues, including high school training, apprenticeships, on-the-job-training and school.

High School Courses

Most high schools offer some type of HVAC courses in their metalworking or woodworking departments. Although these are not actual trade schools, high schools can provide students with a wealth of knowledge and skills when it comes to residential heating and cooling systems.

Apprenticeships

Many heating and cooling contractors offer good… and sometimes even better… apprenticeship programs than those found through the high school route. As an apprentice, you will receive on-the-job training and real-world skills while earning wages. During this training, you will also receive classroom instruction.

Technical College/HVAC Trade Schools

Do They Make You Better?
So you want to become an expert at HVAC and installation. While this is a common dream, program attendance is not only necessary, but there are more than 1,800 technical colleges and trade schools that offer programs in HVAC and installation. To make things even more muddled, there are now new programs that are found online.

Which one should you choose? To start, the programs available vary greatly in content. While a math and English-type background is a good start, the technical programs require a good amount of math expertise. Then it comes to schedule. See if the school offers night, online, and weekend classes. With so many options, how do you know which one to pick?

The contractor who recommended the program, might be your best first stop for more information. Most residential contractors become experts in business without much formal education. They were taught as apprentices. Unfortunately, apprenticeships are a rare commodity in the plumbers and electricians union in today.

In fact, most HVAC and plumbing contractors receive their tutelage at work. Because of that, the leads on HVAC training are highly prized. That’s why if you ask a good contractor for a lead, you will likely be on the receiving end of a really good HVAC program. Good contractors are well aware of the training that is available and the needs of their industry.

Apprenticeship/OJT

Apprenticeship is the most common method to train HVAC Technicians. It is usually 1 to 4 years of on-the-job training during which the apprentice learns all the aspects of the trade from basic to advanced. At the end of their apprenticeship, the trainee is issued a certificate of completion from their employer. The employer takes the labor point value assigned to the completed training hours and can offer a certification of his/her labor hours to the apprentice’s school. The Apprentice is now a fully qualified Journeyman HVAC Technician.

An Apprenticeship/OJT program will consist of the following:

  • A comprehensive apprentice program for heating system service technicians
  • 230 hours of classroom training
  • maintain proficiency through all aspects of the work

A comprehensive test bank and study manual.

HVAC Certification Guide

Following the HVAC Certification Guide is the easiest way to learn everything you need to know to get started. There is a lot of information available, and different routes you can take. However, after taking the course and doing the mandatory reading, you'll be equipped with the knowledge you need to succeed.

These are just a few of the most basic questions you'll be asked; there are an infinite number of possible questions. You can do research in a library, or you can even ask current technicians these questions online. Asking local technicians is best because they have spent years gaining knowledge. They are always looking for ways to improve their existing skills.

~Robert Minge, HVAC Certification Guide Customer.

When I first started working at my HVAC company, I had no knowledge about HVAC equipment. I was completely lost. I was put in charge of fixing an issue with the furnace, and I had no idea what the problem was. I was not physically capable of performing some of the repairs for the furnace, it was too heavy. After weeks of asking our other technicians and reading manuals, I had used the best of my ability to try to fix it. I was still unsuccessful.

HVAC License Requirements

Technical and trade certification instructional courses that are at least 1,200 hours long, and include instruction in energy management and water conservation must be approved by the Ohio Department of Education.

However, if the class consists of at least 600 hours, it will be approved if it demonstrates a "need to know" for all apprentices in the trade and provides 64 hours of instruction in basic electricity, basic electronic theory, mechanical systems, measuring and layout, and basic plumbing, along with 64 hours of instruction in energy management and water conservation.

For additional information, visit the Ohio Department of Education website.

Most states require home heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractors to be licensed. While the rules vary from state to state, the most common requirements include a combination of education and work experience for licensing as an HVAC technician. For example, in Texas, HVAC technicians must obtain their HVAC license after first fulfilling a basic educational requirement. The good news, however, is that the educational requirement will typically cover the skills you are going to need on the job.

EPA Section 608 Certification

All commercial system HVAC, refrigeration, and food service equipment installers, service technicians, and service contractors must be certified by EPA Section 608. For more information about the certification requirements, click here.

Types of Certification

Beginning with the Air Conditioner Contractors of America Institute’s (ACCA) Heating, Ventilating, Air-conditioning, Refrigeration Technician Certification (HVAC), there are a few major players in the HVAC certification industry. Because of its growing popularity, training for heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and refrigeration training can be done through several different national associations.

NATE Entry-Level Certification

Every year, thousands of new homeowners and homeowners-to-be take the leap and purchase a home. If you're one of them, you're not alone. In fact, one in five households currently own their own home has the intention of purchasing a new home in the next year. While buying a home is a major accomplishment, it isn’t the only step in the home-buying process. You must also make sure that the home you purchase meets your comfort needs and requirements. And this can be a little tricky since having the right heating and cooling can be a major factor in the purchase.

