I’ve talked about this subject before….that there is some confusion about what certification really is and really means to consumers, people who have decided that they want to learn how to repair air conditioning systems, and even among those that are already in the business. One area of confusion that is most common among those who are wanting to get into the business is the EPA-required refrigerant handling certification.
In a nutshell, this certification is broken down into one of three categories:
1. Type I Technician: One who works on small appliances such as refrigerators, freezers and room air conditioners….any equipment that the EPA catgorizes as “Hermetically sealed in a factory, and having a refrigerant charge of less than 5 lbs”.
2. Type II Technician: One who works on high-pressure refrigeration systems that contain more than 5 lbs of refrigerant, such as residential and some commercial HVACR systems that use common refrigerant such as R-22, R-410A, and others in the high pressure category.
3. Type III Technician: One who works on low-pressure equipment such as a chiller that normally operates with a high pressure of approximately 10 PSIG and a low pressure that is in a vacuum.
When somebody pursues the certifications described above, and the complete the three sections of the test (25 questions each) that pertain to each type of certification, along with a core section of the test (another 25 questions, meaning the total is now 100 multiple-choice questions), and they get a passing grade on each section of the test, they are determined to be a “Universal Certified” technician since they are certified to work on all of the types of equipment listed above.
OK, with all that said, the question of ‘how do I go about taking the test’ is the next issue of confusion.
The bottom line on this issue is that many schools, colleges, an independent testing providers have designed and submitted an exam they developed to the EPA and had it approved. Then, that allows a school or college to administer (actually proctor the exam since the rules say that it has to be a closed-book exam) to anyone they choose to….students enrolled in their HVACR training program, for example, although, some may offer it to an ‘outsider’ who isn’t actually enrolled in their full-blown training program.
In the case of independent testing providers who have had their exams approved, many refrigeration supply houses and equipment distributors have someone on their staff registered to be a proctor, which means that a local proctor can administer the exam, then send it in to the testing provider to have it graded.
The next question, of course, is ‘how much does it cost to take the test?’ and the answer is, it depends.
In almost any case, the school college, or refrigeration supply house will offer, along with the certification testing fee, some kind of preparation for the exam….the fact is, nobody, even if they have been in the refrigeration business for decades, can pass the exam without preparation since the certification itself really says nothing about a person’s comptency in troubleshooting, evaluating and repairing refrigeration systems. It’s about safey, rules & regulations, fines, dates that rules went into effect, why they went into effect, etc…along with a very basic understanding of the components of a refrigeration system and what the state of the refrigerant is as it enters and exits those basic components.
So, it could be that the school or college offers a workshop, class or seminar prior to the testing. In the case of the independent testing providers, a manual may (or certainly should) be available for self study. What that boils down to if you’re going the wholesaler route to EPA certification is that you have to first contact a company to find out if they offer the certification testing, find out and purchase whatever manual you’ll be able to get from them in order to prepare for the exam, then set a date to show up and be proctored while you sit for the exam.
Another element to this EPA certification process is that you could go through a trade association that offers the preparation and testing, such as RSES or ACCA. Whatever route you take, the overall procedure is as described above…..study for and take the exam, and when you pass any section along with the core section of the exam, you’re be certified in refrigerant handling for that type (or all types) of equipment.
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