Numerous associations, institutions, and organizations offer accreditation and certification across the many sectors of the HVACR industry. For technicians, certification classifies a worker as a top-notch performer, and also serves as a confidence builder for customers, contractors, and others across the industry. The same justification holds true for accredited HVACR associations, schools, and training programs. Each credential provides the recipient with international credibility, status, and legitimacy in their specialty.

Building Performance Institute

The Building Performance Institute Inc. (BPI) specializes in developing standards and credentialing individuals and organizations for residential energy-efficiency retrofit work. From its standards, BPI develops professional credentials for individuals and accreditation for contracting companies, including quality assurance programs.

Certifications for HVAC technicians focused on whole-house work include building analyst, air leakage control installer and crew chief, envelope professional, heating professional, and air conditioning/heat pump professional.

BPI multifamily building certifications include multifamily building analyst, multifamily hydronic heating professional, and multifamily energy-efficient building operator.

“BPI certified professionals are specialists in their chosen fields,” said Leslie McDowell, marketing and communications director, BPI. “BPI certifications verify that the worker has the house-as-a-system building science knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to diagnose and solve critical performance factors in a home that impact comfort, health, durability, safety, and energy efficiency.”

Earlier this year, BPI broadened its accreditation contracting company eligibility criteria for HVAC contractors by recognizing industry certifications that meet BPI’s standards: North American Technician Excellence (NATE) oil or gas service or installation certifications; National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) silver or gold certifications; or Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) member certifications.

“By meeting rigorous eligibility criteria and participating in BPI’s third-party quality assurance program, BPI’s accredited contracting companies differentiate themselves from competitors, offering customers third-party verification of their work to BPI’s standards,” said McDowell.

Building analyst certification is currently the institute’s most popular offering.

“It is called out by virtually all of the 120 energy-efficiency incentive programs specifying BPI standards and credentials because it is the foundation for addressing the house as a system,” said McDowell. “The building science of the building analyst certification begins with theory and diagnostics that are common to all homes. From the basic set of skills, building analyst professionals can select specialty and supervisory certifications to launch into a variety of career paths in the home performance industry.”

HVAC Excellence

HVAC Excellence is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1994 with a mission to improve the technical competency of the HVACR industry by providing professional services in four main areas: progressive levels of certification, programmatic accreditation, educator credentialing, and professional development. HVAC Excellence also works closely with its sister associations, such as the ESCO Institute and the Education Resource Network, to guide the process of training and educational development for the HVACR industry based on the findings of its various assessment examinations, which are reviewed and updated as necessary.

HVAC Excellence deems that no single certification can appropriately identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities of individuals at different levels in their HVACR careers, and offers over 50 different certifications at varying levels, from student to technician to HVACR educator, with increasing difficulty and altered emphasis within the examinations.

HVAC Excellence progressive certification examinations include its heating, electrical, air conditioning technology (HEAT) secondary (high school) assessment certifications, employment-ready (post-secondary assessment) certifications, professional level (technicians with two-plus years of verifiable experience and employment) certifications, as well as master specialist certifications, which are hands-on, performance-based examinations that require technicians to demonstrate retained knowledge and prove that he or she can proficiently apply that knowledge.

HVAC Excellence also offers a number of specialty certifications such as combustion analysis and system performance certification.

“Our combustion analysis certification is very popular during the fall in the colder latitudes, whereas our heat pump certifications are popular in regions served by the Tennessee Valley Authority,” said Jerry Weiss, executive director, HVAC Excellence. “With a focus on the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure HVAC systems are operating at maximum efficiency, our newest system performance certification series is currently in great demand.”

HVAC Excellence has accredited more than 100 HVACR programs in 30 states across the country. Programmatic accreditation is an independent, third-party review of an HVACR program against a set of educational and industry standards reviewing curriculum, faculty, student facilities, placement services, financial aid, advisory committees, training facilities, equipment, and safety.

According to Thomas M. Tebbe, national programs director, HVAC Excellence, “The impact programmatic accreditation has on each facet of the industry is profound as students receive a quality education and contractors are assured of a more skilled workforce. This provides manufacturers with a more skilled workforce to install, service, and maintain their equipment, which in the long run reduces callbacks and warranty claims.”


