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What Licenses or Certifications Should HVAC Contractors Have?

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A new HVAC system is a big purchase that should last at least 10 to 15 years in your home. Finding an experienced contractor is the first order of business, and experts say one way to ensure an HVAC contractor is worth considering is by asking for licensing and certification information. If the contractor has technicians who may handle or assist with the installation, ask about their certification as well. While states vary in their specific requirements for contractors and technicians, this general information should be helpful.

Contractor’s license. Every state has fairly standard licensing requirements for HVAC contractors, though the specifics can vary from state to state. In Texas, for example, a potential contractor must show at least four years of experience with a licensed air conditioning and refrigeration contractor – all within  the past six years. You may want to spend a few minutes online to research the HVAC contractor licensing requirements in your state and then make sure the contractors you talk about for the job have the proper paperwork. If it becomes necessary, it is possible to go online in most states and determine if a contractor has an active license.

Exam required. There is no single HVAC licensing exam throughout the country. All states require that prospective contractors be familiar with all areas of HVAC installation and repair. A number of states also require applicants to be familiar with electrical codes. In order to work with refrigerants, a separate exam is often offered in some states. The exams are not simple. For example, Texas reported a 48 percent passing rate in 2012.

Contractor continuing education. Many states also require that HVAC contractors take continuing education classes in order to retain their licenses. In Kentucky, for example, eight hours of continuing education is required both for master HVAC contractors and journeymen HVAC technicians. Thee same number of hours is required in Texas.

Technician certification. Ask the contractor about certification for the technician on the job. There are a number of different groups that design exams to certify technicians. For example, the HVAC Excellence organization is a non-profit group with the goal of ensuring “a highly skilled workforce.” Technicians can also earn North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification by passing exams on the topics of air conditioning, heating, ventilation and other areas.

EPA 608 certification. The Environmental Protection Agency requires that both contractors and technicians pass written exams to be certified to legally buy refrigerants. There are four different levels of certification, depending on whether the contractor and technician work only on low, medium of high pressure appliances. There also is a universal certification available to handle all types of appliances that take refrigerant.

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