Now that you've finished your HVAC certification, you might be wondering what jobs are available to you. The government empowered the Environmental Protection Agency as the regulatory body over HVAC certification with implementation of amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990. Your certification level determines the jobs you can hold dealing with HVAC or appliances that contain refrigerants.
Don't confuse an HVAC school's certification program with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certification, which can be two separate things. A school might teach you how to work on HVAC equipment and issue a certificate indicating you passed the coursework, but it might not be approved to give you the EPA test required of repairpersons who work with refrigerants. Check with the EPA to make certain that you have the right certification for the jobs you desire (see Resources).
Certificate Level I
You can get a job working on hermetically sealed small appliances that are charged with less than 5 pounds of refrigerant with an EPA-approved certification level one. You cannot work on home-based or commercial HVAC equipment, but you can work on package terminal heat pumps, dehumidifiers, under-the-counter ice makers, vending machines, drinking water coolers, room air conditioners, refrigerators and freezers. In these scenarios, you might work for a HVAC contractor or appliance store as an appliance technician, service technician or repairperson that services this equipment.
Certificate Level II
You can get a job as an HVAC technician that repairs, maintains or services home-based high-pressure stationary units or vehicles that use HCFC-22 filled air-conditioning systems -- a specific refrigerant that contains hydrochlorofluorocarbons -- with EPA certificate level II. This certification indicates you passed the test that demonstrates you understand how to properly handle these ozone-depleting refrigerants. It also indicates that you have knowledge of EPA's refrigerant regulations, including the illegality of intentionally releasing refrigerants into the atmosphere.
Certificate Level III
With a level III certificate, you can work as a repairperson or service technician for a company that primarily services chillers in commercial settings, such as large buildings, manufacturing companies and theme parks where these large units use water-cooled systems that transfer heat from an inside area. While you can service, repair or maintain these low-pressure systems with this certificate, you can't work on home HVAC systems. A chiller uses a water-cooled conditioning system that cools inside air in locations such as large commercial buildings, hospitals, universities and other large facilities where units in excess of 50 tons need to use water-cooled systems in place of costly air-cooled units.
Universal Certificate Level IV
The best certification to receive allows you to pick and choose the jobs or companies you want to work for because you have certification to work with small appliances, chillers or low-pressure systems and stationary high-pressure HVAC home-based systems. Once you gain experience and want to break out on your own, the EPA certificate level IV gives you the most options when developing your business.
- North Carolina State Board of Refrigeration Examiners: CFC/EPA Certification
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Overlap Between Section 608 and 609
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Overview of Issues on EPA Certification Test
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Frequently Asked Questions on Section 608
- Efftec: Chiller Basics
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images