Even students who have graduated from an accredited HVAC school are typically expected to hold a certification. An HVAC certification test measures whether a person has the knowledge and skills to install, repair, and maintain equipment properly and safely. Employers hire certified applicants quickly because they have already demonstrated their knowledge of industry standards.
Types of HVAC Certification Tests
The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry does not look to a single governing body for its standards. Instead, employers and employees can choose the certifying authority that best fits their working needs. The three most common HVAC certification exams come from North American Technician Excellence, HVAC Excellence, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
NATE certification signifies that a technician holds critical industry knowledge. Each woman or man with a certificate understands correct installation and maintenance procedures, energy savings techniques, and key ways to address customer needs.
To receive a NATE certificate, technicians must first pass the core examination. This test includes 50 multiple-choice questions addressing safety, tool usage, heating and comfort, measurements, basic construction, and basic electrical maintenance.
HVAC/R technicians must then pass a specialty exam focusing on installation, service, or senior-level topics. Applicants can concentrate on one or more of the following areas:
- gas heating
- hydronics gas
- oil heating
- hydronics oil
- heat pumps
- air distribution
- air conditioning
- commercial refrigeration
- light commercial refrigeration
HVAC Excellence awards its certificates to technicians who meet strict standards and display competence in the field. After obtaining two years of work experience and passing a core knowledge exam, technicians can test for any of these HVAC certifications:
- gas heating systems
- electric heating systems
- heat pump installation
- heat pump service
- residential and light commercial hydronic heat
- residential air conditioning
- light commercial air conditioning
- light commercial refrigeration
Most tests contain 50 multiple-choice questions in the subject area.
EPA Section 608 Certification
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, mandates that anyone handling refrigerants or disposing of appliances with refrigerants must complete Section 608 certification. The certifying exam must be taken through an approved testing institution.
The EPA sponsors four types of HVAC certification tests:
- The Type I certificate concentrates on small appliances, such as vending machines, window air conditioners, and household refrigerators.
- The Type II certificate addresses high-pressure refrigerants, such as those found in supermarket refrigeration, heat pumps, and residential air cooling systems.
- The Type III certificate is necessary for servicing or disposing of equipment using low-pressure refrigerants.
- The Universal certificate covers Types I, II, and III.
To obtain any Section 608 certificate, the applicant must pass 25 core knowledge questions plus 25 questions in the area of certification. In other words, the Type I test contains a total of 50 multiple-choice questions, as do the Type II and Type III tests. The Universal exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions: 25 core questions, 25 Type I questions, 25 Type II questions, and 25 Type III questions.
Preparing for an HVAC Certification Test
Passing an HVAC test is a tremendous accomplishment that takes dedication and focus. Some certifying agencies require applicants to complete several years of on-the-job training before they can even schedule testing appointments. Due to the number of specific questions and technical aspects, even seasoned professionals are advised to study before attempting the exams.
Companies offer test prep materials in a variety of formats. Students can take refresher courses in a classroom, download study guides online, or print practice tests for scoring at home. Many resources are free, while some require a nominal fee. Both the certifying agencies and independent training centers provide these resources so that students are better equipped to pass exams on their first try. Students who find they are weak in a particular area should take advantage of both free and paid help from several vendors.