What Do HVAC Certifications Mean?

March 25, 2022

When you’re trying to find quality HVAC services, you likely want a technician that understands what they’re doing. Lots of service companies advertise experienced staff, but how can you know for sure? One of the most consistent ways to verify 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 key aspects of the industry.

There are multiple HVAC certifications available. Some are designed around a core body of knowledge technicians should have, while others are a result of industry standards for energy efficiency and sustainability. We’ll compare 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 competency, 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 achieve 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 made up 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 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 test proficiency on 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 achieve NATE certification. Participants will need to pass both the core exam as well as a specialty exam for installation or servicing specific kinds of HVAC equipment.
  4. Senior-Level Efficiency Analyst Certification – Senior status is the highest NATE certification available. Technicians have to 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 organized in 1894. ASHRAE and its members provide research and education about HVAC products with the intent to promote sustainability, energy efficiency and high 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.

Many of ASHRAE standards are focused on commercial properties and industrial facilities, as they typically have the highest rates of energy use. They’ll study 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 affects energy use.

ACCA

Another nationwide HVAC accreditation organization, the ACCA stands for Air Conditioning Contractors of America. This organization calls for rigorous training and hosts sessions for participants to complete both on-site and online. Contractors wanting 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 specializes in designing and installing HVAC systems with ENERGY STAR®-certified equipment for qualifying homes. Random audits are completed 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 review 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 need to pass both a core exam as well as specialty courses for services like furnace installation, service or even knowledge of components. Commercial ICE certifications don’t include the core exam and will review 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 work with 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 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 written 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 receive 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 improve their expertise. When you find a service company in Ellsworth 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: Professionals who devote the time and resources needed for these certifications often require 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 Ellsworth, consider requesting an appointment with Walter's-Eaton's Electric, Plumbing, Heating & AC. Get in touch by giving us a call at 715-318-6728 today.