Are HVAC Technicians Licensed And What Type Of License Do They Need?

At some point in time, every homeowner will need to hire an HVAC technician to service or repair the heating, cooling and ventilation system in their home. A great deal of skill and expertise is required to work on dangerous HVAC equipment which is why you should only deal with a professional company with fully trained and licensed technicians. As licensing laws vary from state to state, you should check the requirements in your area and verify whether the contractor you intend hiring has a team of qualified and licensed technicians before making a decision.
What Type of Licensing is needed by HVAC Technicians?

NATE Certification
North American Technician Excellence certification is nationally recognized as a respected credential for HVAC technicians. Although NATE certification is not legally required to become an HVAC technician, it validates the professional knowledge of a technician and is widely recognized in the industry.
Certification can be earned by passing an exam in one or more specialty areas including air conditioning, air distribution, and gas furnaces.

HVAC Excellence Certification

Excellence certification is another prominent industry certification that includes Professional and Master Specialist levels. To earn Professional level certification an HVAC contractor must have at least 2 years of field experience and have passed the Professional level of the HVAC Excellence certification exam including specialty areas such as heat pump service and residential air conditioning.

To qualify for the Master Specialist certification, a contractor must have at least 3 years of field experience and have passed the Master Specialist level of the HVAC Excellence exam.

EPA 608 Certification

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requires all technicians who have access to a container or a system that stores refrigerant such as R-22 or R-410A AC coolant to have an EPA 608 certificate. Without this qualification, HVAC contractors cannot legally purchase refrigerants.

There are 3 levels of certification and a written exam has to be passed to gain this credential:

  • Level 1 HVAC certification allows technicians to handle small appliances such as window air conditioning units that contain less than 5 pounds of refrigerant.
  • Level 2 certification allows the handling of units that contain high-pressure refrigerants.
  • Level 3 certification allows the handling of units that contain low-pressure refrigerants.

Verifying Contractor Licensing Before Hiring

Most HVAC contractors are qualified but not all are licensed. Licensing rules vary widely from state to state with some requiring rudimentary qualifications for licensing while others require additional licenses. In some states licensing laws are strictly enforced while in others they are not. Not everyone knows the rules when it comes to HVAC licensing and not all contractors and homeowners play by the rules. HVAC contractors who do pay a hefty sum for licensing which makes it hard for them to compete with those who don’t, but in the end homeowners are the ones who ultimately pay the price when they fail to hire a licensed contractor.

In most states contractors must provide proof of insurance before they can register and obtain a trade license. The first thing a homeowner should do is ask for proof of insurance and licensing before hiring.

Injury on the job is a major risk to homeowners if the contractor is unlicensed and uninsured. The injured technician may sue the homeowner for lost wages and medical costs since the incident happened on his property. If a contractor has a license which requires Worker’s Compensation Insurance, the insurance will pay the bill. Unlicensed contractors put homeowners at risk if someone should get injured on the job, which is why choosing a licensed contractor is so important.

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