Beyond the relatively minor confusion that we sometimes see in regard to HVAC and appliance technicians and the structure of certification programs, there is the consumer; the person who calls and requests service on their furnace,comfort cooling system, refrigerator, washing machine, etc… and assumes that the technician who shows up will be capable, competent, and, if necessary, certified.

Sounds reasonable enough.

However, in some cases, the “certification” that consumers assume is there….well, just isn’t. Consider these two scenarios:

A consumer sees a van for an appliance service company, and, in addition to the company name and contact information shown on the vehicle, the term “Certified Technicians” is listed. What is the customer’s impression of this listing, and what assumptions are, for the most part, automatic? Often, it is that when one of the technicians from this service company shows up to fix whatever specific make and model of appliance that needs repaired, he or she is certified (trained, informed, and tested) on that particular appliance or category of appliance. Well, in this scenario, that’s not what the “certified” listing means.

In this case, the appliance service company paid about $25 per technician to take an open-book, 50 multiple-choice question exam (Type 1 for technicians who service refrigeration systems containing less than 5 lbs. of refrigerant with a hermetically sealed refrigeration system is the formal definition of this EPA certification exam on refrigerant handling) and thereby listed on their van that the technicians they employ are “certified”. This certification is, as the EPA definition states, related to safe and legal practices regarding refrigerant handling and requirements for evacuating and charging refrigeration systems, and proper methods of leak testing a refrigeration system. It doesn’t speak to a technician’s comptency related to any other aspect of servicing appliances…not servicing the electrical and air flow systems in a refrigerator; not for servicing gas or electric ranges, or washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashsers, etc….it’s related to refrigerant handling only.

For our second scenario, this one on the HVAC side of service, the situation is similar. The difference is that the exam is closed-book and can be only 50 questions if the technician is becoming certified in what is known as Type 2 equipment (high-pressure refrigeration systems with more than 5 lbs. of refrigerant) rather than Type 1 equipment. Or, it could be that the technician accomplished a 100 multiple-choice question exam that covers not only Type 1, but also Type 2 and Type 3 equipment (low pressure refrigeration systems), which means the technician is considered to be certified as a Universal Technician.

In either case, the “certified” term can be earned by taking an exam related only to the EPA rules and regulations relative to safe and legal refrigerant handling practices.

Now, if in either case, the listing on the side of the service vehicle stated “Factory Trained Technicians”, that would mean something more than what I’ve described above, and consumers need to be aware of the difference between the two descriptions that are supposed to be an indicator of technician competency….though, again, not exactly what the consumer may assume.

There’s more to talk about on the issue of technician certification, and I’ll continue my rant on this subject in my next post.

Jim

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