What Can You Do With a Universal EPA Certification?
There are many reasons to pursue your EPA certification, not the least of which is the career opportunities you will be afforded if you do so. While you may be able to seek contractor gigs in many other fields without pursuing any type of certification, your career in HVAC will not be able to advance without first earning the proper recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA for short.
Also known as a 608 Certification, EPA certification demonstrates that you are capable of safely working with various types of HVAC equipment. There are four levels you can pursue, depending upon your need: Levels I, II, and III, or a Universal Certification that covers them all. But what can you do with a Universal EPA certification? Read on to discover the career options it can open for you as well as how to pursue one should you choose to do so.
What a Certification Means
The Environmental Protection Agency was granted jurisdiction over HVAC systems in the United States by the Clean Air Act of 1990. The reasoning behind this is that these HVAC systems contain various refrigerant chemicals. Many of these chemicals can have a deleterious effect on the environment if they are mishandled. Certain refrigerants have been banned completely in newer systems. A contractor who is responsible for the installation and repair of these systems must therefore do their work with great care so as to prevent harmful chemicals from leaking and contaminating the atmosphere.
Being certified by the EPA means that you have demonstrated that you can safely handle various types of HVAC equipment. Note that many HVAC training programs will offer their own certifications, but these are not equivalent to a legally required EPA certification unless they are specifically indicated to be so.
The Different Levels of EPA Certification
As mentioned above, there are four levels of EPA certification.
This certification is for smaller appliance types. It covers refrigerators, ice makers, dehumidifiers, freezers, and portable air conditioners. While Level I alone will certify you to work with portable equipment, it will not allow you to work on anything larger, such as whole-house air conditioners or any type of commercial equipment.
The second level of certification allows you to work with larger equipment, specifically that which is most commonly used in private homes. This means air conditioners that contain hydrochlorofluorocarbons: when you take the test to demonstrate your knowledge, you’ll show that you understand how to safely use these common but potentially harmful chemicals.
This certification will also include a bit of a legal element. If you choose to earn it, you’ll learn about the specific types of refrigerants that are legal and those that are not. You’ll also demonstrate that you can work with HVAC equipment without releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.
The third level of certification will indicate that you understand the particulars of working with commercial HVAC systems. If you have ever seen those large industrial blocks mounted on the tops of buildings, you have seen the cooling units of industrial-sized chillers. These are highly efficient, low-pressure cooling systems that are particularly effective for large commercial buildings.
Like the Level II certification, the Level III certification will demonstrate that you understand the legal particulars of handling this type of equipment in an environmentally safe manner.
Earning your Universal Certification indicates that you are qualified to work with all of the above types of equipment. It’s by far the most versatile of the various certifications because it means you won’t have any limitations as to the type of work you can do.
How To Earn Your Universal Certification
To earn your Universal Certification, or any level of certification for that matter, you will need to pass a test administered by an EPA-approved organization. There is a test for each level. The Universal Certification is not its own separate test but simply a combination of all of the others.
The test will cover all the different types of refrigerants and their ozone depletion potential for any given level. They will also cover other chemicals used, such as refrigerant oils and related materials. You will also study technician safety to ensure that you stay safe as you work.
Like any test, it requires devoted study to learn everything you need to know to earn your certification. There are many excellent HVAC schools where you can gain the required knowledge. Many of these schools are also certified to administer the test as well. Alternatively, you can work as an apprentice for a certified technician. Doing so may allow you to waive your requirement to test.
Jobs in HVAC
So, what can you do with a Universal EPA certification? Well, you can pursue essentially any job in the HVAC industry that you desire. Perhaps you will repair ice machines for restaurants in your neighborhood; perhaps you’ll add coolant to large-scale commercial chillers. You may specifically wish to pursue a career as a refrigerator technician. There are enough refrigerators in any given geographic space to make for steady work repairing them alone.
Of course, you may also wish to pursue a career as a contractor who works with many different types of HVAC equipment. Technicians, repair people, and installers all work on various air conditioners, chillers, and refrigerators. You also have the opportunity to work as a technician at the best HVAC companies, such as Entek.
Having your certification, of course, is only the beginning: you’ll need to earn plenty of experience in order to be competitive in the market. Often, working as an apprentice is an excellent way to do this. Regardless of how you do so, however, you’ll need to spend plenty of time working on various types of equipment.