Everything About NATE Certification

With approximately 325 million people in the US, the HVAC market is very competitive as there are a lot of AC systems and furnaces to maintain.

If you strive to become successful and top-paid in the HVAC area, you need to distinguish yourself from the other techs.

One of the ways to stand out from the competition is to acquire a NATE certification.

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What is NATE?

NATE is an acronym of North American Technician Excellence.

NATE certification is one of the most widely accepted certifications in the HVAC area.

Technicians who obtain NATE certification can raise their status and achieve greater success in their careers.

The first stage of going for a NATE certification is passing the core exam.

As long as your NATE certification is up-to-date, you won’t have to pass the core exam again.

Then a specialty examination follows.

You can choose from the three main sections:

Installation, Service, and Senior.

In the course of preparation for the core test and then the specialty exam, you should know that NATE exams are based on what’s known as KATEs (Knowledge Areas of Technician Expertise).

Each exam can comprise numerous KATEs.

Advantages of NATE Certification

If you are already building up a career as an HVAC tech, you know that the job is physically and mentally demanding.

Many techs new to the industry may wonder why they should overload their already busy schedule with additional hours for the non-obligatory exam.

What difference does a NATE certification make if you are already properly trained to do your job?

Would you become a better technician after obtaining NATE certification?

If you teach others the subject you know, it can help you improve your understanding of it.

The same goes for the repetition of the information you’ve already learned.

Nothing can replace the experience.

But you can’t stop going after knowledge, especially in such a rapidly advancing and competitive industry as HVAC.

The HVAC industry is highly competitive, and your marketing skills are essential in this case.

Having a NATE certification increases your chances for a higher salary, even if you doubt the accuracy of the tech’s skill level reflection.

What answer do you think a potential customer or employer looks for when asking you whether you have a NATE certification, a yes or a no?

No particular number of years of experience is required to take the exams for the certification.

However, it’s recommended to have some training and work experience.

In the beginning, or with less than two years of experience, you can look into “ready to work” or “HVAC support technician” examinations.

They both depend on your experience.

You will find more information about them below.

What Does NATE Cover?

As mentioned above, the core exam is the first step in the NATE certification process.

The core exam includes testing the general knowledge, knowledge in the construction.

There is also HVAC-specific knowledge that includes safety, basic construction, and tools.

You need a basic understanding of science, how to take humidity and temperature measurements.

You also need to know how to achieve the necessary conditions and do basic electrical work.

Professional Certification Detailed Breakdown

Here are the areas and their themes covered by the exam:

  • Safety (18% of core test) includes government regulations, safe work methods with machinery, electricity, handling of containers, torch work, and hazardous material procedures.
  • Tools (10% of core test) include tools and scales, fabrication tools, tubing tools.
  • Basic Construction (8% of core exam) comprises Plans and Specs, Piping Layouts, Rooms Specifications.
  • Basic Science (10% of core test) includes basics in chemistry, electrons in electricity, magnetism, electrical basics, AC/DC circuits, circuit analysis.
    Electricity involves distribution and generation, pressure measurements, math, mechanics, solid-state electronics, gas laws, power, and electrical load types.
  • Achieving Desired Conditions (14% of core test) comprises humidity, temperature, sound, and air quality.
  • Taking Temperature and Humidity Measurements (14% of core test) is about temperature and heat/physical measurements, thermometers, humidity calculations, and measurements.
  • Basic Electricity (26% of core test) includes symbols, field wiring, pictorial, and schematic diagrams, single- and three-phase motors, variable speed and actuator motors, and digital electrical meters.

Additional Materials for NATE Certification Core Exam

  • “D” “J” “QI” Manuals.
  • “T” and “RS” ACCA Manuals.
  • International Code Council.
  • Uniform Mechanical Code.
  • Mechanical, Plumbing, Energy Conservation, and Residential.
  • Specification of Energy-Efficient Installation and Maintenance Practices for Residential HVAC Systems developed by Consortium for Energy.
  • ASHRAE Standard-62.2.
  • ANSI//ASHRAE Standard – 152-2004.
  • Efficiency (CEE).
  • Duct Calculators – Sheet Metal, Duct board, and Flexible Duct.
  • HVAC Duct Construction Standards –Metal and Flexible.
  • ANSI/Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, Inc. (SMACNA) Manuals.
  • Air Diffusion Council Flexible Duct Performance & Installation Standards.
  • NAIMA Manuals.
  • Fibrous Glass Duct Construction Standards and A Guide to Insulated Air Duct Systems.
  • National Fuel Gas Code.
  • International Fuel Gas Code.
  • Generally accepted HVACR textbooks.
  • Generally accepted construction textbooks.
  • OSHA safety standards.

