HVAC Excellence Certification: Your Complete Guide

The HVAC Excellence Certification is a nationally recognized certification for those in the HVAC industry. Certifications are offered to technicians, educators, and education programs, all designed to show the competency of the certificate holder in the field of HVAC/R.

Employment in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration over the next ten years is expected to grow at an average rate of around 4% according to HVAC job outlook statistics. Coupled with the emergence of the alternative energy sector that’ll also need technicians, this is becoming an optimistic field for new job prospects. But if you’re looking to stand out as a future job candidate, what preparations can you take to best help you do so?

HVAC Certifications are a great way to prove to future employers that you have an established knowledge bank in the subject matter you’re applying for and can help you stick out in a candidate pool. One that is universally recognized in the HVAC industry is called the HVAC Excellence Certification. Below is all the information you’ll need to understand the basics of everything regarding the HVAC Excellence Certification. 

What is HVAC Excellence?

HVAC Excellence is a certification that was created and is offered by ESCO Group, an organization whose overall mission is to “improve the technical competency of the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) industry.” The HVAC Excellence Certification was established in 1994 with the goal to improve technical competency of those within the HVAC/R industry through a validated and consistent education process. 

What this means is HVAC Excellence is a consistent standard that ESCO Group has set across the HVAC/R industry and its certifications confirm that those holding them have proven themselves to have the ability to meet such standards. This also includes accrediting third-party education programs, proving their lessons and education process will offer their students the content required as well.

HVAC Excellence Areas of Focus

HVAC Excellence has several different types of programs, allowing for all those in the HVAC/R industry to further their knowledge and accreditation, no matter their specific role or experience level. Below are the different areas of focus ESCO Group has listed and applied the HVAC Excellence tag to in different ways. 

Student Outcome Assessments

To ensure that high school HVAC/R instructors are able to assess and validate their students’ progress through their curriculum, HVAC Excellence offers the tools needed to accomplish this through their Heating, Electrical, & Air Conditioning Technology (H.E.A.T.) and H.E.A.T. + student outcome assessments. This includes administering a 100 question exam and a passing score awards the student with an HVAC Excellence Certification of Achievement. 

Through this program, students can also sit for other 50 question exams in other discipline specific areas to further their credentials, like:

  • Air Conditioning Exam
  • Electrical Exam
  • Gas Heat Exam
  • Oil Heat Exam
  • Math Exam

If you are a student looking to show your competency in any of these fields prior to gaining work experience, you can find a program that offers HVAC Excellence Certified Student Outcome Assessments

Employment Ready

The Employment Ready certifications have the same purpose as the Student Outcome Assessments, but is designed for someone with post-secondary education or experience in the field..  College, trade school, apprenticeship, manufacturers, and wholesaler instructors need to validate if a student has the required knowledge retained for employment in the HVAC/R industry, or if they need additional training. HVAC Excellence offers the tools needed to accomplish this through the Employment Ready Certifications and certifiable disciplines are listed below:

  • Electrical 
  • Electric Heat 
  • Gas Heat
  • Oil Heat
  • Air Conditioning 
  • Light Commercial Air Conditioning
  • Light Commercial Refrigeration
  • Heat Pumps 
  • System Diagnostics & Troubleshooting
  • Basic Refrigeration and Charging Procedures 
  • Carbon Monoxide Safety
  • Residential & Light Commercial Hydronic Heat
  • Fuel Oil Combustion
  • Natural Gas Combustion
  • Combustion Appliance Zone
  • Carbon Monoxide & Combustion Analysis
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps
  • Pressure Enthalpy
  • Water Heaters
  • Brazing and Soldering
  • System Recovery and Evacuation

If you are a student continuing your education or prospective technician with no work experience, these Employment Read Certifications are discipline specific and demonstrate you’ve gained the knowledge and readiness within that discipline. Exams are 50-100 questions and once you’ve become certified, you’ll receive a wallet card, patch, and chevron for each exam you pass.

