What Do HVAC Certifications Mean?

March 25, 2022

When you’re searching 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 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 core 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 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 collaborate with the NATE program to standardize the certification exams. To pass, applicants must reach a minimum score of 70%. To maintain NATE certification, technicians must receive continued education or take another exam every two years.

Complete certification is a multiyear process consisting of four separate tests. The first two are created for entry-level technicians while the second set of exams provide full certification along with senior-level status:

  1. Ready-to-Work Certificate – This certificate offers core knowledge and skill sets that can add onto any education or training already completed. The Ready-to-Work certification is especially 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 – After a technician has been in service for two or more years, they can achieve NATE certification. Technicians will need to pass both the core exam as well as a specialty exam for installation or servicing specific kinds of HVAC products.
  4. Senior-Level Efficiency Analyst Certification – Senior status is the highest NATE certification available. 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 promote 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.

Many of ASHRAE standards are concerned with commercial properties and industrial facilities, as they often 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 serviced. ASHRAE also studies how the engineering and architectural design of the building itself influences energy use.

ACCA

Another national HVAC accreditation organization, the ACCA stands for Air Conditioning Contractors of America. This organization encourages rigorous training and conducts sessions for members to attend 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 including homes and apartments.
  • The New Homes Program: The New Homes track prioritizes designing and installing HVAC systems with ENERGY STAR®-certified equipment for qualifying homes. Random audits are completed to ensure members maintain their expertise.

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 distinguished from the NATE certification exams but review 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 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 will be specific to the products 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 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. Further 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 receive service from technicians who are certified by organizations like NATE, ASHRAE and the ACCA, you’re giving your HVAC system a higher standard of service. Benefits of hiring certified HVAC technicians include:

Demonstrates proficiency and dedication: Technicians who are dedicated to their customers’ sense of comfort will earn certifications to prove their expertise. When you find a service company in Stuart 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 reduce costs and speed up services: Technicians who devote the time and resources required for these certifications often need 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 Stuart, consider requesting an appointment with Breathe Healthier Air. Get in touch by giving us a call at 772-353-4633 today.