HVAC Certification Requirements, Training, and Licensing

Across the US, more than 400,000 people are employed in the HVAC industry.

HVAC technicians, engineers, and mechanics are in high demand.

With the rapid development of the HVAC technologies, the demand for the HVAC experts is expected to keep growing.

So HVAC techs need to improve their skills and expand their knowledge to meet the requirements of the field.

With HVAC certification, technicians can expect a higher salary and better working conditions.

Certification isn’t a must for working in the industry, but it can provide certain benefits to the employees.

In some states, being certified is a requirement, while in the others, it’s optional.

Requirements vary from state to state and between jurisdictions.

In this article, we will cover the following:

  • Advantages of certification.
  • Types of available certification.
  • Steps to obtaining certification.
  • Certification programs.
  • Required examinations.
  • How to prepare for the exam and pass it.
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HVAC Certification License

HVAC Certification license authorizes HVAC techs to install and repair the HVAC systems and proves that they are trained and qualified.

The certification can be obtained after passing the examinations that test the expert’s knowledge of the craft.

HVAC technicians can obtain three types of certifications.

In some states, technicians are required to pass the exams to become certified and licensed.

Additionally, there is a certification mandatory for everyone who wants to work in the HVAC industry.

It is regulated by the federal government in the Code of Federal Regulations Section 608 of the Clean Air Act.

In some states, technicians should take tests which demonstrate their knowledge before they can work as a journeyman.

There are organizations that certify HVAC technicians.

They include NATE (North American Technical Excellence) and HVAC Excellence.

Upon completion of an apprenticeship or a training program, technicians can pass an examination to acquire a certificate.

Both certifications prove the skills and qualifications of the technicians.

Besides Nate and HVAC Excellence, there is a certification regulated by the federal government that HVAC techs must get.

They should be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency to handle and dispose of refrigerants.

This knowledge is vital not only for the examination but also for proper management of the job

Advantages of the HVAC Certification

Why do you need to acquire an HVAC certification?

Here are some advantages of the HVAC certificates:

  • You can become more competitive in the HVAC market among the other technicians.
  • You can expect to earn a higher salary because some companies choose to pay certified technicians more.
  • Certification demonstrates your expertise, so you can count on working on bigger projects at key positions.
  • With the certification, you can show your potential client that you are serious about what you do if you decide to start your own business.
  • It verifies your knowledge of the trade, so your client or employers can be sure of your qualification.

HVAC industry keeps growing and developing fast, so more people enroll in the area.

It is possible that in the future there will be many qualified technicians.

In this case, if you get certified, you will stay ahead of the competition.

Keep reading to find out what types of certifications are available for you and how to obtain them.

Running Your Own HVAC Business as a Contractor

If you plan to launch your own business, whether you are going to work alone or with a team, you can become a contractor.

In some states, an HVAC license is a requirement only for the contractors.

They can supervise the work of their employees dealing with the HVAC systems.

In other regions, a qualified person licensed and certified under the state law has to be employed in a team.

While their license is up-to-date, a contractor can work in the HVAC area.

This qualified person only has to supervise the HVAC part of the job.

Besides HVAC, a contractor has to be aware of business law in their state.

Being a contractor means running a business, so you also have to deal with bookkeeping, taxes, business licenses, etc.

It depends on the state or local government requirements.

Acquiring a contractor’s license includes passing the HVAC-related exam as well as business examination.

You can check in with the requirements of your state to get more information.

How to Become Certified

Here are the steps you need to take to become certified in HVAC:

  • Obtain a high school diploma or GED.
  • Earn a certificate from an accredited HVAC school or course.
  • Get a license from the state where you are going to work.
  • Take the certification examinations for different HVAC jobs.

Qualifications and experience allow you to get certification quite easily.

You can become certified regardless of the way you chose to enter the field.

Whether you attended college and earn a degree or certificate, or took the apprenticeship, you can get a certification.

There are several certification organizations in the US.

Most of them require you to take a course.

You can study it yourself or enroll in an accredited institution.

Depending on which certificate you are pursuing, the contents of the course may differ.

After that, you will need to pass an examination.

Below, you will find more details about the various types of certificates and how they differ.

Types of HVAC Certifications

Here are the types of certifications you can acquire in the HVAC industry:

  • EPA Type I Certification – Handling Small Appliances.
  • EPA Type II Certification – Handling High-Pressure Systems.
  • EPA Type III Certification – Handling Low-Pressure Systems.
  • Universal EPA Certificate.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE).

All of these certificates are vital because the licensing requirements for HVAC techs differ from state to state.

One of them is valid everywhere across the US.

We’re going to start with it.

EPA Section 608 Certification

This certification is commonly known as the EPA HVAC certification.