Professional Technician

Once you’ve achieved the status of a professional technician, certification can continue to improve your knowledge bank as well as help further your career. HVAC Excellence Certification is intended for experienced technicians and is a series of discipline-specific comprehensive written exams. Each of the following are the available disciplines which include a 100 question exam:

  • Principles of Electrical and Refrigeration Theory (CORE - prerequisite for all exams)
  • Combustion Analysis
  • Electric Heat
  • Gas Heat
  • Heat Pump Installer
  • Heat Pump Service
  • Light Commercial Air Conditioning
  • Light Commercial Refrigeration
  • Residential Air Conditioning
  • Residential & Light Commercial Hydronic Heat

The HVAC Excellence Certification exams do require two things. First, that you have two years of verifiable work experience and second, you must pass the Core Exam prior to taking any of the other professional level exams. Completion of the certification exam comes with a certificate, a patch, and chevron. As a technician, you can choose which and how many of the disciplines you wish to be certified in. Once a discipline is passed, then you are eligible to work towards the next level as a Master Specialist in that specific discipline. 

Master Specialist Hands-On

The Master Specialist Certifications are designed for experienced technicians. They are a series of discipline-specific and hands-on exams and they are intended to show a technician’s retained knowledge as well as their ability to apply that knowledge through a performance test. 

In order to sit for the Master Specialist Certification exams, you must have at least three years of work experience and also hold a professional level HVAC Excellence technician certification in a related field. The following Specialist discipline exams are available for those who qualify: 

  • Residential Heat Pump
  • Residential Gas Furnace
  • Residential Electric Heat
  • Residential Air Conditioning
  • Residential Oil Heat
  • Commercial Air Conditioning
  • Commercial Refrigeration
  • Combustion Analysis
  • Envelope Leak Testing
  • Duct Leak Testing
  • Residential Energy Auditing
  • Residential Heat Gain and Heat Loss Calculation
  • Calculating Indoor Air CFM
  • System Leak Testing and Evacuation
  • System Charging and Start-up (Weigh-in and verify Subcooling/Superheat)
  • Economizer Set-up and Commissioning
  • Building Automation Systems (BAS) Set-up and Commissioning
  • Demand-Controlled Ventilation (DCV) Set-up and Commissioning
  • TEV Metering Device Troubleshooting (Commercial)
  • Outdoor Air Set-up and Commissioning
  • Constant Air Volume, A/C and Heat Pump Systems Set-up and Commissioning
  • Air Economizer Controls
  • Set-up and Commissioning
  • Variable Air Volume Set-up and Commissioning
  • Water Valve Leakage Testing
  • Supply Water Temperature Reset Controls Set-up and Testing
  • Fault Detection & Diagnostics for Packaged DX Units Set-up and Commissioning
  • Hydronic System Variable Flow Control Set-up and Commissioning
  • Variable Refrigerant Flow (Volume) (Coming soon)

Educator Credentialing

Just as a technician looks to certification to prove to employers that they are well-versed in a particular subject, educators can do the same to prove mastery of a topic they are teaching. The HVAC Excellence Educator Credentialing exams do exactly that, prove that an instructor possesses mastery of specific fundamental content areas they will be teaching. This includes a core teaching practice exam as well as optional subject matter areas for further credentialing. 

Programmatic Accreditation 

Since 1999, HVAC Excellence established the national standards for HVAC/R Educational programs and began the process of programmatic accreditation for the HVAC/R industry. This accreditation process identifies educational programs that possess the resources and administrative support to prepare students for entry-level positions in the HVAC/R industry.

Preparing for Exams and Recertification

Depending on the certification you are working towards, the study regiment will look different. Both Student Outcome Assessment certifications and Employment Ready Certifications come at the conclusion of accredited education programs. That means the study material is the course itself and the certification comes along with the conclusion of the program. The other certifications are a bit different and more self reliant when it comes to studying. 

If you are an experienced technician looking for a Professional Technician or Master Specialist Certification, you are a bit more on your own when it comes to study materials. ESCO Group has a Google Drive location that their suggested competency and task list, offering guidance of what materials you should study depending on the certification you are working towards. The rest of the study procedures are up to you. As an experienced technician, these concepts should not be foreign, but it is still on you to either find courses to help your understanding or source other third party study guides and practice exams to prepare for the HVAC Excellence exams. 

In terms of recertification, please check with the issuing institution of the certification. ESCO Group does not list a date at which certification expires, but since many are issued through accredited programs, it is best to check with them on certification expiration dates.