HVAC Certification Overview

The Ultimate HVAC Certification Guide

A lot of people ask the question, what does HVAC stand for? There is a simple answer to this, but also a complicated industry as well to look at if you are really interested. The simple answer is that HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and you need HVAC certification in a lot of states to work in this industry.

It is currently estimated that there are in excess of 400,000 people employed directly in the HVAC industry in the United States and this number is expected to continue to rise over the next few years. As a result, the demand for HVAC engineers and technicians will increase to meet the ever-growing need for their services. This demand is fueled by the growing American economy together with the rapid advances in technology. This combination of increased wealth and never technology has further fueled the need for more specialist HVAC engineers.

To maximize your earning potential as an HVAC technician, you are able to earn more money when you have achieved HVAC certification. Even though not all states in the US currently require that you have to be HVAC certified, it is still well worth having as it enables you to work in states that do need it and it shows an employer that you are skilled in HVAC.

This section of our site will help you understand more fully the advantages of taking a course to be HVAC certified and will also help you better understand the following:

  • How to achieve HVAC certification
  • What HVAC certifications are available
  • How you become certified
  • What exams you must take
  • How to pass your HVAC

The aim of our site is to help take you through the HVAC certification process and as a result enable you to fulfill your potential with a career in the HVAC industry. We will show you step by step how to select the correct HVAC program that will meet your career choices and provide you with your certification.

Here is a breakdown of the main certifications that are currently available for people who want to achieve HVAC certification.

  • Universal EPA Certificate
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
  • EPA Type I Certification – This certification is specifically for work carried out while servicing and repairing small appliances
  • EPA Type II Certification – This certification is specifically for work carried out while servicing and repairing high pressure systems
  • EPA Type III Certification – This certification is specifically for work carried out while servicing and repairing low pressure systems


It must be remembered that requirements can differ from state to state for HVAC certification. There is one certification that is accepted in every state and this is referred to as the EPA HVAC certification. It is important to understand that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has passed a refrigerant gas (R22 or R410A) must have EPA HVAC certification.

It is part of an HVAC Technician’s daily work routine to come into contact with these gasses on a regular basis while installing new units, repairing them or even carrying out routine maintenance. As a result, it is compulsory for a technician to have EPA HVAC certification. Today there are 4 different types certifications that apply to Section 608 and to qualify for each one you must pass an exam. The 4 different options are:

HVAC EPA Certification

1) EPA Type I Certification

 This certification is specifically for work carried out while servicing and repairing small appliances. You take this certification if you only ever work on small refrigerant units. When taking this course, you will learn about and take exams on the following areas:

  • What is classified as a small appliance and what units usually have less than 5 kg of gas in them – A good example of this maybe an air conditioning unit for a small window.
  • What are the correct tools and equipment to drain gas from a system
  • What are the correct and safe working practices in order to recover the gas from various systems that may have a compressor and those systems that do not
  • Learn about all of the different safety requirements that apply to the safe handling and removal of refrigerants.


To gain this HVAC certification you will have to sit and pass exams.

2) EPA Type II Certification

This certification is specifically for work carried out while servicing and repairing high-pressure systems. To get your EPA Type II Certification follows a similar path to that of the EPA Type 1 certification. You will do course work and then have to pass an exam. Some of the areas that you will study are:

  • All about high-pressure refrigeration and gases
  • How to detect leaks in high-pressure units
  • Reasons to test for a leak before recharging or repairing HVAC system
  • The requirements for repairing a refrigerant system that weighs over 50 pound
  • Appropriate practice and recovery methods
  • Prerequisites for disposal and major repairs

After taking the course, get ready for a certification test. It is recommended to attend a normal class rather than self-studying or distance learning. But it depends on how fast you need the certificate as well as the amount of time you have for the course.


3) EPA Type III Certification

This certification is specifically for work carried out while servicing and repairing low pressure systems. This certification relates to servicing low-pressure systems. It entails the same subjects as in Type 2 EPA course except the details are for low-pressure units. The course enables HVAC technicians to refresh their theoretical know-how, and a major advantage is those technicians who already have practical experience in the field of work.


4) Universal EPA Certificate

This certificate is granted once you have studied the content of the above 3 courses. With a universal certificate, you can handle any HVAC system. This certification comes in handy when you start job-hunting as you will be well qualified as you are able to work on all types of HVAC units. While it may take more time and effort to complete the course, it is the type of certificate you need to work in any state. However, even though you hold this certification you must also be sure to comply with the other local state laws and regulations pertaining to the licensing of HVAC professionals.


5) North American Technician Excellence (NATE)

The North American Technician Excellence (often referred to as NATE) is anon-profit organization that offers accredited programs and certificates to HVAC professionals. Not every HVAC professional holds a certificate from this body but is recommended for good reasons. NATE is more geared towards the practical aspect of HVAC, making it the perfect place to validate HVAC knowledge and skills. NATE follows a very thorough process when it comes to certification. They understand that newly qualified HVAC technicians have different needs than the experienced ones and so varied exams are offered according to the level of experience working on gas furnaces, air conditioning units and also air distribution units.