Everyone who has access to the refrigerant gases R22 or R410A is required to have this certification by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

As an HVAC technician, you will regularly deal with these refrigerants while working on the HVAC systems.

This certificate is mandatory.

This certification has four types and you have to pass an exam to obtain each of them.

EPA Type I Certification – Handling Small Appliances

If you work only with small refrigerant systems, you will only need the Type I certification.

This examination covers the following topics:

  • Small appliance definition (e.g., units with less than 11 lbs of refrigerant, such as small window AC).
  • System evacuation with the proper equipment.
  • System gas recovery with and without a compressor.
  • Safety protocols for dealing with refrigerants.

To obtain this certificate, you have to pass a test.

EPA Type II Certification – Handling High-Pressure Systems

EPA Type II certificate is needed if you work with high-pressure systems.

The certificate program covers the following topics:

  • Leaks in high-pressure systems and how to detect them.
  • The necessity of leak test before recharging or repairing the system.
  • Requirements of the leak repair in the systems with more than 50 lbs of refrigerant.
  • Recovery techniques.
  • Repairs, disposal, major repairs recovery requirements.
  • High-pressure refrigeration gasses and systems.
  • Safety protocols and use of equipment.

You can study yourself and then take an exam to acquire certification.

Depending on the time you can spare for study and how quickly you want to get certified, you may take a class.

It can be a better option than distance-learning or self-study.

EPA Type III Certification – Handling Low-Pressure Systems

The Type III certification topics are almost the same as for Type II but for low-pressure appliances.

If you have practical experience with low-pressure systems, the certification program can help you refresh your theoretical base.

You will also have to pass an examination for this type of certificate.

Universal EPA Certificate

For this certification, you need to study the topics covered in the three previous types.

With this certification, you can work on any type of system.

This certificate is recommended to obtain because it can open more job opportunities for you.

Since there’s more information you need to learn for this certification, it may take longer to study for it.

But with this certificate, you can get a job anywhere in the US if you also meet other state and local requirements for the HVAC techs.

North American Technical Excellence (NATE)

NATE offers certification programs for HVAC techs.

It’s a nationally recognized non-profit organization.

This certification isn’t mandatory, but it can provide certain advantages for a technician and put you ahead of the competition.

NATE certification process is done in a practical manner.

It makes it perfect qualification if you want to have a proof of your knowledge.

NATE is very precise about the examination process.

They have exams developed for technicians of different levels, experienced or those who recently entered the field.

They also divide their exams by different specialties, for example, air conditioning, gas furnaces, etc.

Entry-Level NATE Certifications

If you are an entry-level technician and still gaining experience in the field, you can get one of the two early-career NATE certifications.

The available certificates include:

Ready-to-work Certificate:

Technicians who don’t have formal training and are new to the industry can acquire this certification.

The exam includes the basics of the HVAC systems, equipment, and tools, electrical basics, heat transfer theory, safety.

There are 50 questions.

You can get the certification having achieved a pass mark.

HVAC Support Technician Certification:

You can take this examination if you have half a year to a year of working experience in HVAC.

It includes more details than ready-to-work certification.

The study topics will involve system components, design, installations, and planned maintenance.

There are 100 questions.

You can get the certification having achieved a pass mark.

Professional Level NATE Certification

NATE Certification is ideal for HVAC technicians with more than a year of experience in the field.

It is available with different specialties.

The certification covers the following areas:

  • Air Distribution (AD).
  • Air Conditioning (AC).
  • Oil Heating (OL).
  • Gas Heating (GS).
  • Heat Pumps (Air-to-Air) (HP).
  • Hydronics Oil (HO) (service only).
  • Hydronics Gas (HG) (service only).
  • Commercial Refrigeration (RC) (service only).
  • Light Commercial Refrigeration (LC) (service only).
  • HVAC Efficiency Analyst (Senior Level) (EA).

Some examinations can also be carried out in Spanish.

Besides, if you want to become an expert in various fields, you can take different exams to obtain several or all certifications.

HVAC Training Programs, Classes, and Schools

Aspiring HVAC techs should enroll in one of the approved trade schools to learn heating and AC repairs and installations aspects.

Students will learn state-of-the-art technology while gaining experience in the AC field.

They learn reading wiring plans and analyzing defective electrical machinery.

A safe replacement of breakers and fuses is also covered.

At a trade school, technicians will gain pipe fitting and electrician’s skills that HVAC techs apply in their work.

The materials of the programs include:

  • International Residential Code.
  • International Mechanical Code.
  • Code of Federal Regulations.

Students learn how to identify and troubleshoot the issues that prevent air conditioner and refrigeration equipment from working properly.

The programs also include the safe handling of refrigerants along with charging units and refrigerant recovery following federal regulations.

Students will learn about duct, dampers, and furnaces.

