An increasing number of businesses are requiring applicants to have an EPA certification in order to qualify for their positions. Furthermore, the certification is a federal requirement for anyone who works with refrigerants or refrigeration systems. Anyone who completes the EPA examination and certification process has an increased understanding of the numerous laws and regulations that are associated with handling HVAC chemicals. There are different categories of EPA certifications, but this article will discuss the EPA Section 608 certification.
There are four different EPA Section 608 certifications. The specific certification you hold will dictate which appliances you are allowed to work on. You must pass the appropriate EPA exam to be awarded any certification. You can opt to take only one test for a certain certification, or take them all to be qualified to work on any appliance.
What Is EPA Certification?
EPA certification is a requirement for anyone who handles or purchases refrigerants. These include ozone devouring CFC refrigerants such as R-22, R-11, and R-12, and to the majority of substitute refrigerants such as HFCs. Certification requires passing a written EPA refrigeration test specific to their specialty. There are four EPA certification levels. These are Type I, Type II, Type III, and Universal.
For all levels of certification, you need to first pass the Core Section of the EPA examination. This covers areas applicable to any job with refrigerants. The core exam covers ozone depletion, section 608 regulations, Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol, refrigeration, substitute refrigerants and oils, dehydration evacuation, shipping, recovery techniques, safety, and the three R's (recover, recycle, reclaim). The core is comprised of 25 questions, and you must get at least 18 correct.
Type I Certification – Small Appliances
Type I grants the authority to work on small appliances. The open book test is comprised of 25 questions covering safety, recovery requirements and recovery techniques. You must get at least 21 of the questions right to pass.
Type II Certification – High-Pressure Appliances
Type II certification grants you the authority to dispose of or operate on high and very high-pressure appliances, not including small appliances and vehicle air conditioning. The exam covers leak detection and repair requirements, recovery requirements, recovery techniques, safety, and refrigeration.
Type III Certification – Low-Pressure Appliances
Type III certification grants you the authority to dispose of or operate on low-pressure appliances. The subjects covered in a Type III exam are the same as those in Type II. The Type III test is similar to the Type II. However, Type III is concerning low-pressure systems. Although a lot of the terms are similar, the dynamics of low-pressure systems are very different.
Universal certification grants you the authority to work on all kinds of equipment. You can service high and low-pressure equipment and small appliances. In order to achieve Universal certification you must pass all sections of the EPA 608 Technician Certification exam, core, Type I, Type II and Type III. This all-inclusive exam is comprised of 100 questions, 25 per each section.
What Jobs Require EPA Certification?
There are a variety of jobs that require EPA certification. Some of the most popular include HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Installer, and Maintenance Technician.
HVAC Service Technician
Average pay - $20.50/hour
HVAC Service Technician Duties:
An HVAC service technician begins an appointment by questioning the customer about any issues concerning his/her heating, ventilation, or air conditioning in his/her home or business. Then the tech will examine the faulty equipment to troubleshoot or diagnose the issue. After the problem has been diagnosed, the tech gives the client a repair quote. If the quote is approved and authorization is granted, the technician then either replaces or repairs the faulty component or equipment. HVAC service technicians are also hired to perform preventative maintenance inspections or tasks.
Average pay - $16.56 per/hour
HVAC Installer Duties:
It is an HVAC installer's job to install HVAC equipment for their business. They must troubleshoot pipes, electrical circuits, and system components as necessary. They also test connections for pressure and leakage issues and replace refrigeration, heating, and air conditioning equipment when necessary. One of their primary duties is to install and connect humidistats and thermostats. Additionally, HVAC installers have to keep a record of client interactions, write service reports, and take part in training sessions to keep up with new gadgets and technology.
Average pay - $17.67/hour
Maintenance Technician Duties:
Maintenance technicians maintain a facility such as a business or an apartment complex. They usually possess an assortment of skills including plumbing, carpentry, janitorial, electrical, groundskeeping, and painting. It is also common for a maintenance technician to hold an HVAC technician certification. They are quite often tasked with groundskeeping responsibilities so some landscaping skills are also good to have. Additionally, maintenance technicians should possess good customer service and communication skills since they will need to interact with outside parties associated with the grounds from time to time.
Available Programs & Cost
As previously mentioned, the EPA mandates that anyone who works with refrigeration systems or refrigerants get an EPA Section 608 certification. Multiple organizations offer preparation materials, coursework, and test sites for these certifications. These include the ESCO Institute and the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES). You can find a complete list of approved 608 technician certification programs on the EPA website. Included here is an overview of just a few of them.
North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
North American Technician Excellence offers a vast array of specialty certifications at different levels. NATE mandates that HVAC technicians pass one specialty exam as well as their core exam to obtain certification. The specialty exams are available in three areas: service, senior, and installation.
There are nine service specialties. These include air distribution, air conditioning, gas heating, oil heating, hydronic gas, heat pump, hydronic oil, light commercial refrigeration, and commercial refrigeration. There are five installation specialties. Those include air distribution, air conditioning, oil heating, gas heating, and heat pump. The senior level technician certification is offered to those who hold two NATE specialty certifications.
Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society offers many different levels and topic areas of HVAC certification including the required EPA Section 8 certification. They also have eight special written exams. These include commercial refrigeration, commercial air conditioning, domestic service, controls, HVAC-R electrical, dynamic compression, heat pump, and heating. Be aware that these special credits are for active members of RSES only. This organization offers R-410A training and certification as well.
There are several online HVAC programs, most of which include EPA Section 608 certification exam preparation. Below is a listing of just a couple of those programs.
Ashworth offers a four-month online HVAC program that includes courses covering HVACR basics. They include EPA certification prep proctored by their partner, the ESCO Institute.
Penn Foster Career School
Penn Foster is authorized via the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. They provide EPA preparation materials, an EPA certification voucher and registration as a portion of its HVAC program. Penn Foster also provides training in the fundamentals of HVAC-R, lithium bromide absorption systems, and refrigeration systems.
The cost of EPA certification varies depending on the level of certification and the testing location. Type I prep materials and examination are usually the lowest priced. Type I exams can be as low as $20. Type II and Type III testing are required to be given in a proctored classroom environment and costs between $25 and $50 plus the price of training. For instance, CalCERTS, based in California, costs $300 for 6 training hours plus the price of the test, but Indianapolis based AC/C Tech charges only half that amount. It usually costs $5 to $10 for retakes of any of the tests.
If you wish to pursue a career in the HVAC industry, then it is crucial that you get an EPA certification. The EPA requires anyone who works with any system containing refrigerants, air conditioners or heat pumps, for instance, to have their EPA 608 certification. There are various levels of the EPA 608 certification. Which one you need depends on what type of appliances you intend to work on. A Universal Certification is the highest level certification, and it qualifies you to work on any type of appliance. There are a number of organizations who offer EPA and HVAC training courses. It is even possible to receive all the necessary training online. You must pass a core examination before taking Type I, II, III or Universal exams.