EPA Certification

Well folks it has been a hell of a few weeks in the refrigerant industry. The past few months have been rather quiet and then we get all of this news all at once. It always amazes me how fast this stuff can happen.

Just a few days ago the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they would be removing their rule that went in place back in September of 2016. (The official EPA Fact Sheet on this rule can be found by clicking here.) This rule applied Section 608 CFC/HCFC leak controls and regulations to appliances using HFC refrigerants that contained over fifty pounds of refrigerant. Basically, it passed on the same regulations that we had on CFC/HCFC refrigerants over to HFCs.

The EPA’s reason for overturning these regulations is that the EPA exceeded its own authority by issuing these laws back in 2016. Their reasoning is that these laws and regulations were all meant for CFC and HCFC refrigerants. They centered on the Ozone and the Chlorine in the refrigerants. HFCs do not contain Chlorine and thusly do not damage the Ozone layer. Instead, they are Greenhouse Gases and contribute to Global Warming. Both are bad for the Climate, but both are distinct separate issues. I do tend to agree with this as the law was bent to accommodate HFCs. Along with that the EPA also announced that they plan to save over forty-million dollars in regulation expenses enforcing these laws.

Before the law goes into effect it will be published in the Federal Register and then there will be a forty-five day comment period. The EPA will also be hosting a public forum fifteen days before the rule goes into effect. This will be held at Washington, DC and you can register by visiting the EPA’s site. Now, instead of rehashing what the EPA wrote I am going to take an excerpt from their site that way there is no confusion.

If finalized as proposed, this action would rescind the leak repair and maintenance requirements at 40 CFR 82.157 for substitute refrigerants. Therefore, appliances with 50 or more pounds of substitute refrigerants would not be subject to the following requirements:

  • conduct leak rate calculations when refrigerant is added to an appliance,
  • repair an appliance that leaks above a threshold leak rate,
  • conduct verification tests on repairs,
  • conduct periodic leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate,
  • report to EPA on chronically leaking appliances,
  • retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired, and
  • maintain related records.” – SOURCE

Additional Changes Coming

But wait, there’s more! The EPA’s above proposal to remove the requirements on HFC appliances also comes with the option for public comment on removing additional leak requirements on different applications. Again, this is from the EPA website:

“EPA is also requesting comment on rescinding other provisions that were extended to substitute refrigerants, including the following:

  • anyone purchasing refrigerant for use in an appliance or handling refrigerants (e.g., air-conditioning and refrigeration service contractors and technicians) must be a Section 608-certified technician,
  • anyone removing refrigerant from a refrigeration or air-conditioning appliance must evacuate refrigerant to certain level using certified refrigerant recovery equipment before servicing or disposing of the appliance,
  • the final disposer (e.g., scrap recycler, landfill) of small appliances, like refrigerators and window air conditioners, must ensure and document that refrigerant is recovered before final disposal, and
  • all used refrigerant must be reclaimed to industry purity standards before it can be sold to another appliance owner.”

Did you get all that? There were some big ones in there. One in particular that I noticed was the removing of 608 certification in order to purchase HFC refrigerants. This law has only been effect since January of this year. That would be a BIG deal if that was removed as we then open the flood gates for all of the laymen and novices to purchase refrigerant again. This could also create a rise in pricing if enough people who are unregistered purchase.

Along with that we get that appliances don’t have to have their refrigerant evacuated before being brought to the dump. That’s not the scariest one though, what scares me is that last point. If it gets rescinded we are then removing the purity standards from reclaimed refrigerants. There are already so many people who are against purchasing or using reclaimed refrigerants and removing this provision is going to seriously hurt the reclamation industry’s reputation.

Conclusion

These are very confusing times. We have the various States in the Climate Alliances proposing and enacting their own HFC refrigerant laws and regulations and then we have the Federal Government and the Environmental Protection Agency removing previous laws.

As time goes on we’re going to have additional States join the phasedown and I have a feeling this new announcement from the EPA is only going to fuel the desire for the States to take matters into their own hands.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Good morning folks and welcome to RefrigerantHQ!  As I write this article it’s a nice cold March Sunday morning. Things haven’t begun to warm up yet for the upcoming refrigerant season but everyone knows that it is just around the corner. In fact April is really the beginning. It is the point where we begin to see maintenance calls start to come up and then slowly but surely as the days and weeks pass we inch closer and closer to summer and to those long, but profitable, days.

