Every homeowner will at some timeÂ have to hire a HVAC technician (usually through a Heating and Air Conditioning company) to maintain, repair, or replace his/her air conditioner or some of its components. To have peace of mind about the worker you are hiring and to ensure that your problem will be handled properly, it is helpful to know what kind of training and certifications air conditioning technicians are required to have.
There is no nationwide licensing requirement for HVAC technicians; the only federal requirement is by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which mandates that anyone working with equipment containing refrigerants must have EPA section 608 Certification. This is part of the Clean Air Act. Â There are four types of EPA Certification, and the technician must pass a written exam specific to one (or more) of these specialties:
- Type I – for technicians who will mainly be servicing small appliances/equipment
- Type II – for technicians chiefly servicing high pressure appliances/equipment
- Type III – for technicians who service low-pressure appliances/equipment
- Universal – for technicians who service many types of equipment
There are many trade schools, employer associations, and community colleges with training programs to help prepare students for the EPA exam.
States differ on their requirements for the training and certification of HVAC technicians, and some states have no license requirement, but leave it to municipalities to set and enforce their own rules and regulations. In North Carolina, HVAC Contractors must be licensed, but for hvac technicians, the number and type of certifications required depend upon the type of work the technician will be doing.
A technician may begin his training by working in an apprenticeship program which includes on-the-job training along with classroom instruction, or he may opt for a more formal program such as those offered by technical or trade schools that are accredited by HVAC Excellence, the National Center for Construction Education and Research, or the Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration. The technician could earn certification or an associate’s degree through these accredited programs.
The nations’s largest non-profit certification program for HVAC technicians is NATE (http://www.natex.org/). The motivation for its founding in 1997 was a concern (at that time) that many of those who were installing and servicing HVAC systems and equipment did not have the necessary knowledge and experience. The high standards set by NATE for the training and knowledge needed by a technician to obtain certification contributed greatly to the high level of skill and knowledge that HVAC technicians have today. There are an estimated 32,000 NATE-certified HVAC technicians delivering exceptional service throughout North America. NATE certification is not a one-time accomplishment. To ensure that certified technicians continue training and updating their knowledge as new developments take place in the industry, NATE certification must be renewed every two years (as of 2014).
ManyÂ Heating and Air Conditioning companies, as a part of their hiring practices, offer paid training for those who want to become HVAC technicians. Many also offer or require continuing training to ensure thatÂ their technicians maintain or upgrade their knowledge and skills.