One of the questions frequently asked by a person considering getting into the HVACR service business is about licensing. It can be a confusing subject for several reasons. First, the process of certification is mixed into the question, when in reality, licensing and certification are really two completely different issues. And second, there’s the issue of contractor licensing, which is also a different issue that of licensing individual technicians who have no ownership of the company. And, what confounds the issue further is that technician licensing is sometimes required in some states, in others it is not.
Sometimes, when someone calls in regard to this subject, a typical phone conversation goes something like this:
“Technical Training Associates, this is Jim. How can I help you?”
“Yes, hello, I need some information on getting my HVAC license.”
“Your HVAC license? Do you mean a license that’s required by your state?”
“Ummm….well, I’m not sure….just whatever license I need to do HVAC.”
“Perhaps what you’re really asking about is an EPA refrigerant handling certification? We have a DVD that prepares you for taking that exam.”
And, once I bring up the subject of certification rather than licensing, the conversation can go on while I try to figure out what the caller really wants to know about (or, what I figure out is that they simply don’t really know what they want to know about) and, in the end, I usually advise them to check with the appropriate state licensing bureau, local schools and colleges, or, what we refer to here in Arizona as the Registrar of Contractors.
So, to clarify things on the subjects of licensing and certification, here’s some general information:
Certification: There are two types of certifications related to the HVACR industry. One is the type that is required by a government agency. The only one that really fits in this category in all states is the one required by the federal government….The certification exam related to the Federal Clean Air Act, Section 608 Refrigerant Handling Certification that is focused on the rules, regulations, and fines related to the law, as well as safety, refrigerants and oils, and the fundamentals of refrigerant recovery, the basic components of a refrigeration system, and the refrigeration system cycle. There’s a manual available for study and preparation for taking that exam through ESCO Institute.
The procedure for accomplishing this closed-book certification exam means that the person accomplishing the exam needs to be proctored, and there are resources such as trade schools, colleges, and parts supply companies that are authorized to act as a proctor in cities around the country, so one would have to contact a local resource in order to sit for the exam. With a passing score accomplished, a technician is allowed to purchase refrigerant, and access refrigeration systems for service purposes.
The second type of certification is industry related. For this type of certification there is no government agency involved, just not for profit entities that coordinate the exam process, and the simple intent here is to show the competency of the person achieving the certification. Information on this type of certification can be found here:
Getting back to licensing….as I mentioned above, some states require an HVACR technician to be licensed, while others do not. Information on state licensing requirements can be found here:
Other factors related to licensing for HVAC technicians can involve counties and/or cities that require a technician or a service company to purchase a license, so there’s that issue too.
While it may be somewhat confusing, you can figure it all out by first of all, understanding the fundamental differences between licensing and certification, and knowing what they actually refer to in regard to proving a particular competency on the part of the technician.
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