The two main factors in a home’s heating and cooling needs are the house’s climate zone and size. Each climate zone requires different heating and cooling methods. In addition, the size of the house can have a major effect on the type of heating and cooling equipment needed. This is because smaller homes generally have fewer rooms and windows, which means it’s easier to heat and cool the entire house. In larger homes, getting equal temperatures throughout is more challenging.

Fortunately, the solution to keeping itself comfortable is easy. As a homeowner, you can set up your heating and cooling equipment so you have a more consistent temperature throughout your entire house. You can use a simple thermostat control, or you could get a more complex HVAC control system.

Ready-to-Work Certification

The approval process for a HVAC technician certification is a rigorous one, and the mechanics must go through extensive training before they can become certified. There is no shortcut, alternative, or speedier way of getting a certification. Certification will help you create a good foundation for your career and will help you in securing your employment in any HVAC company.

A good career is what every student in HVAC technician training wants to achieve. Since there are limited job opportunities and lesser demands for HVAC services these days, it is important for an HVAC technician to be certified. Preparing yourself for certification will help you build an impressive resume and become more competitive in the job market. Remember, once you’re certified, you’re always certified. You won’t have to re-take the tests every year; the certification will stay fresh in your record as long as you are performing your job well.

If you’re unsure about how to achieve HVAC certification, or if you just want to learn the details of the certification process, this guide is for you.

HVAC Support Technician Certification

Working with air conditioning systems, pumps, and electrical equipment can be tricky, which is why there are certification requirements for HVAC support technicians. Many of the leading HVAC service companies in the industry offer on-going training courses, certification exams, and certifications. The first step in becoming an HVAC support technician is to register for the test with your local state board. The time to take the exam will vary by state, but you should plan on taking it within one year of starting the process.

What the HVAC Support Technician Certification Exam Entails

The HVAC support technician certification exam will cover tests on:

  • Code requirements
  • Installation, service, and repair procedures
  • 3-phase equipment
  • Applying the Troubleshooting Process
  • Laws and their enforcement
  • Passing the HVAC Support Technician Certification Exam

You must score at least 70% to pass the test. You can retake the exam if you don’t ace it the first time. Many employers also require that you pass an exam specific to the brand you work with. This might include specific brand equipment for installation or service. Be sure to check with your employer before you begin the process. You should have a solid background in electronics and electrical work, specifically with air conditioning systems and renewable energy systems. A technician will need to understand how these systems are interconnected and be able to work with all of the components.

Steps 3 and 4

Explore HVAC Technician Certifications

Right now, whether you choose the vocational school route, or return to a college, or even go back to high school, you are aware that knowing as much about air conditioning as you can is a good idea. There is certainly a lot more to understand about air conditioning than you may have ever realized before.

Chances are that you are aware that there are all kinds of different certifications that you can get as a HVAC technician, and you may have even thought about taking one or more of them. However, you may not know that it’s easy to get confused about these certifications, especially because the names aren’t all that easy to understand.

Let’s start by talking about the different types of certifications you can get. One type of certifications that licensed HVAC technicians can receive is a license as a Master, Journeymen or a technician. Increasingly, states are no longer issuing licenses to technicians, and they are just issuing licenses to technicians and master techs in HVAC, and even journeymen are being phased out in some states.

Other HVAC Certification Organizations

You’ve decided to become an HVAC technician, but you’re not sure which route you want to take. There are, in fact, various ways you can go about working toward your HVAC degree. And while many people opt to take individual HVAC certification courses through various providers, others choose to take courses through an accredited trade school. In addition to these types of HVAC education, you can also become certified through a number of national HVAC certification programs. In this article, we’ll cover more about these types of certifications, as well as a few other details that may help you in deciding which to pursue.

In order to be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration, you must log 250 to 300 hours of training. Specifically, you must study such subjects as refrigeration cycle, heating systems, piping, and measurements. The certification exam itself is not difficult, however, and is comprised of about one-third multiple choice and two-thirds written questions. For this certification, you must also meet a number of EPA requirements, including being at least 18 years of age and possessing a high school diploma.

HVAC Excellence

Where does it Lead?

HVAC Excellence is an indicator of a technician’s ability to operate the highest-level of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in a safe, courteous, and cost-efficient manner. With this certification, you gain the knowledge you need to be a leader on the job site, as well as nationally.

What the HVAC Excellence Leadership Program Is

HVAC Excellence is a national, voluntary, credentialing program with over 1,300 recognized participants and more than 220 work sites, which ranks third in market share of all credentialing organizations. The program, designed by skilled managers and trainers, is a performance-based credentialing system that ensures specific criteria are met on each project and at each work site.

