Kids may, indeed, say the darndest things. In my book, though, our readers tell the most interesting (and honest) things. For instance, take Michael Forino, who recently mailed the following letter toThe News. It is, to say the least, thought provoking.

In his letter, Mr. Forino said he is currently attending an HVACR vocational course while in a Florida correctional facility, and that he desires to excel at all phases of learning and hands-on training. He said his instructor at the facility offers all types of certification opportunities through various organizations, in-cluding from HVAC Excellence, North American Technician Excellence (NATE), appliance industries, and "a couple of others."

He noted that he has obtained his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) universal certification card through HVAC Excellence and last week took the EPA automotive exam, also through HVAC Excellence.

"The question I am searching an answer for has eluded me and everyone else because I want to know which certifications are recognized by contractors and customers," he wrote. "What testing corporation should I be truly going to in order to obtain the certifications? In theory, if we future technicians could afford it, we'd try to obtain every certification we could get our hands on, but why waste money that could be used for quality tools and equipment for something that truly is not reflective of our knowledge?"

Forino concluded his letter by stating: "Any help in clearing up the ‘certification jungle' would be greatly appreciated, as it will allow myself and others to focus on the industry standards and excel. Thank you very much."


While NATE certainly has the inside track as far as becomingthecertification program for the industry, I totally understand the confusion out there.

Just for the record, NATE states this on its Web site ( "North American Technician Excellence Inc. (NATE) is the leading certification program for technicians in the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) industry and is the only test supported by the entire industry."

Meanwhile, HVAC Excellence states on its Web site ( "HVAC Excellence, a not for profit organization, establishes standards of excellence within the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC&R) Industry."

Who to believe? That's what some technicians (and some contractors, for that matter) are asking. While I would personally point most prospective technicians in NATE's certification direction - and I have to believe more industry people would do so than not - even Rex Boynton, the president of NATE, understands that this is a democracy here in the United States, so anyone can and may put together a certification program.

In truth, Boynton made such a comment more than once to me. Every time it was in response to the following question directed to the president of NATE: "To eliminate confusion, why cannot there be one, single certification program for the HVACR industry?"

He always replied, in his most diplomatic way, not wanting to lambaste any and all "competing" certification groups and companies. He'd prefer that NATE become the cream of the certification crop and that it stay on top without being critical of others.

While I have to believe Boynton's assessment is the proper way to view the current certification confusion and that NATE may eventually be the only accepted certification program for techs - mainly because it has the solid backing of both industry associations and industry manufacturers - the entire certification business is still confusing for the consumer and troubling for many technicians and contractors.

There still exist contractors (and technicians) who do not see the value in any certification program, especially if there is a price tag involved. There is still work for the Rex Boyntons of this industry - and they know it.

Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or

Publication date: 08/02/2004