DALLAS, TX — Attendees to the IAHR Expo have been known to suffer from crowd or aisle anxiety before, but now we can add test anxiety to the list.

Twenty-two technicians decided to undergo four hours of testing on the second day of the expo. Each was hoping to become certified by passing the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) Air Conditioning Excellence hvac exam.

This was the first year that NATE offered the exam at the expo. The testing was sponsored by the North Texas Chapter of Air Conditioning Contractors of America, the Dallas Chapter of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors, the Dallas Chapter of Refrigeration Service Engineers Society, and the IAHR Exposition.

According to Joel Kinsch, a NATE representative, the organization was happy with the turnout for the two exam sessions.

“You have to realize that this show is all about the new products and walking the aisles,” said Kinsch. “The technicians who took this exam chose to take four hours away from the show floor. That’s impressive.”

NATE has set a goal of having another 7,500 certified technicians by the end of 2000, said Kinsch. The organization is growing, with more and more people becoming testing members. As of the second week in February, a couple hundred technicians have been certified, he said.

Testing benefits

“The contractor who is sending technicians for testing is being proactive,” said Kinsch. “Certification is a great marketing tool and the contractor can educate the customer via the marketing tools we provide.”

Those include a contractor’s marketing kit, truck decals, and promotional products and clothing that carry the NATE logo. The marketing kit includes a how-to guide, camera-ready ads, radio and TV scripts and logo sheets.

Certified technicians can order extra NATE patches for placement on all of their shirts and jackets.

Sidebar: When to test

For installation technicians, NATE recommends they have at least one year of field experience prior to taking the exam. If a technician has less experience, he or she should have taken — and passed — ICE, the Industry Competency Exam.

For service techs, at least two years of field experience is recommended before testing. Service techs are automatically certified as installation techs as well.

There are no training or education requirements to be met before taking the exams. However, according to NATE, the more training and education you have, the better you typically perform.

To earn certification, each candidate must pass a core exam and at least one specialty exam of their choice. The specialty exams include the following: air conditioning; air distribution; gas heating; heat pumps; and oil heating. Additional certifications may be earned by passing additional specialty exams.

Kinsch said that NATE has looked into offering online testing but has no immediate plans to move in that direction. Part of the reason is the high cost that would be involved, but the larger reason is the need for the exams to be proctored.

Technicians can learn more about the NATE program and register for exams online at www. natex.org or by calling 703-610-9033.