Specialty Exams

After you pass the core exam, you have to take the specialty NATE exam to get the certification.

There are three options you can choose from for your specialty exam.

They include installation, service, and senior.

Installation Specialty Exam

The installation specialty NATE exam includes 100 questions and gives you 2.5 hours to complete the test.

For the installation specialty exam, you can choose one of the following:

  • Gas Heating (Air) Installation.
  • Air Distribution Installation.
  • Air Conditioning Installation.
  • Air to Air Heat Pump Installation.

Service Specialty Exam

Service specialty also includes 100 questions with 2.5 hours time limit.

You can choose from the following options:

  • Air Conditioning Service (also available in Spanish).
  • Air Distribution Service.
  • Heat Pump (Air to Air) Service (also available in Spanish).
  • Gas Heating (Air) Service (also available in Spanish).
  • Oil Heating (Air) Service.
  • Hydronics Oil Service.
  • Hydronics Gas Service.
  • Commercial Refrigeration Service.
  • Light Commercial Refrigeration Service.

Senior Level NATE Certification

Before you can obtain the senior-level certification, you should pass two of the NATE specialty exams.

It can be any two specialties of the mentioned above.

After that, you’ll have to pass the HVAC Efficiency Analyst test.

Subcategories of HVAC Efficiency Analyst Exam include (with a percentage of the exam):

  • Equipment Selection (10%).
  • Load Calculation (15%).
  • Hydronic Distribution (7%).
  • Air Distribution (20%).
  • Planned Maintenance (6%).
  • Indoor Air/Environment Quality (7%).
  • System Performance (35%).

The examination comprises 100 questions, and you have 4 hours to complete them.

Additional Material for the Specialty Exam

  • Duct Calculators – Sheet Metal, Ductboard, and Flexible Duct.
  • HVAC Duct Construction Standards – Metal and Flexible.
  • Fibrous Glass Duct Construction Standards, Residential Comfort System Installation Standards Manual, and HVAC Air Duct.
  • ANSI/ACCA Manuals.
  • “D”, “J”, “QI”.
  • “T” and “RS” ACCA Manuals.
  • ACCA Residential Duct Diagnostics and Repair.
  • ANSI/Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, Inc. (SMACNA) Manuals.
  • Leakage Test Manual.
  • International Energy Conservation Code.
  • NAIMA Manuals.
  • International Fuel Gas Code.
  • International Mechanical Code.
  • National Fuel Gas Code.
  • Efficiency (CEE).
  • Specification of Energy-Efficient Installation and Maintenance Practices for Residential HVAC Systems developed by Consortium for Energy.
  • ASHRAE Standard-62.2.
  • ANSI / ASHRAE Standard-152-2004.

Entry-Level Certifications

As stated at the beginning of this article, there are NATE examinations for beginner technicians.

They are recommended for workers with less than two years of experience.

The “ready to work” examination can be taken by the techs with little training or no training.

It is not a certification like the advanced ones from above, but those who pass it receive a certificate.

In the early stages, it can be something you can show to potential employers or customers.

This exam is available online, and it isn’t proctored like the NATE certification.

For the techs with six months to a year of experience, there is the “HVAC Support Technician” examination.

Like the “ready to work” one, this test is certificate-based and isn’t the actual certification.

Preparation to the Exam

Of course, everyone learns at their own pace.

But it’s recommended to start the preparation with the core exam plus safety.

This comes up to 18% of the core exam.

If you learn better by reading the material, you should get as much literature on the KATEs as you can.

If you are a visual learner, you may want to search for some tutorial videos.

You need to collect as much info for the exam as you can.

Once you have everything necessary, you can start practicing the test online and complete formatted study programs.

Go back and forth between the tests and your study materials until you don’t need to refer to them to pass the practice test.

The Examination Process

Now that you know what to expect at the NATE exam, you must be wondering where you can take it and how much it costs.

You can get relevant information at tech colleges, from industry distributors, and contractors.

At the NATE website, you can find a list of testing partners organizations.

These organizations aren’t associated with NATE, but they are authorized to direct the examinations.

The fees and schedule are set by each organization.


HVAC is an advancing industry using high-tech and innovative technology.

To keep up with tech developments, you need to be comfortable with constant changes.

NATE certification proves your advanced knowledge in the industry as well as your strive to become a top-level technician.

This is an incredibly helpful certification that can come handy when you’re communicating with a potential employer or customer.

With NATE certification, you can stay up-to-date with the technical and regulatory changes.

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