If you’re an HVAC technician with 2+ years of experience, obtaining a NATE certification can help boost your resume and advance your career.
Being NATE certified shows your employer, clients, and peers the depth of your knowledge and expertise.
More about NATE & the NATE Certification
North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is the nation's largest nonprofit certification organization for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians. You can obtain a wide variety of NATE HVAC certifications to demonstrate your knowledge and skills in different specialty areas.
NATE offers its primary certification (confusingly named the 'NATE certification') to technicians with 2+ years of experience but they also have others for those with less or more experience, such as the HVAC Support Technician certification and the Ready to Work certification.
NATE also offers specialized professional certification exams for technicians with more than two years of experience, such as the Ground Source Heat Pump Loop Installer certification, Low-GWP Refrigerants certification, and HVAC Performance Verifier.
Two ways to get your NATE Certification
To obtain your NATE certification, there are two pathways: Traditional and CHP-5.
The Traditional path includes taking two exams, a Core exam and one Specialty exam. You can learn more about the NATE Certification through the Traditional pathway here.
The second pathway, and the focus of this guide, is called the Certified HVAC Professional (CHP-5) Exam. This pathway includes five specialty areas: HVAC Fundamentals, Electrical and Controls, Comfort and Airflow, Installation, and Service.
What's required for the CHP-5 Pathway of the NATE Certification
The Certified HVAC Professional (CHP-5) is a newer pathway focused more on topics that are relevant to work you’ll actually do on jobs as compared to the Traditional pathway.
The CHP-5 pathway consists of five 30-question exams instead of the Traditional pathway which requires a 50-question Core exam and a 100-question Specialty exam. If you think the Traditional pathway seems more appropriate for you, rest assured that it will not be replaced by the CHP-5 anytime soon.
Each exam has a one-hour time limit. While NATE recommends taking them in the default order, you’re allowed to take them however you prefer.
Candidates can take up to 6 months between each exam to study and prepare. The idea is to group the content more intuitively. You may find the complete list of topics in the document library.
Here’s more about each of the NATE CHP-5 exams:
1) HVAC Fundamentals
The HVAC Fundamentals section covers basic safety, construction techniques, tools, basic science and heat transfer, and codes and regulations.
The safety questions may ask about proper personal protection equipment (PPE), warning symbols, safety around moving machinery, and safety around electrical equipment.
The questions about construction techniques will ask you about basic materials, layout, and structural components. These questions may also ask you how to read plans and specifications.
Tool topics may include how to read and scale construction drawings, what type of fabrication tools you may need and how to use them, and different types of fasteners and lubricants.
Some basic science and heat transfer questions may include understanding material properties; math concepts like arithmetic, algebra, and geometry; pressure measurements; gas laws; and the refrigeration cycle.
In the codes and references questions, you may be asked about mechanical code requirements, electrical code requirements, state and local regulations, fire protection regulations, and industry standards, such as AHRI.
The Service section covers items you would encounter while servicing equipment, including planned maintenance and diagnosing equipment problems. The diagnostic component is much larger than the planned maintenance section due to the large variety of issues you can encounter.
Some examples of planned maintenance topics may include filter changes, lubrication, coil care, and performance checks.
Diagnostic questions may cover high utility bills, gas combustion problems, replacing coils or fans, noise problems, or customer temperature complaints.
If you have been working in the industry for the required two years as a service technician, this section should cover much of the day-to-day work you may have experienced.
The Installation exam will test your knowledge of installing all equipment and components for a fully functional HVAC system. This will include fabricating copper tubing, correctly installing a wide range of equipment, connecting utilities, installing ductwork and piping, evacuating and charging refrigerant systems, retrofitting, and start-up and checkout of the system.
If you have been working in the industry for the required two years as an installation technician, this section should cover much of the day-to-day work you may experience as an installation technician.
4) Electrical & Controls
The Electrical & Controls section covers electrical science fundamentals, basic electricity, wiring layouts, troubleshooting electrical problems, and controls.
Electrical science fundamentals cover basic terms and concepts, like simple circuit analysis and transformer distribution.
With the basic electricity questions, you may be asked how to read wiring, pictorial, and ladder diagrams; how different motor types work; and understand basic wiring and electrical components.
In the troubleshooting questions, you will be asked about how electrical components may impact the HVAC system. This may include voltage and current tests, testing individual electrical components, and understanding relays and contactors.