To enter the program, contractors who are in good standing and certified through the HVAC Excellence Training & Certification contractor network or a state agency may either attend a six- to ten-week training program or pass a performance exam.

Once this requirement is met, the contractor submits to the HVAC Excellence Program annual performance paperwork verifying that the site completed a minimum of 250 hours… of HVAC services throughout the year that exceed the HVAC Excellence certification requirements.

HVAC Excellence objectives and benefits include:

HVAC Excellence objectives include:

Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) is recognized as the first accrediting body for HVAC technicians. In 1998, they changed their name to the vocational group of RSES and are known as RSES: The HVACR Team.

RSES created a National HVAC Certification Exam which is used by members and non-members nationwide. Currently, there are only two recognized testing agencies for the certification exam, and RSES created the first.

The National HVAC Certification Program was created to assure the public that HVAC technicians are knowledgeable in safe, sustainable, energy-efficient HVAC practices. RSES has accredited over 1,200 testing centers throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the European Union.

Every three years, HVAC technicians must renew their certification, but now the exams are computer-based and the questions can be displayed in multiple languages.

There are four divisions of the National HVAC certification:

  • 2-year technician-limited (formerly furnace only)
  • 4-year technician-limited (formerly air conditioning only)
  • 6-year technician-limited (formerly air conditioning/refrigeration)
  • 8-year technician-limited (formerly technician-commercial)

ESCO Institute

To be a certified HVAC technician, you must first apply to become a member of a national organization. This not only includes background checks but also an educational process. The educational process lasts for at least five years in most organizations, and it encompasses a variety of important skills. The technician division of insulation manufacturers and distributors associations also has educational requirements that you must follow.

Make Sure You Are Fit for the Job

The ESCO Institute’s “Technical Workbook” lists a few basic things you should have in order to become an HVAC technician, including:

Here’s the first step in becoming an HVAC technician:

Take a high school diploma or equivalency exam.

Certification Requirements

There are other requirements that you must have as well for the certification board to grant you HVAC certification.

Some of these requirements include:

  • Five years of combined experience as an installer or in-shop technician.
  • 10 hours of training must be obtained monthly.
  • A total of 40 hours of required training courses must be completed.

State Licensing

Most homeowners aren’t aware that they need to be licensed to have a job in the HVAC industry. In the same way that you need a driver’s license to drive a car, you need a license to do the work. The job of a Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) Technician is more complex than most people realize. There are plenty of opportunities in different geographic locations. HVAC employees usually work on both commercial and residential units. In many instances, a candidate who has state-level certification is attractive to employers because they are required to have not only a good understanding of home systems and related equipment, but also the ability to communicate this information in an easy-to-understand way. This makes any HVAC company look like they are very capable and have a high level of expertise.

The Cost of Becoming Certified

What does it cost to be a Certified HVAC Technician? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors:

Location – Cost of living varies from place to place, so the cost of being certified in different regions will vary.

Different education programs are available, ranging from a simple online certification course to a college degree. Some schools may be more expensive than others.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Q: What Does a HVAC Technician Do?

A: A HVAC technician (also called an HVAC or AC tech) installs and repairs heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, as well as related equipment. Unlike a furnace technician, an HVAC technician may also install, maintain, and repair ductwork. And although some HVAC technicians fix furnaces, more often, they install or service furnaces and ducts. An HVAC technician is likely to install or repair other HVAC system equipment including:

  • Air coolers (air conditioners)
  • Boiler systems
  • Chiller systems
  • Ductwork
  • Gas furnaces
  • Heat pumps
  • Heat riser systems
  • Humidifiers
  • Packaged rooftop units
  • Space heaters (boilers)
  • Water heaters

As you can see, it is a very broad field.

This is a good source for HVAC technicians who want to keep up with technology. It’s a very technical profession, so you’ve got to stay on top of the latest technology and equipment.

Q: What Do You Need To Become A Certified HVAC Technician?

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s more to being an HVAC technician than simply installing and maintaining heating and cooling systems. The educational requirements when it comes to this particular speciality are rigorous, and rightly so because the stakes are very high. The more important reason why heated/cooled systems are dangerous is they often contain the following:

Gas fumes

Gas (propane, natural gas, etc.)

Hydraulic Fluids

Liquified Petroleum Gases (e.g., propane and butane)

Electronics

Thus, being an HVAC technician is not strictly a physically challenging profession. It can involve much more than just working with your hands and requires an ability to think on your toes.

In addition, as you’ve learned above, it requires a lot of training to learn the ins and outs of a wide variety of issues.