Something new this year that a lot of people may have overlooked is that HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, R-410A are now subjected to the Environmental Protection Agency’s refrigerant sales restriction regulation. What that means folks is that you are no longer able to purchase these types of refrigerants unless you are section 608 or section 609 certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. For more on the refrigerant sales restriction please click here to be taken to the EPA’s official site.

While these restrictions are new to HFC refrigerants those of you who have been in the industry for a while know exactly what I am talking about. In the past CFC and HCFC refrigerants were subjected to the EPA’s refrigerant sales restriction as well. So, if you wanted to purchase one of these refrigerants you had to go through the training and the certification.

This change on HFC refrigerants caught a lot of the do-it-yourselfers off guard. A lot of the larger companies knew this was coming and had prepared for it by getting their techs and purchasers already 609 certified back in 2017. These garage mechanics and other do-it-yourselfers are now finding that they do not have a way to purchase thirty pound cylinders of 134a any longer.

It should be noted that there is an exception to these rules for the weekend warriors out there. People who are not certified to handle refrigerants can still purchase two pounds or less canisters at their local stores. So, if I needed to recharge my Camry then all I would need to do is go to my local parts store or Amazon.com and purchase a few cans of R-134a. This can be done without a license. So, there is hope!

However, if you are confident that you need a license or certification then keep on reading folks and I will do my best to guide you along the process.

Section 609 Certification

Section 609 is in fact the easier license to get on refrigerants. 609 deals strictly with the automotive side and covers refrigerants such as R-12 and R-134a. So, if you are a mechanic or an at home repair guy then 609 is what you will need. Today there are more than one million people certified under this section 609. There are a few ways for you or your employees to become certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. Some of these options are listed below:

  • A licensed 609 certification trainer comes to your place of employment, puts on a class, and then hands out testing to each attendant. After the tests are completed they will then be mailed to MACS Worldwide to be graded. If passed you will then receive your license through the mail. In my experience these work great as a ‘lunch and learn.’ Cater in a lunch, bring in a trainer, and get your staff qualified in just an hour.
    • A 609 trainer can either be from an outside party like a vendor/salesmen or it could be a designated person at your company. I have seen both. A good trainer will go over all of the details and help attendees with questions that they are unsure of. Ideally, most everyone should pass this test.
  • The other option is to go directly through MACS Worldwide. MACS is the primary provider and manager of 609 tests and license granting. They started their program only a few years after the 609 rules were introduced back in 1990. Ever since 1992 MACS has been the leader in granting 609 tests and certifications. Review the links below to read up a bit more about them, order a study book, and even order a test.
  • Please note that for each of these scenarios it will take twenty dollars per person in order to take a test.

Section 608 Certification

608 is where things get a little bit more complicated and where the ‘meat and potatoes,’ of air conditioning is. If you’re going to be working on anything other than vehicles than you need your 608. 608 comes in four different types of EPA level certification and each one contains it’s own specialized section.

  • Core Test – The core test is necessary for all technicians to take rather you are going for sections 1, 2, or 3.
  • Type 1 608 Certification – This covers small appliances that are manufactured, charged, and hermetically sealed with five pounds or less of refrigerants.
  • Type 2 608 Certification – This covers high pressure and very high pressure appliances. Some example high pressure refrigerants are as follows: R-12, R-22, R-114, R-500, and R-502. Also note that this type 2 certification will allow you to legally purchase and handle R-410A refrigerant.
  • Type 3 608 Certification – This covers low pressure appliances with some example refrigerants being R-11, R-113, and R-123.
  • Universal Certification – Just as it sounds a universal certification can be obtained by passing certification for all types 1, 2, and 3. If you are going to be working in the industry then I would suggest going for the universal and just to cover your bases. The worst thing that can happen is having to turn down a job because you are not certified to handle that type of refrigerant.

Unlike 609 the 608 certification is much harder to achieve. Unfortunately, most 608 certifications have to be taken in person at a certified training facility. These training facilities can be a third party company, your trade school or college, or your employer. Depending on how large your employer is they may put on their own 608 training courses. It should be noted that you are able to take the type 1 section 608 certification online. Click this link to learn more.

If you are looking to achieve a higher level 608 certification and am not quite sure where to go then I would suggest a few things. Contact your employer first to see if you can get free training and certification. If they do not offer that then check with your local trade schools. Lastly, if you are still not finding a provider then check out this link to the EPA’s website for featured training areas.  

Lastly, check out this resource for a free 608 practice test. This should definitely help you out and get you prepared for the real thing!

