What Do HVAC Certifications Mean?

March 25, 2022

When you’re trying to find quality HVAC services, you probably 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 most consistent ways to confirm if an HVAC technician is knowledgeable 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 central 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 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 assist with the NATE program to standardize the certification exams. To pass, applicants must achieve a minimum score of 70%. To maintain NATE certification, technicians must receive continued education or retake an exam every two years.

Complete certification is a multiyear process made up of four separate tests. The first two are offered for entry-level technicians while the other 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 add onto 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. Technicians will need to pass both the core exam as well as a specialty exam for installation or servicing specific types of HVAC products.
  4. Senior-Level Efficiency Analyst Certification – Senior status is the highest NATE certification available. Technicians need to be certified in two specialty services—one in heating and one in air conditioning—to be eligible for applying for the senior certificate.

ASHRAE

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

The majority of ASHRAE standards are relevant to commercial properties and industrial facilities, as they frequently have the highest rates of energy expenditure. They’ll study how HVAC system design can be improved as well as how equipment should be installed and serviced. 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 calls for rigorous training and hosts 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 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 performed to make sure members maintain their proficiency.

ICE

Industry Competency Exams are handled 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 encompass similar topics. Testing is provided 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 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 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 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 equipment the technician works with and administered by an approved organization.

HVAC Excellence

The HVAC Excellence Certifications of Achievement cover 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 designed 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 request 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 choosing certified HVAC technicians include:

Demonstrates proficiency and dedication: Technicians who are dedicated to their customers’ sense of comfort will earn certifications to demonstrate their expertise. When you see a service company in Thedford 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 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 Thedford, consider requesting an appointment with Taylor's Heating & Air Conditioning. Get in touch by giving us a call at 519-296-4437 today.