In order to work as a professional HVAC technician, certain licensing and certifications are required. First, all refrigeration technology professionals need one or more certifications from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA Section 608 Certification is required for all professionals working on systems containing refrigerants. Second, depending on which U.S. state you plan on working in, you may need special state licensing or certification. Third, there are additional licensing tests for those who have experience in the field; passing specialized tests may make a candidate more desirable in the job market.
New HVAC technicians should figure out which particular credential type is needed for their career goals. Different levels of work experience usually require different certification exams. Most HVAC systems are now so complex that technicians need comprehensive education to develop a true understanding of how they work, including common problems and the best methods to repair these systems. The exams required for licensing or certification test basic competency in HVAC. RSI’s Refrigeration training program prepares students for the exams they need to take in order to obtain the necessary credentials, including EPA HVAC certification.
1. EPA Certifications
EPA Section 608 Certification is required for HVAC technicians who buy or work with any kind of refrigerants. HVAC technicians must pass an exam specific to one of three specializations – small appliances, high-pressure refrigerants or low-pressure refrigerants – in order to become EPA-certified.
HVAC technicians that handle small appliances, such as window/room air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers and humidifiers need Type I certification from the EPA. This covers recovery requirements, recovery techniques, and safety.
If new HVAC techs will service high-pressure air conditioning and/or heating units, they need to be certified with this designation. This test for Type II certification covers additional issues related to high- and very-high-pressure appliances, including leak detection, leak repair requirements, and refrigeration.
These certifications are necessary for HVAC techs that work with low-pressure refrigerants, commonly found in chiller units. Type III certification exam also asks for knowledge regarding leak detection, leak repair requirements, recovery techniques, recovery requirements, recharging techniques, refrigeration, and safety.
This exam covers low, high, and very high-pressure appliances, as well as small appliances. This certification thus includes Type I, II, and III.
2. State Certification/Licensing
Some states require HVAC technicians to be licensed, while other states do not. Since state regulations can change, be sure to verify requirements for your state if you need to obtain a credential in order to work with HVAC systems. According to HVAC Training Solutions 2, this is the breakdown of states with and without licensing requirements.
States with licensing (or certification) requirements:
- Texas (requires HVAC technicians to be Registered [no exam] and Certified [exam required], but no licensing)
- Virginia (requires State Certification, but not licensing)
States without licensing requirements:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Again, HVAC technicians in ALL states working with refrigerants of any kind must have at least one of the EPA Section 608 types of Certification.
3. Additional Opportunities for Certification/Licensing
There are various specialized tests for HVAC technicians who have one year of installation experience and two years maintenance and repair experience to become certified with specific types of equipment. There are a number of organizations that offer these types of exams, such as the North American Technician Excellence, HVAC Excellence, the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute or the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society. These certifications can be helpful in the HVAC job market, as they demonstrate to employers that a technician has specific competencies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 1 points out that some employers actively look for HVAC technicians who are certified by any of these industry organizations.