Another thing that distinguishes NATE from the rest is that the exams are split into various specialties e.g. gas furnaces, air distribution, air conditioning, heating and cooling, and so on. Check out the 2 levels of certification offered at NATE:


  • Entry level

This is a certification for workers who are starting out in the HVAC industry and want to make it their career. It is meant for technicians who are new to this industry and looking forward to gaining practical experience. To obtain the NATE entry-level certificate, you must pass two types of exams namely:


  1. Ready to work test: it is ideal for novices who haven’t undergone formal training or are without a solid educational background. The main aim of the exam is to determine how well a candidate understands the basics that include heat transfer, safety measures, the use of HVAC tools and equipment, and general electrical knowledge. There are fifty questions to be covered in the exam. A candidate is offered a certificate upon attaining a PASS mark.
  2. HVAC support technician exam: this exam is for candidates who have a field experience of between 6 and 12 months. It encompasses advanced topics, which are not covered in the ready-to-work test such as system components, installations, design factors, and planned maintenance. It is a 100-question exam that requires you to get a PASS mark to get the certificate.


  • Professional Level

Technicians with field experience of more than 12 months are supposed to get a professional level certificate from NATE. Again, the certificate is divided into a number of specialties as listed below:

  • GS- Gas heating
  • AC- Air conditioning
  • OL- Oil heating
  • HO- Hydronics oil
  • AD-Air distribution
  • RC-Commercial refrigeration
  • HP- Heat pumps
  • EA- HVAC Efficiency analysis
  • HG- Hydronics Gas
  • LC- Light commercial refrigeration

If English is not your first language, you can take some of the exams in Spanish so be sure to ask. So if you want to become adept at HVAC systems, consider taking the 5 types of certification exams and nothing should stop you.

What next?

Do you see why you need to become a certified HVAC technician? Do you now understand the question, what does HVAC stand for? First, you will increase your earning potential, and secondly, you will improve your working conditions. Clients, especially from big organizations prefer certified technicians to regular ones. Now that you understand the 5 types of HVAC certifications, the next big thing is to determine what is more appropriate for you.

This guide will outline the necessary details concerning the right way to being certified from attending part-time classes, full time classes, taking online practice tests, to self-studying in the comfort of your home. Regardless of the certification, you want and the method you apply to pass your tests, kudos for taking a bold move towards gaining a competitive advantage in the HVAC market. One more thing- don’t keep this knowledge to yourself. Pass it on to anyone else who you think might benefit.

By obtaining your HVAC license, it shows potential employers that you are a trained HVAC technician and that you are certified to carry out installation and any repair work for them. In order pass your HVAC technician certification you must take and pass exams related to the HVAC industry. When you have passed your exam you are then officially recognized as certified.

Currently you have the choice of taking 1 of 3 different types of HVAC certification courses to be recognized as a professional HVAC technician. Not all states need licensed technicians but the majority do and by sitting and passing tests that are controlled and monitored by the government under the Code of Federal Regulations Section 608 of the Clean Air Act enables you to become a certified HVAC technician.

It can vary from state to state across the USA, but the majority of sates need technicians to pass exams to show that they possess the skill set and knowledge to meet the strict criteria of being a HVAC certified technician. This HVAC certification can be accredited by the North American Technical Excellence NATE as well as HVAC Excellence. When you have finished the recognized HVAC course you can be certified as an apprentice or technician when you pass your exams at the end of the course. HVAC technician certification proves that you are both qualified and skilled as a HVAC technician.


As well as passing your exams with either HVAC Excellence or NATE, you must also achieve certification with the Environmental Protection Agency. This HVAC certification is necessary to be able to buy the special refrigerant gasses that are needed for air con units and also to get rid of them when they are no longer working.

Why You Should Become a Certified HVAC Technician


Many people who want to work in the HVAC industry ask why they should sit exams and get registered as a certified HVAC technician?

In order for you to fully understand the advantages of passing your HVAC exam we have listed some of the plus points below:

  • By becoming HVAC certified you can apply for jobs that other technicians will not be qualified to carry out.
  • You may be able to earn more money as many employers will pay a higher salary to technicians that are certified
  • There will be many more job opportunities open to you as many of the larger construction projects need more skilled HVAC technicians
  • If you want to be self employed in the HVAC industry it will certainly demonstrate to new customers that you are qualified to do the work
  • It enables you to secure more secure employment and also gives you the potential to increase your salary through bonuses and promotion


Each year the HVAC industry continues to grow in the US due to a booming economy, which together with advances in HVAC technology has led to an increase in demand for more technicians in the industry. By passing your HVAC exams and becoming a skilled technician enables you to benefit from this growth and increased demand for people. It is now important for you to understand the different types of HVAC certification and how you get qualified.

Become Self Employed as a HVAC Certified Contractor


If you have ever wanted to be self-employed, working by yourself or with employees, you should explore the idea of getting HVAC technician certification.

Regulations currently vary from state to state with the majority of states making it compulsory to hold a HVAC license. It is possible to supervise your workers while they are carrying out work or repairs on HVAC systems. However, some states may require you to have an employee working for you who is classed as a “qualifier”. This is an employee who has already passed their exams and is state licensed and qualified to carry out this work. If the “qualifier” who works for you has the correct license and all their paper work is valid, the contractor is able to carry out HVAC work in that state as long as the “qualifier” is there to supervise the HVAC work.

A contractor must also demonstrate that they are knowledgeable in the different aspects of business law that applies to their state in addition to being certified as a HVAC technician. When you are a self-employed contractor you will not only have to carry out the various repairs and installation work associated with the HVAC industry, but will also be responsible for the general day to day running of the business. This will include understanding current labor regulations, paying state and government taxes, as well as having the correct business licenses.

Requirements will vary from state to state but generally you will need a business exam in addition to the HVAC knowledge exam, in order to get HVAC certification.