Intent to Resale

There is one more option for users to purchase refrigerants without having a certification license. While this won’t help the at home mechanics it will help those of you who are purchasers or resalers. If you are purchasing refrigerant from a wholesaler you can provide them with a formal letter stating that you are intending to resale the product and that you or your company will not be using the refrigerant. According to the EPA’s website“(The) EPA recommends that wholesalers obtain a signed statement from the purchaser indicating that he or she is purchasing the refrigerant only for eventual resale to certified technicians.” This covers you as a purchaser and also covers the seller. Once this is bought please be aware though that it will be up to you or your company to track all of the refrigerant sales.

Conclusion

Well folks, that about covers it for refrigerant licensing. I hope that this guide was able to answer your questions on what license to get, how to get it, and where to get it. I have a feeling most of you will be looking at that 609 certification over the 608. Either way though, when you are dealing with refrigerant remember to be safe and to be certified!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

If you are thinking of a career in HVAC industry, there is no better time than now. HVAC technicians are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of HVAC professionals to grow by 14 percent between 2014 and 2024.

Quality training and the required certification are crucial for a successful career as an HVAC technician.

In this article, we will take a close look at the different requirements for certification in HVAC.

General Requirements For HVAC Work

Though not every state requires you to have an HVAC certification, it is highly advisable for several reasons. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says “Certifications can be helpful because they show that the technician has specific competencies. Some employers actively seek out industry-certified HVACR technicians.”

Technicians without a certification may miss employment opportunities in states that need certification. Fortunately, some states grant reciprocal practice privileges to those who have a license from other states.

HVAC certification extends the range of work a technician is authorized to perform. It gives more opportunities for continuous employment and better earnings. Employers prefer to hire technicians with certifications as they would demonstrate their competency.

Certification types and processes differ from state to state. In most states, HVAC certification or licensing is issued by the state government. In some states, regulations may vary from region to region and local departments or boards are responsible for issuing licenses.

Some states require technicians to have on-job experience before they take the certification exam. In some states, the certification exam may also be a part of the approved training program.

Modern HVAC systems are complex. Certifications demonstrate a technician’s knowledge and efficiency.

Environmental Protection Agency Certification

Environmental Protection Agency Certification is mandatory for all HVACR technicians who work with refrigerants across the country. They must pass an EPA-approved test specific to a related category based on the equipment they seek to work on.

Refrigerants can pose threats to people and environment. People who are working around supermarket freezers and chillers need to be cautious about the gases contained in the refrigerated systems.the refrigerants deal with. Professionals who want to buy or work with any kind of refrigerants are required to obtain EPA Certification. Refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment include risks of toxicity, flammability, and other hazards.

Section 608 of the Clean Air Act requires individuals who are involved in any kind of service, maintenance, or disposal of equipment that could release ozone-depleting refrigerants be certified.  To get this certification, they must pass a test at an EPA-approved organization. These regulations are necessary to protect the environment.

The EPA offers four types of certifications:

Type I

This certification is for the technicians who handle small appliances.

The test covers:

  • System evacuation practices
  • Safety practices when handling refrigerants
  • Gas recovery requirements and techniques

Type II

This certification is for the technicians who service high-pressure or very high–pressure air conditioning and/or heating units.

The test covers:

  • Leak detection and leak repair requirements
  • Gas recovery requirements and techniques
  • Safety practices when using equipment

Type III

This certification is for the technicians who work with low-pressure refrigerants.

The test covers:

  • Leak detection and leak repair requirements
  • Recovery techniques and recovery requirements
  • Recharging techniques and refrigeration
  • Safety practices when handling refrigerants

Universal Certificate

This certification is for the technicians who work with appliances of all kinds and sizes. As the name suggests, this certification includes Types I, II, and III.

Apprentices working under the supervision of a certified technician are exempted from certification requirements.

Not Always Required, But Recommended

It is always important to plan your HVAC career well from the beginning. Choose a reputable trade school that equips you with both theory and practical knowledge. Keeping up with new trends and technology in the industry is essential.

Gain practical knowledge in different aspects like installation, service, repair, and maintenance. Apprenticeships will give the much needed on-job experience that will make you stand out in the crowd.

Training and Apprenticeship

Aspiring HVAC technicians can take up a certificate program or an associate’s degree program. Associate’s degree programs groom them for HVAC job besides completing general education courses.

An apprenticeship within the program can provide a valuable real-world experience. At times, it may increase the duration of the program but nothing beats the opportunity of real-world experience.

Additional Certifications

Experts recommend North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and HVACV Excellence Certifications for better career opportunities.

