What Do HVAC Certifications Mean?

March 25, 2022

When you’re looking for quality HVAC services, you usually want a technician that understands what they’re doing. Many service companies advertise expert 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 can demonstrate proficiency in services like air conditioning repair, installation and maintenance services as well as other core aspects of the industry.

There are multiple HVAC certifications available. Some prioritize a core body of knowledge professionals should possess, 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 work with the NATE program to standardize the certification tests. To pass, applicants must reach a minimum score of 70%. To maintain NATE certification, technicians must receive continued education or retake an exam every two years.

Total certification is a multiyear process consisting of four separate tests. The first two are created 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 supplement 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 teach fundamental topics concerning 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. Technicians will need 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 another in air conditioning—to be eligible to apply for the senior certificate.

ASHRAE

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers was founded in 1894. ASHRAE and its members offer research and education about HVAC systems 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 apply not only to HVAC equipment, but to the buildings themselves as well as their other systems.

Most of ASHRAE standards are focused on 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 maintained. ASHRAE also monitors how the engineering and architectural design of the building itself influences energy use.

ACCA

Another nationwide HVAC accreditation organization, the ACCA stands for Air Conditioning Contractors of America. This organization promotes rigorous training and conducts sessions for technicians 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 including homes and apartments.
  • The New Homes Program: The New Homes track specializes in 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 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 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 should be specific to the products the technician works with and administered by an approved organization.

HVAC Excellence

The HVAC Excellence Certifications of Achievement are made up of 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 designed 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 trying to get 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 seek out certifications to improve their expertise. When you see a service company in Kearney 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 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 Kearney, consider requesting an appointment with Thurston Heating & Air Conditioning. Get in touch by giving us a call at 308-624-3485 today.