In the world of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, only the most dedicated, educated, and experience technicians thrive in well-paid and lucrative careers. Many employers and even federal law agree, which is why they require or ask these technicians to prove their worth through HVAC certification.
But what is HVAC certification, and how does one become HVAC certified? This article will teach you the basic but involved processes and qualifications you need to start working on machines, appliances, and refrigerants!
What is HVAC Certification?
HVAC certification—”HVAC,” by the way, stands for “Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning”—is the official pathway for any HVAC technicians and specialists to prove their ability and competence to prospective employers and other clients. For several situations, you may not need HVAC certification, but having the certification is guaranteed to have a more successful career working in heating and air conditioning machines. HVAC technicians are highly sought after, so having a certificate is one way to stand out amongst the crowd and give more weight to your work.
HVAC certification is obtained when you complete a certification test. These tests run the gamut of different kinds of fields and specialties: often, you cannot get one single and all-encompassing certification to prove your mastery, but rather several different certificates.
HVAC technicians are heavily in the business of hard work and working on potentially dangerous machinery that comes in various temperatures, from extremely hot to extremely cold. It is work that is not for the light-hearted or the soft-handed. Many employers and trainers want only the most dedicated technicians to fix their appliances and ensure everything works correctly.
If you dread what it takes to become HVAC certified, don’t worry: the road is not particularly bumpy or arduous to overcome. The first step is always the most difficult, but it is also the simplest: we will list the types of HVAC certified you can potentially be.
What are the Different Levels of HVAC Certification?
There are two primary types of HVAC certification, each requiring that you, the potential HVAC certified technician, acquire some certification to verify your skills and work. In many places, it is impossible to perform work without these certifications. In any case, look at these certifications first to understand what tests or exams you need to complete.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 Technician Certification is required for all technicians who work with refrigerants. The EPA requires that all technicians have at least one form of EPA Section 608 Technician Certification. Within the EPA Section 608, there are four types of certifications:
- Type I for small appliances like air conditioners and vending machines,
- Type II for high-pressure appliances like refrigeration units,
- Type III for low-pressure appliances like chillers,
- And Type IV, or universal certification, includes all of the previous certifications.
- The North American Technical Excellence (NATE) Certification is a standard certification for HVAC technicians who are trained in their field. This certification includes training and skill in installation tests, core units, and specialty parts. While this form of certification is not legally required, it is a certification many employers expect of their potential employees, so you would be making a huge mistake not to get it.
While the EPA and NATE Certifications are the most prominent form of certifications, there are also additional forms. They deal in specific machinery and appliances, but they are essential if you ever have to run into those situations.
- The R-410A Certification is for HVAC technicians working with R-410A refrigerants, incredibly high-pressure appliances. This certification requires special training, as working with the appliance can be extremely dangerous. No state or law legally requires R-410A Certification.
- The Indoor Air Quality Certification is a specific certification for HVAC technicians who are involved in maintaining the quality of indoor air appliances and preventing mold and mildew from growing, among other things.
- Preventive maintenance technicians are tasked to catch problems in routine maintenance calls. The Preventive Maintenance HVAC Certification is for HVAC preventative maintenance technicians. Getting this certification requires you to identify and diagnose problems so your customers can become confident in calling for assistance.
There are several levels and forms of certification one can earn. But it’s not always easy to jump for the first certificate you want. There are additional requirements and qualifications that you may need to become an HVAC technician.
How to Become an HVAC Technician: Requirements & Qualifications
Like any job worth its salt, there are various requirements and qualifications for becoming an HVAC technician. To become HVAC certified, you must first complete these obligations and meet these requirements. Thankfully, there are not very many requirements or qualifications, nor do you have to dedicate significant hours of your life to meet them. Here is a list of the requirements and qualifications.
The essential qualifications that factor across every fifty states of the United States is that you must be at least 18 years old when you take the examination, and you also must have a high school diploma for you to become an HVAC technician. However, if you do not have a high school diploma and / or are not currently in high school, you can obtain a GED for the same effect. The most important things you need from high school are knowledge of physics, mathematics, and workshopping (such as working with wood and metal). For many jobs and careers, these are fundamental expectations and something that most people will be pursuing anyway.
The next crucial step to becoming an HVAC technician is, of course, becoming certified. While federal law (the law throughout the United States) does not require you to get a certificate to perform HVAC technician work, the individual states have laws about what a technician can do and how they achieve education and training. States such as Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, and New York do not require state-wide licensing, but these are relative exceptions.
Your ability to work depends heavily on where you live, which can get annoying, more if you are the type to move to other states. Many people would recommend that you get a certificate to avoid meeting the states’ additional and specific requirements. As stated above, one can get an HVAC certificate if one completes EPA or NATE testing.
Training and Education
If you are strongly dedicated to becoming as educated and experienced as possible before doing work, you can enroll in a trade school. Trade schools are institutions dedicated to teaching students of various trades how to become technicians and craftsmen. Unlike high school, you don’t have to deal with pesky subjects like history, art, or social studies; instead, you learn how to handle refrigerants, understand safety standards, and deal with problematic customers or employers.
Another step you could take is completing an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship will be your first dedicated hands-on experience as a technician, where you can earn job training and experience from other technicians. While an apprenticeship is not required to become a technician by any law, the extra experience is always helpful. Some employers are much more eager to hire technicians who have taken an apprenticeship than those who have not.
If you are very much interested in receiving HVAC training and gaining some real-world experience, you should be warned that, like many things in life, there are additional costs. So how much does it cost to get HVAC training?
How Much Does HVAC Training Cost?
If you have decided to take up HVAC training, such as an apprenticeship or a trade school, then we believe that you should be well aware of the costs, both the monetary cost and the amount of time you will have to sink in.
A trade school is much less expensive than a college for the same major or degree. Even so, it will still cost you a tidy sum. Getting a certificate program at an HVAC trade school can cost anywhere between $1,500 to three times as much if you aren’t careful or in the right state. That is the cost of a program that will also run you between half a year to a full year to complete.
Apprenticeships are often not free either, but they are much less costly. They only run between $500 to $2,000 on average and last for half the time as enrolling in a trade school. What you may lack in time and basic technical information, you get hands-on experience and, in some cases, a better opportunity to land a job right after.
If you are still dedicated to this task, there is no worry. Becoming an HVAC certified technician is a career path that pays well, so consider the cost more an investment.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Become HVAC Certified?
Becoming HVAC Certified means finding which level of certification is best for you and what kind of appliances and work you want to be known for doing. Once you fit the qualifications, get some needed experience and education, and finally get that certification you wanted (or some of them, or even all of them!), you are a fully qualified HVAC technician. Welcome, future technician, to the world of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, you master craftsman!