NATE Certification

NATE Certification is a nationally recognized program for HVACR technicians. To obtain this certification, the technicians must pass both core and specialty tests. These are multiple-choice and knowledge-based tests.   Technicians can obtain certification in one or more specialty areas such as air conditioning, heat pumps, and gas furnaces. The certification is valid for five years.

A recent survey says that 76% of customers prefer an HVAC technician with NATE Certification. Furthermore, NATE certified technicians earn more than those without the certification.

HVAC Excellence

HVAC Excellence Certification is another well-recognized certification in the HVAC industry. Different levels of certifications available from HVAC Excellence are Master Specialist Hands-On Certification, Professional Technician Certification, Employment Ready Certification, and Student Outcome Assessment for High Schools.

A Professional Technician Certification candidate requires two or more years of field experience.

A Master Specialist Hands-On Certification candidate requires three years of field experience and must pass a written exam.

Conclusion

The HVAC industry is growing at a significant rate and technicians are in high demand. Good hands-on training combined with necessary certification will help you build a rewarding career in the HVAC field. Certified or licensed technicians have more privileges and broader opportunities than those who do not have certification. If you work with refrigerants, you’ll need EPA certification. And be sure to check local and state requirements for further requirements that may exist.

Bio

This is a guest post by Bob Wells, a retired HVAC tech who now dedicates himself to sharing knowledge on his website hvactraining101.com. Bob worked over 30 years in the field, 23 of which he ran his own contracting business. He’s dedicated to keeping up with the latest developments in the field and helping others to learn the trade better and advance their own careers.

Bob is on Twitter with the handle @hvactraining101 and you can also find his page on Facebook.

Nate-Certification RefrigerantHQ.com

Hello everyone! I’m doing something a little different today. The below is a guest post written by our friend Michael Berard at HVACTrainingCenter.com I’ll be doing my own guest post over at his site as well. I hope you find the article helpful and please check out his site while you are on the topic. Thanks for reading!

What is a NATE Certificate?

NATE stands for North American Technician Excellence and is an independent non-profit organization that awards certifications for installers and technicians in the HVACR field. NATE offers multiple different tests in varying levels of difficulty based on experience and application. These tests require a knowledge in installation, service, maintenance, and repair of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems to pass. Certification can be awarded for installation and/or service as well as specialty certificates in multiple areas including:

  • Air Conditioning
  • Air Distribution
  • Commercial Refrigeration (service only)
  • Gas Heating
  • Ground Source Heat Pump Loop Installer
  • Heat Pumps
  • Hydronics Gas (service only)
  • Hydronics Oil (service only)
  • Light Commercial Refrigeration (service only)
  • Oil Heating
  • Senior HVAC Efficiency Analyst

Why Should I Get a NATE Certification?

Although not a required certification, NATE certifications can be beneficial to your career opportunities and value as an employee. The specialty certifications are aimed at the higher level technicians in the industry and provide physical evidence of your knowledge that you can show to potential employers or clients. Some reasons to considering getting a Refrigeration NATE Certification are:

  1. Customers prefer certified technicians working on home and commercial refrigeration systems.
  2. Some employers require refrigeration technicians to have their NATE certification.
  3. Demonstrate not only exceptional knowledge in the industry, but also a willingness to better yourself and your trade.
  4. Differentiate yourself from other potential hires to employers in the industry.

The difficulty of NATE certification tests as well as how specific they are for each application in the HVACR industry separate them from other non-required exams. They hold a lot more weight in the industry and actually do help to show that you can perform above others in the industry.

Entry Level and Early Career NATE Certificates

NATE offers a certificate for people just entering the HVACR industry, as well as those who have been in it for a short period of time, looking to prove their knowledge and differentiate themselves from other entry level technicians. The first test focuses on fundamental job knowledge and skills needed to enter the HVACR industry. It is a $50 online test that includes a study guide. However, passing this exam only provides an Entry Level NATE Certificate, not to be confused with a NATE Certification. This test is recommended more for those who would like to prove their education to themselves or brush on general knowledge before starting a job.
The second test is the HVACR Support Certificate. This test is for technicians who have been in the industry for 6-12 months and covers topics required for the professional level certification, but on a broader spectrum. The HVACR Support Certificate test can be taken at approved testing organizations and by approved proctors, but again only awards a certificate not a certification.