With controls questions, you may be asked how to install thermostats, how pressure controls work, what the purpose of relays or contactors is, and what gas valve controls are.
5) Comfort & Airflow
In the Comfort & Airflow section, you will be asked questions about maintaining a comfortable indoor environment, taking temperature and humidity measurements, and understanding airflow and air balancing.
For questions related to comfort, you may be asked about the role of temperature and humidity in comfort, how to maintain indoor air quality, the fundamentals of sound, and install humidifiers.
Questions covering temperature and humidity measurements may ask about sensible and latent heat, thermometers, psychrometers, and enthalpy. Make sure you know how to read and use a psychrometric chart!
With airflow questions, topics may include using different airflow and pressure measuring tools, calibrating equipment, and getting accurate readings.
In air balancing, you will be asked how to understand the system's design; locate grilles, diffusers, and thermostats for testing; set dampers; conduct air tests; and adjust dampers to reach the desired system balance.
How to get your NATE Certification through the CHP-5 Pathway
Obtaining your NATE certification through the CHP-5 pathway only takes a few simple steps. However, the most challenging part is gaining the required years of experience and studying for the exam.
Follow these simple steps to get your NATE certification through the CHP-5 pathway:
- Gain your two years of experience working as a service or installation HVAC technician.
- Register for a myNate account through the NATE website.
- Gather all your references and study materials for your exam.
- Study for each of your exams (all at once or before each exam separately).
- Take a training class (if desired), like the NATE Training Academy.
- Once you’re ready, choose whether you wish to take an online proctored exam or an in-person exam.
- Register for your exams (either all at once or one at a time).
- Take your exams!
How to find help preparing for the NATE CHP-5 exams
Because obtaining your NATE certification is widely recognized, there are plenty of resources to help you prepare, including NATE itself and third-party resources.
NATE recognizes many training providers who can help you study on your own with study guides and practice tests, or you can attend the NATE Training Academy.
NATE-recognized training providers
NATE-recognized training providers are not officially a part of NATE, but NATE has recognized that their materials meet the standards of NATE materials.
You can find a list of NATE-certified training providers here. You can also reach out to your local NATE exam provider to see if they offer a course. Since these providers are certified by NATE, you can trust they will cover all the relevant material.
NATE Training Academy
The NATE Training Academy offers courses specifically for technicians that want to prepare for their exams under the CHP-5 pathway. However, the materials could also be helpful for the Traditional pathway.
There are individual courses that cover each of the CHP-5 exam subjects. You can sign up for a course in your myNate account.
So, you've taken the exam. Now what?
Depending on how you took your exam, you may get your results instantly or you may have to wait.
When taking the NATE exams online, once you submit your answers, the program will score your exam to provide the results immediately.
When taking the in-person paper exam, the exam provider has to mail your exam to NATE for scoring. Your results will be posted to your myNate account online within 2-3 weeks.
NATE will mail you your official NATE certification once you pass your exams. However, as soon as you pass, you can add your NATE certification to your resume or LinkedIn profile.
You may also let your current employer know that you got your certification. Your NATE certification demonstrates to your employer, clients, and peers that you are a highly qualified HVAC technician and could lead to new opportunities or better pay as an HVAC technician.
Do not worry if you do not pass the first time. Instead, take some time to reevaluate your skills and prepare to retake the exams. NATE provides a detailed score report showing the percentage of questions you got right for each exam subject to help you focus your study and prep for retaking the exams.
Maintaining your NATE Certification
Your NATE certification must be maintained after you pass, which requires renewing every 2 years.
You will need to earn 16 hours of continuing education (CEHs) through those two years and pay a $25 renewal fee before your expiration date. You can find CEH courses for free or for a small fee online or through your local NATE exam provider.
There is a grace period of 120-days to renew if you miss your expiration date. However, if your certificate expires, you will have to undergo the certification process again, including retaking your exams.
Traditional Pathway vs. CHP-5 for NATE Certification
The CHP-5 is a new NATE certification pathway meant to better incorporate the experience you gain while working on the job. Even though the Traditional pathway may be the original method of obtaining your NATE certification, the new CHP-5 pathway is just as prestigious.
Because the two pathways have different structures and a different number of exams, you may prefer one option over the other. For example, some prefer a fewer number of longer exams, while others prefer more shorter exams. Review the subjects and structure of each pathway to decide whether the Traditional or CHP-5 pathway is right for you.