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What Is HVAC EPA Certification?

Whenever you’re looking for an HVAC technician to perform some work on your furnace or air conditioner, you’ll notice that they always seem to boast of several different certifications. At least, any HVAC technician worth their salt will have multiple certifications guaranteeing that they know what they’re doing. Note that some of those certificates are required by law before the technician can work in the industry.

The EPA 608 certification is one such requirement. Anyone who performs maintenance, repair, or disposal of HVAC equipment must carry such a credential. This is a United States federal law, required by Section 608 of the Clean Air Act. This law is enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Let’s take a look at this certification and what is required to earn one.

What Is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?

The EPA is a US government organization established in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. Its mission is to create regulations to ensure that all Americans have access to clean air and water, as well as pass federal laws with regard to human health and the environment. They are also responsible for cleaning up any contaminants that may be introduced to the environment.

Why Do They Regulate HVAC Repair and Maintenance?

HVAC units require certain chemicals called refrigerants to operate. These chemicals have the unique property of being able to absorb heat energy, thereby changing the state of the chemical itself. By doing so, they can then be used to transfer this energy elsewhere. Heat energy drawn out of the air or ground can then be circulated throughout a building.

Problems arise when these refrigerant chemicals are introduced into the environment. As they break down into their component elements, these refrigerants release toxic compounds into the air, which can have the effect of depleting the ozone layer and contributing to climate change. In recent years, more environmentally friendly refrigerants have been introduced, but even these are not perfect with regard to their potential impact on the earth’s atmosphere. So the handling of these chemicals is highly controlled.

What Does It Mean To Be a Certified Technician?

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It’s necessary for a technician to carry an HVAC EPA certification, but what exactly does it mean? What does the certification tell you about the person performing the work on your heating and cooling equipment?

The EPA regulations define a “technician” as a person who adds or removes refrigerants or attaches hoses and gauges to an appliance. More broadly, the EPA states that anyone who affects the integrity of a refrigerant circuit, with the potential of releasing refrigerants into the environment, is a technician and must be certified.

The EPA 608 certification indicates that the technician has demonstrated knowledge of handling chemicals that are used in HVAC technologies, such as refrigerants like R-22 and R-401A. Through a written test, they will demonstrate that they can safely maintain and repair HVAC equipment without releasing these potential environmental pollutants.

After passing the required tests, a technician is issued a certificate, a copy of which must be kept at their place of business. They must maintain a copy of this certificate even if they stop working as HVAC technicians, for a period of at least three years.

Without this certification, a technician is not legally allowed to purchase refrigerants necessary for recharging your heating and air conditioning units. They are also legally prohibited from using these refrigerants to recharge HVAC units of any size. This is why it’s critical for anyone working in the field to carry certification.

What Are the Different Levels of Certification?

Depending upon the size of the unit being handled, the technician may need to carry a different type of certification. A Type I certification authorizes the technician to service and repair small appliances.

Type II is for high-pressure appliances (unless they’re small appliances, in which case they would be covered by a Type I certification). Type III is for low-pressure appliances.

Many technicians will also carry a universal HVAC EPA certification, which covers any and all of the types of equipment listed above.

What Do Certified Technicians Need to Know?

EPA certified technicians must have a broad knowledge of every aspect of handling heating and cooling equipment, especially if they are pursuing a universal certification. Because the EPA is primarily concerned with preventing the introduction of dangerous chemicals into the environment, most of the test will revolve around this element.

Technicians will be trained in the different types of refrigerants and which types of refrigerants are compatible with which devices. They’ll learn how to work with older devices, built before the 1990s—which often make use of different refrigerants than newer devices—and they’ll study the newer devices and the process of substituting chemicals. They will also learn how to detect leaks and repair them to ensure these refrigerants do not enter the environment. They will learn how to safely dispose of refrigerants as well as how to keep themselves safe as they perform the tasks required in their jobs.

How Is a Certification Obtained?

An HVAC EPA certification must be obtained from an EPA-approved organization, of which there are usually several in a given area. In some cases, they’re offered through private organizations, but they can also be earned at accredited training locations. Several US government organizations, including the Department of Defense, maintain their own HVAC maintenance instructional organizations as well. Many of the organizations through which certification can be obtained are listed on the EPA’s website.

It’s also possible to earn a certification through an apprenticeship. Registered apprentices will work closely with experienced, certified technicians in order to gain the required knowledge. Throughout their apprenticeship, the future technician will learn how to perform the tasks required for the job. Ultimately, they will demonstrate this knowledge throughout their work and thereby bypass the testing requirement.

Before you bring an HVAC company into your home or building for repairs or installation, take the time to confirm its technicians are EPA-certified, like the professionals at Entek. This will ensure they handle your HVAC equipment in a way that’s safe for you and the environment.


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