What Do HVAC Certifications Mean?

March 25, 2022

When you’re looking for quality HVAC services, you probably want a technician that understands what they’re doing. Many service companies advertise experienced staff, but how can you know for certain? One of the best ways to verify if an HVAC technician is knowledgeable is by checking 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 multiple HVAC certifications available. Some prioritize a core body of knowledge professionals should have, while others are a result of industry standards for energy efficiency and sustainability. We’ll compare 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. Other organizations like the ACCA and the federal Environmental Protection Agency cooperate with the NATE program to standardize the certification exams. To pass, applicants must meet a minimum score of 70%. To maintain NATE certification, technicians must receive continuing education or retake an exam every two years.

Complete certification is a multiyear process consisting of four separate tests. The first two are specific for entry-level technicians while the second 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 reaffirm 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 test proficiency on 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 be tested for full NATE certification. Participants will have to pass both the core exam as well as a specialty exam for installation or servicing specific kinds of HVAC systems.
  4. Senior-Level Efficiency Analyst Certification – Senior status is the highest NATE certification offered. Technicians should be certified in two specialty services—one in heating and one in air conditioning—to be eligible to apply for the senior certificate.

ASHRAE

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers was created in 1894. ASHRAE and its members share research and education about HVAC equipment with the intent to encourage sustainability, energy efficiency and high indoor air quality. Through their work, ASHRAE creates industry standards with federal recognition. These standards are applicable not only to HVAC equipment, but to the buildings themselves as well as their other systems.

Most 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 maintained. ASHRAE also monitors 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 encourages rigorous training and offers sessions for technicians to complete both on-site and online. Contractors wanting 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 common in residential properties such as 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 performed to ensure members maintain their proficiency.

ICE

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 offered for residential HVAC equipment as well as light commercial heating and cooling. Separate tests are also available for commercial refrigeration.

To be ICE-certified for residential equipment, technicians will need 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 substantial 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 should be specific to the systems the technician works with and administered by an approved organization.

HVAC Excellence

The HVAC Excellence Certifications of Achievement are made up of a wide 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 offered for high school students who have completed qualifying HVAC education programs. Other testing is available for those seeking employment as well as for experienced technicians seeking 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 earn certifications to prove their expertise. When you find a service company in Brandon 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: Technicians who spend the time and resources needed for these certifications often take up 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 Brandon, consider requesting an appointment with Brandon Heating and Plumbing. Get in touch by giving us a call at 204-728-0180 today.