Which HVAC Certifications and Licenses Do Technicians Need?
Make sure you hire a licensed technician for any work on your heating, cooling and ventilation systems. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Wendy Y.)
As a homeowner, hiring a technician to work on your heating, ventilation and cooling system is a task you will most likely have to do at some point. There's a great deal of danger involved with HVAC equipment and a lot can go wrong, so it's important to only hire a licensed HVAC technician for work around the home.
A license provides proof that the technician has been professionally trained. Each state has different licensing requirements, so check with your state's professional licensing department to check the status of a license. To help consumers, Angie's List curates an online database of contractor licensing links to state and local government websites.
The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification is a nationally recognized and respected certification for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians. The certification is not legally required to become a technician, but it is widely recognized in the field and validates a technician's knowledge. In order to receive this certification, technicians must pass a knowledge-based exam. This certification can be earned in one or more specialty areas, including air conditioning, gas furnaces and air distribution.
The HVAC Excellence certification is another prominent certification in the industry. HVAC technician certifications include the professional level and the master specialist level. To earn the professional-level credential, a contractor must first have two years of field experience and pass a comprehensive exam in specialty areas, such as residential air conditioning and heat pump service.
Properly Maintain Your Air Conditioner
This video explains the benefits of hiring a licensed and certified technician to maintain your A/C.
Contractors who pass their exams receive a chevron for their specific certification area, HVAC Excellence patch and wall certificate. The master specialist credential requires contractors to have at least 3 years of verifiable field experience and a passing score on the HVAC Excellence professional-level technician exam.
EPA 608 certification
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now requires all people with access to a system or container that stores refrigerant to have the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 608 certification. HVAC technicians cannot legally buy refrigerants without this credential. There are three types of certification available, and contractors must pass a written examination to gain this credential.
The first level of this HVAC certification allows a technician to handle small appliances containing less than 5 pounds of refrigerant, such as window air conditioning units. The second allows technicians to handle products containing high pressure refrigerants. Type-three certification allows a technician to handle products containing low-pressure refrigerant.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on Oct. 1, 2012.