North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is a nonprofit certification organization for HVACR technicians. NATE tests provide an assessment of a technician’s real working knowledge of HVAC and HVACR systems, with unique tests for specific knowledge areas. Technicians can earn NATE certification in numerous specialty areas including air conditioning, air distribution, air-to-air heat pumps, gas furnaces, oil furnaces, hydronics gas, hydronics oil, light commercial refrigeration, commercial refrigeration, ground-source heat pump loop installer, and HVAC efficiency analyst.

“NATE testing and certification allows technicians to demonstrate their ongoing ability to perform at the industry’s highest standards. This third-party validation of a technician’s expertise provides a marketable point of differentiation to hiring contractors,” said Dana Anaman, manager of marketing and communications, NATE. “By hiring NATE-certified technicians, contractors can also set their business apart from the competition, highlighting the skills and knowledge of their staff to customers.”

Once a technician selects a specialty, he or she is encouraged to review the knowledge area of technician expertise on the NATE website in preparation for an exam. Once the technician is prepared, he or she can use NATE’s online testing locator to find a local testing facility.

Recertification may be achieved by retaking a specialty exam before a certification lapses, or by completing 60 continuing education hours pertinent to a technician’s specialty.

“Not only is it important for HVACR technicians to obtain NATE certification, it’s equally important to maintain it,” said Anaman. “The HVACR industry changes constantly, such as new SEER requirements, new refrigerants, new codes, and new standards. These changes, plus advancements in engineering, require professionals to constantly update their knowledge and information about the industry.”

The most popular NATE certifications include those focusing on heat pumps, gas service, and air conditioning.

“The heat pump exam is a popular choice because it also includes certification for air conditioning,” said Anaman.

National Comfort Institute

The National Comfort Institute Inc. (NCI) provides training, equipment, and consultation to HVAC contractors worldwide.

NCI offers several certifications, designations, and job titles, including NCI residential HVAC system performance analyst, HVAC system redesign specialist, residential air balancer, and CO/combustions analyst. Individuals earning all four of the aforementioned titles become residential HVAC system performance analysts and can use the title NCI certified residential HVAC system performance supervisor (SPS).

If this individual achieves all of the mentioned certifications and adds NCI’s home performance training with BPI Building Analyst Certification, he or she becomes certified as an NCI home performance analyst. Those earning all five of these designations become an NCI certified home performance analyst and can use the title NCI certified home performance supervisor (HPS).

“National Comfort Institute has trained and certified over 18,000 industry professionals during the past 18 years,” said Dominick Guarino, CEO, NCI.

“The certifications are achieved by attending the training related to the certification and passing a written or hands-on certification exam. General prerequisites for entry level NCI training include basic HVAC or energy-testing field experience and formal training, and certification in basic HVAC.”

NCI’s most popular certifications include the residential HVAC system performance analyst and residential air balancer. Also very popular is its CO/combustions analyst certification.


The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) is an independent, third-party organization whose mission is to accredit HVACR training programs by promoting standards developed and validated by the industry trade and education associations.

PAHRA was developed 15 years ago to improve the quality of training at all levels of education. Through the PAHRA program, employers of HVACR graduates are assured that their students have met minimum competency levels required for graduation and certification as determined by association sponsors including the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and many more.

The organization is built on several cornerstones including the AHRI curriculum guide and the Industry Competency Exam (ICE).

“Using the curriculum guide as the basis, industry professionals from the manufacturers, contractors, distributors, and educators developed this entry-level exam identifying what should be known by technicians seeking a career in the HVACR industry,” said Warren Lupson, director of education, AHRI, and PAHRA board member. “Maintained once a year, through the ICE construction committee, the exam is a valid test of necessary skills.”

The organization works to set standards for instructors, students, curriculum competencies, facilities, and fiscal responsibility; establish evaluation criteria; use validated standards from HVACR associations; promote training programs; provide on-site evaluations; and award accreditation to programs that meet or exceed standards.

“There are many benefits for schools which earn the industry-recognized PAHRA accreditation. When a school has proven itself to be up to par with industry standards through their PAHRA recognition, more funding is readily available to help the HVACR department live up to higher expectations,” said Lupson. “HVACR manufacturers are encouraged to donate equipment to PAHRA accredited programs, and PAHRA accreditation benefits the students. Students have more appeal in the industry when employers see they are graduating from an HVACR program that’s accredited in a program that is designed and supported across the wide spectrum of the industry.”

Publication date: 05/28/2012