There are two main types of refrigeration certifications in the United States 608 and 609. I will cover both in this post as well as explain what each one is and when it is necessary.
I am going to start with 609 certification as it is the ‘simpler’ one. 609 comes into play when you are working on an automotive air conditioning application and ONLY when you are working on an automotive application. If you wish to work on other AC units you will need to obtain your 608 certification as well. Once you have 609 certification you can purchase, handle, and install refrigerants into automotive applications. Mainly you will be dealing R134a and 1234YF. You may deal with R-12 here and there but now a days an R-12 system is pretty rare.
It is important to note that if the vehicle you are working on has refrigerated cargo as well a air conditioner for the cab you will be able to work in the cab air conditioner but NOT able to work on the refrigerated cargo system. If you wish to work on the cargo unit of the vehicle you will need to obtain 608 certification as well as 609. Examples of this would be freezer trucks, refrigerated vans, and Carrier/ThermoKing units.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
How Do I Get Certified?
Unfortunately, most 608 certifications have to be taken in person at a certified training facility. However, Type 1 608 certification can be done online and can be found by clicking here. If you are looking to achieve a higher level 608 certification check out this link to the EPA’s website for featured training areas. Now, the programs on that list are not the end all be all of places to get certified. Most community colleges have a certification exam that you can take, or if you are working for a company already they may sponsor you to get certified.
609 certification can be taken online and you can find multiple places to take by browsing through Google. Expect to pay around $20.00 in order to take the test. The charge is pretty standard, I’ve seen anywhere between $15-$20 for 609 testing. Again, this test can be done in person with your employer, community college, or a trade school.
Certification Study Guides
There are many many many study guides that can be found online or in book stores. Below are just a few that I found on Amazon and have the best reviews.
Section 608 Certification Exam Preparatory Manual 9th Edition (over 450 positive reviews!)
Step by Step passing the EPA 608 certification exam (over 400 positive reviews!)
Why Do I Need to be Certified?
The reason for certification goes back to when the Montreal Protocol was formed in the 1980s. The Montreal Protocol was a joint agreement across many countries with a goal to stop the hole in the O-Zone layer from spreading and to eventually repair the hole. Many chemicals were found to cause damage to the O-Zone and one of these chemicals was Chlorine. Chlorine was one of the main ingredients in CFC/HCFCs refrigerants such as R-12 and R-22.
So, if you are working on an AC unit and you accidentally vent refrigerant into the atmosphere you just caused damage to the O-Zone layer and you just violated the Clean Air Act and the EPA now hates you. In all seriousness though, you can be fined or even sent to jail for purposefully violating the Clean Air Act. The EPA wants to minimize the amount of people who have contact with refrigerants and they do this buy requiring certification before you can legally work with them.
Excluding the environmental impact of refrigerants, certification just makes sense. Refrigerants can be dangerous, especially to a laymen. mix-matching wrong pats, refrigerant burns, and flammability are all some examples of what can go wrong when dealing with air conditioning units.
If you are in the HVAC industry get certified! If you are on the automotive side I wouldn’t worry too much about getting your 608 but you will need your 609 to be compliant. If you’re working on other units I would recommend just going for the universal certification just so you don’t limit yourself to what units you can work on and which ones you can’t.