Refrigeration Specific NATE Certifications

Before taking the specialty tests offered by NATE, a core exam must first be taken. The core exam covers general construction knowledge, safety, and HVACR industry specific topics including:

  • Achieving Desired Conditions
  • Basic Science
  • Basic Construction
  • Basic Electrical
  • Taking Temperature and Humidity Measurements
  • Tools

The core test is a 1.5 hour exam with 50 questions. Once passed, the test is not required to be renewed and allows the technician to pursue more specialty certifications such as “Light Commercial Refrigeration” or “Commercial Refrigeration”.
The two refrigeration certifications have recommendations of at least 2 years working in the field as a refrigeration technician as well as technical training for theoretic knowledge of refrigeration. The test is closed book with 100 questions and a 2.5 hour time limit and is designed for a top level technician.
The NATE exams for commercial refrigeration are definitely worth considering when looking to further yourself and your career. Although not necessary to have a successful career in refrigeration, they can be a great stepping stone to getting there.

Written by Michael Berard
Michael Berard is the founder of HVACTrainingCenter.com; a website that provides state specific licensing requirements and resources for the HVAC industry. See their interactive state map here.

Well folks I can’t say that I didn’t see this coming. I think most everyone did. On November 2nd, 2016 the EPA announced many changes on their certification program, who can buy refrigerants, and who can handle refrigerants. Not a lot of people knew that today as I write this you actually do not need to be 608 certified to purchase or handle R-410A, R-404A, or other HFC refrigerants. (134a is an exception if it’s over a certain poundage.)

Any bloke off the street could buy himself a container of 410A and try to recharge his own air conditioning unit and in the process vent half of the container into the atmosphere. As you all know the restrictions already existed on CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-12, R-22, and R-502 but now the EPA has made the decision to push these same restrictions over to HFC refrigerants.

The new regulations are set to go into affect on January 1st, 2018. Further on in this post I will provide screenshots of the EPA’s PowerPoint presentation showing exactly what changes they will be making. You can also click here and go directly to the EPA’s presentation off of their website. All credit for images and screenshots goes to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Why HFCs?

HFCs have been on the EPA’s list for many years now and in fact just a week before their announcement it was announced that the governments of the world would be adding an amendment to the Montreal Protocol called the Kigali Agreement. (Named after the city they met in Kigalo, Rwanda.) This agreement states that all countries will discontinue use of HFCs by the year 2100. While that may seem like a ways away it is worth mentioning that the developed countries such as the United States will begin phasing out HFCs as early as 2019. (R-404A is the first to go, than R-134a in 2020.) I wrote a separate article on the Kigali agreement which can be found by clicking here.

Unlike the CFCs and HCFC refrigerants in the past HFCs do not contain Chlorine. In fact the problem this time has nothing to do with the O-Zone layer. This time the problem is greenhouse gases that are put into atmosphere when a system is leaking or the refrigerant is vented. HFC refrigerants produce an extremely potent greenhouse gas. If you compared the Global Warming Potential of R-134a to Carbon Dioxide you would find that 134a is 1,300 times stronger than that of Carbon Dioxide. Think about that for a moment. 1,400 times stronger. It is extremely significant.

Alright, so now that we have covered the why let’s look at the actual changes:

Changes to Technician Certification

I won’t get into too many details here as the slide pretty much covers everything. Take a look through the changes. I’m sure most of them you are already used to anyways.

EPA Changes to Technician CertificationEPA Changes to Technician Certification

 

Changes to Sales Restrictions

This one is a little bit different and will affect the distribution side of things more. You will now have to provide your 608 certification in order to purchase any cylinders of HFC refrigerant. The only wiggle room here is if you buy a container that contains less than two pounds of refrigerant. The only application I could see this even working for is the automotive side with the R-134a cans. I’m not aware of them making 410A or 404A cylinders that small, but I may be mistaken. Please review the screenshot below provided by the EPA:

EPA Changes to Refrigerant Sales Restriction on January 1st, 2018.
EPA Changes to Refrigerant Sales Restriction on January 1st, 2018.

afdasdf

Changes to Service Practices

After reading this slide I assumed that this was common practice already. Maybe I’m wrong here but I would assume most of you would recover the refrigerant rather it’s HCFC or HFC. I don’t see this making much changes at all.

EPA Changes to Refrigerant Service Practices
EPA Changes to Refrigerant Service Practices

Conclusion

As I said before I’m sure a lot of you guys saw this coming. The changes are pretty much predictable and there is just over a year for companies to adapt. Anyone who is working in the field is already 608 certified so there’s nothing to worry about on your side. If anything this should help put a stop to do-it-yourselfers buying their own cylinder and not knowing what the hell they are doing. Having the 608 requirement forces them to call a certified professional rather than stumbling through it themselves.

I hope you enjoyed the article and thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

Owner.

Sources