Students can also learn as apprentices, but a two-year college training gives them the insights of the trade and cutting-edge technology.

The HVAC school programs also cover physics and cooling/heating principles that aren’t always taught at an apprenticeship.

After a school program, you will also be prepared if you wish to open your business.

Having certificates or degrees on your resume also gives you credibility and confidence to your clients or employers.

Online Training for HVAC Examinations

So now you know the benefits of the certifications and how to obtain them.

All you need is to find an appropriate training course to start preparing for the exams.

It can be difficult shifting between a full-time job and studying.

You can enroll in a college program or study in your free time.

Both options can be beneficial.

If you choose to study yourself at home, you can set your own schedule and proceed at your pace and then take the exam when you are prepared.

However, in this case, you may start postponing your study time and delaying the exam since there’s nothing pushing you.

As an alternative, you can sign up for an online program with a structured course which will let you get certified quicker.

Here are some advantages of online courses:

  • You receive a set of learning materials prepared for you.
  • The structured model of the program is easy to follow and allows you to study modules one by one.
  • After completing the modules you can already book your test.
  • You have access to the practice test questions which can help you prepare for the exam.
  • You can test your knowledge in the process.

There are various online training programs that will help you prepare for the EPA 608 Tests, HVAC Excellence, etc.

Here is one of the sources you can check out:

At this site, you can find some useful software and sources that can help you prepare for the EPA Section 608 Technician Certification.

Your learning path will depend on how quickly you want to obtain a certificate, how fast can you learn and study for the exams.

Taking an online program or attending the evening classes are good ways to prepare for the examination.

HVAC Certification Costs

The costs for the HVAC certification can range somewhere between $1,500 and $30,000.

The tuition price is determined by your location and varies from state to state.

Usually, training at a community college is more affordable than HVAC/R vocational training at the universities.

The cost of the program also depends on the length.

There are 9-month programs and two-year programs where you can obtain an associate’s degree.

You should also include the examination and licensing fees in this.

The fees can differ from state to state as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between HVAC and AC?

HVAC means heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.

AC here stands for air conditioning.

Both refer to the climate control systems that are installed to regulate the temperature in the dwellings.

The abbreviations are interchangeable.

How different are HVAC and Refrigeration certifications?

The certification requirements for HVAC and Refrigeration are different in every state.

Some states put them together but in others, different certification is required for the two areas.

The certification and the process of obtaining it can also depend on the size of the systems you work on.

Don’t confuse refrigeration certification and refrigerant certification.

Refrigerant certification is regulated by federal law and covers the types of refrigerant in the AC or refrigeration systems.

Do I need a Freon and/or CFC certification?

CFC stands for chlorofluorocarbons which are chemicals found in an aerosol used in the systems.

Freon is the brand name of this aerosol.

These are harmful to the environment substances.

So anyone who works with these chemicals or sells/buys them has to be certified.

You can find out more by checking information on EPA 608 Certification.

What is HVAC license Master?

The trade licensing is divided by levels in some states.

Master is the highest license level.

Each state sets different requirements for obtaining this license.

In some areas, the apprentices are supervised only by Masters.

Besides, a Master should be a contractor in some states.

Master level is above Journeyman.

What is HVAC license Journeyman?

A journeyman is one of the levels of licensing.

Usually, a journeyman can work without supervision.

However, the regulations can vary from state to state as well.

A journeyman-level is higher than the apprentice.

A journeyman can also be a supervisor for the apprentice in some states.

What is an HVAC engineers and is licensing required?

An HVAC engineer designs equipment and systems.

The engineer’s job can involve working in a lab or with architects and other engineers.

They are problem solvers.

The certification can be required in some states.

Usually, an HVAC engineer is expected to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

What is the cost of online certification?

State license tests are usually a proctored exam.

Although, the EPA Section 608 Type I certification can be obtained online.

The price is set by the organization who holds the exam.

On average, the price varies from $20-40.

Where don’t I need an HVAC license?

The laws are changing all the time, so some states may cancel licensing while others can introduce it.

Local licensing in the counties or municipalities can also be required.

These are the states that don’t require HVAC licensing:

  • Colorado.
  • Illinois.
  • Indiana.
  • Kansas.
  • Massachusetts.
  • Maine.
  • Minnesota.
  • Missouri.
  • Montana.
  • New Hampshire.
  • New York.
  • South Dakota.
  • Vermont.
  • Wisconsin.
  • Wyoming.

What is the price for an HVAC Certification?

HVAC certification or license on the state level is regulated by every state.

These laws include the terms and cost of the license.

The cost can be between $50 and $300.

The licensing terms are usually around three years.

Depending on the organization that holds an EPA 608 Certification exam, the price can also vary.

It can be somewhere between $20 for Type I and as much as $150 for the Universal proctored exam.

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