What Do HVAC Certifications Mean?

March 25, 2022

When you’re trying to find quality HVAC services, you usually want a technician that knows what they’re doing. Many service companies advertise expert staff, but how can you know for certain? One of the best ways to confirm if an HVAC technician has experience is by looking for 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 many 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 review key details about a few of the most common HVAC certifications you’ll come across 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 work with the NATE program to standardize the certification testing. To pass, applicants must meet a minimum score of 70%. To maintain NATE certification, technicians must receive continuing education or take another 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 final set of exams provide full certification and senior-level status:

  1. Ready-to-Work Certificate – This certificate provides 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 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 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 the other in air conditioning—to be eligible to apply for the senior certificate.

ASHRAE

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers was organized 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 efforts, 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.

The majority of ASHRAE standards are concerned with 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 serviced. ASHRAE also researches how the engineering and architectural design of the building itself impacts energy use.

ACCA

Another national HVAC accreditation organization, the ACCA stands for Air Conditioning Contractors of America. This organization calls for rigorous training and conducts sessions for participants to attend both on-site and online. Contractors wanting accreditation have two programs to pick from:

  • The Existing Homes Program for Residential Service and Installation (RSI): This track ensures technicians can install, replace and maintain HVAC equipment found in residential properties such as 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 conducted 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 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 rather than specialty sections.

EPA Section 608

The Environmental Protection Agency provides comprehensive regulations for 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 systems the technician works with and administered by an approved organization.

HVAC Excellence

The HVAC Excellence Certifications of Achievement encompass 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. Additional 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 seek out certifications to improve their expertise. When you see a service company in Franklin & South Indy 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: Professionals who devote 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 lower labor expenses.

If you’re looking for certified HVAC services in Franklin & South Indy, consider requesting an appointment with Winters Heating and Cooling. Get in touch by giving us a call at 317-406-5783 today.