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Certification Programs: What are they, and why are they essential for your HVAC contractor

In this article, we explain what a NATE certification is, why it should be something you look for when hiring an HVAC professional for your home, other types of certificates, and how to validate them when looking for a prospective contractor.

Certification Programs: What are they, and why are they essential for your HVAC contractor

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Olivia Minnier


July 25th, 2022

For the typical homeowner, seeing the different types of HVAC certification programs can seem daunting. Especially when you are trying to hire someone to work on your HVAC and may be pressured to make a decision fast to help resolve a problem.

Certification programs like NATE ensure that the technician you hire will do the job correctly. It is a great thing to ask for when looking at prospective hires for your system. To help educate you to ask about your future technician's certifications, we will first go over what NATE is and stands for.

What is NATE, and Why is it Important for my HVAC Contractor?

NATE stands for the North American Technician Excellence and represents “real world HVAC knowledge,” according to their website. Hiring a contractor with this certification ensures that they are knowledgeable when it comes to installation and helps to keep you and your home safe from any dangers.

While there are other certifications other than NATE, it is considered the gold standard of HVAC certification programs. All HVAC technicians have to go through a training program, typically an apprenticeship, and have a current state license to perform HVAC services, but are not always required to have any additional certifications.

There are also different levels of NATE certifications to be aware of.

Different Levels of NATE Certifications

There are also four different levels of NATE certifications a technician can have; they include:

  • Ready to Work and Heating and Cooling Support Certification

These certifications are for entry-level HVAC technicians who are just starting, in the case of the ready-to-work, and those with six months to one year of experience for the support certification.

  • HVAC Support Technician Certificate

This second-level certificate is for technicians who have over two years of experience

  • CHP-5 HVAC Professional and the Traditional Nate Pathway exam

These are the main certification pathways for HVAC technicians and what most people consider “NATE certified.”

  • Professional Certification Exams

These are certifications available for HVAC professionals who want to be certified in a specific area.

  • Senior Level Efficiency Analyst Certification

This certification is for senior-level analysts with at least five years of professional experience. They must also have two NATE specialty certifications to receive this.

NATE certifications are also better for technicians because they help your job security, mitigate costs and reduce insurance rates on behalf of the company they work for.

As with any home improvement contractor you may hire, HVAC technicians are expensive, but in our opinion, the expense is justified. HVAC is not a situation where you can have just anyone work on your system.

Hiring a contractor who is not certified in current HVAC standards, or any standard at all, or having a neighbor or someone you know who is “good at HVAC” or “handy” perform services on your system is incredibly dangerous and can even be lethal.

Dangers of Hiring a Non-certified Technician

There are significant dangers to hiring a technician who is not certified by current HVAC standards.

Air conditioners and furnace systems have complex systems, both internally and externally, that requires someone with the knowledge to install them. Furthermore, hiring your neighbor or someone you know that is not certified could lead to shoddy craftsmanship and release dangerous gasses like carbon monoxide into the air in your home. Mishandling of refrigerants can also be hazardous.

Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and invisible gas, giving it the name the “silent killer.” Exposure to this gas can be toxic and even deadly. Each year, according to the CDC, carbon monoxide poisoning kills more than 430 people nationally. In addition, approximately 50,000 people go to emergency rooms each year for accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide can leak from your furnace without your knowledge, which makes regular maintenance by a trained HVAC technician even more critical, as the average homeowner cannot prevent these leaks.

Refrigerant Dangers

Refrigerants can also be hazardous when mishandled. If you or someone else mishandles air conditioner refrigerants, it can cause frostbite or sight impairment from coming in contact with your skin or eyes. In addition, inhaling a refrigerant can lead to asphyxiation, loss of coordination, increased pulse rate, and deeper respiration when oxygen levels in the air are reduced to 12-14%, caused by displacement.

Improper handling can also have serious environmental risks, and releasing refrigerants into the air can damage the ozone layer.

Do not look at HVAC like other home improvement projects you can do yourself or figure out with someone else. The potential dangers outweigh the cost savings.

How Do I Check Potential Technicians For Proper Heating and Air Conditioning Certifications?

As a homeowner, you should check potential technicians or companies for proper certifications before allowing them to perform services in your home. While vetting companies and technicians, be sure to ask the following:

  • Their state HVAC license. License requirements vary by state, but all require the section 608 certification from the EPA, which allows the handling of refrigerants. If they do not have this, do not let them perform services in your home.
  • Any additional certifications and the license number. If they have any additional certifications, you can ask what those are and ask for the number. For example, if they have a NATE certification, you can look it up online on the NATE ID lookup page.
  • Feel free to ask about levels of experience, when they got certified, and what type of specialty they have.

At Fire & Ice, we understand the importance of having a qualified HVAC professional inside your home. That is why we have an intense commitment to training and mechanical quality standards.

Commitment to Mechanical Quality

Largest Training Facility in Central Ohio

The Fire & Ice training facility is the largest in the area. Here, our installers and technicians get hundreds of hours of training annually.

Training facilities are a rarity, to begin with, for HVAC companies, let alone one that allows for training on every significant type of equipment we install and service. Nevertheless, the difference in institutional knowledge can and does make a difference.

57-Point Commissioning

On every installation, we perform thorough commissioning that tracks 57 different variables. This ensures optimal equipment performance and sets benchmarks for future service technician visits.

Commissioning is not always performed industry-wide or not as thoroughly. So there’s a chance that your installation is just as good without testing it in this way, but no way to know for sure unless it’s commissioned.

Commissioning can take up to an hour of extra time. Rather than racing to the next job, we perform it every time to ensure the work we do is up to the customer's standards.

Digital Gauges

Digital testing gauges provide more accurate readings than traditional analog gauges. However, every bit counts when it comes to the comfort of your home and the number on your utility bills. Even a tiny discrepancy between your system’s and ideal levels can affect these items.

Nitrogen Brazing

We braze refrigerant lines with nitrogen, which prevents oxidation of the line. This proactively protects against long-term damage that can be caused due to oxidation.

This oft-skipped step in an A/C installation can be the difference between 15-20 years of smooth operation or a shortened lifespan with preventable mechanical issues costing you comfort and money.

N.A.T.E. Certified, Dedicated Installation Teams

With numerous installation teams, we can provide expertise to every home we visit. N.A.T.E. certification is regarded as the industry standard for excellence in training, and we pride ourselves on being a N.A.T.E. certified contractor.

Don’t Sacrifice Your Furnace and Air Conditioner’s Safety

Hiring a technician with the proper certifications is paramount to your home’s safety and the quality of your HVAC installation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get important information about credentials and experience before letting someone perform services inside your home.

At Fire & Ice, we understand how important it is for you to have a quality HVAC installation and how confusing the information can be when hiring someone for services. Feel free to call us with any questions and if you live in the Central Ohio area, contact us to schedule your free estimate.

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