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What is the EPA 608 Universal Certification?

What is the EPA 608 Universal Certification? 1

An HVAC technician needs several certifications to legally perform their job. To work in California as an HVAC technician you must be licensed and hold EPA certification if you want to work with equipment that uses Freon or another type of refrigerant. Any HVAC technician that works with air conditioners or refrigeration systems must hold EPA certification regardless of where they work.

As you look to start your career in HVAC, there are also additional certifications to consider. For example, the North American Technician Excellence certification is one of the strongest credentials an HVAC technician can have. If you are interested in earning your NATE, you should start by getting a thorough education at an accredited HVAC trade school.

One of the most important stages of prep in the HVAC program will involve preparing you for the mandatory EPA 608 Universal Certification.

What Is the EPA 608 Universal Certification?

The EPA 608 Universal Certification for HVAC professionals falls under the Clean Air Act. Under this act, HVAC technicians who work with any type of refrigerant must know how to safely handle, utilize and dispose of the material to limit environmental impact. The Section 608 universal certification never expires, so once you pass, you hold it for life. By earning yours upon graduation, it will continue to serve you throughout your entire career in HVAC.

The EPA 608 Universal certification exam is a proctored test administered by an EPA-approved organization. This ensures that every HVAC technician who sits for the exam is only scored by a credible, neutral third-party.

How Do You Prepare for the EPA 608 Universal Certification?

The best way to prepare for the EPA 608 Universal Certification is to complete an HVAC technician trade school program. By working with experts, you’ll learn what you need to prepare for the exam and all the relevant skills for working in the field.

How Long Is an HVAC Technician Program?

A full-time student can complete their HVAC training in as little as 10 months. With less than a year of studying, you will be fully equipped to work with HVAC equipment, including heaters, furnaces, heat pumps, ductwork, air conditioners and refrigeration systems.

What Do You Learn at an HVAC Trade School?

An HVAC trade school program is built to guide you in a systematic manner. The program progresses from the fundamentals of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning to advance diagnostics and repair techniques. You work one-on-one and in groups with skilled instructors who have all worked in the industry for years.

In addition to factual knowledge, you also get to apply what you learn in a variety of lab exercises. Real HVAC equipment of all types and models are incorporated to ensure you’re ready to handle anything you encounter in the field.

Below you can review a breakdown of the core units and subject material covered in our HVAC technician diploma program.

Air Distribution and Venting

HVAC systems distribute air throughout homes and buildings using ducts, vents, and valves. Air distribution includes the basic principles of ventilation; you learn the difference between low vs. high-pressure air, the basics of air flow throughout homes and commercial properties and how forced-air systems impact air quality and temperature. The ability to recognize the various structural and environmental factors that impact air quality allow an HVAC technician to make more informed decisions for their clients.

Air Conditioning and Maintenance

Air conditioning units must not only draw hot air out of a room but exhaust it outdoors and replace it with cool air. Air conditioning maintenance includes diagnosing for common repairs that an HVAC technician is likely to encounter on the job.

As you learn about the basics of air conditioning technology, you will also explore various types of air conditioners and how their functions differ. With this knowledge, you will be better equipped to work in both small-scale residential homes and large commercial or industrial sites.

Electronics and HVAC Control Circuit Diagnostics

Circuit boards connect to and control many functions of an HVAC unit, including the furnace and air conditioner. The ability to safely work with electrical equipment protects not only you but all of the people whose lives are affected by the HVAC system. In many cases, a faulty control circuit can cause a variety of symptoms in a unit. As an HVAC technician, you will need to work comfortably and efficiently with control circuits and circuit boards to diagnose the source of problems.

Electric Health Monitoring, Metering and Compressors

HVAC metering devices reduce temperature of air and pressure of refrigerant before hot air enters the evaporator. Compressors release refrigerant and use it to cool air before it is distributed to rooms through a ventilation system. The metering device may be a single tube or more complex depending on the scale of the air conditioning unit and HVAC system; you learn how to work with basic capillary tubing as well as more complex thermal expansion valves.

Another element of this unit covers how A/C compressors work, how to do diagnostics and make repairs. When someone’s air conditioning stops working or no longer functions properly, one of the first things an HVAC technician will assess is the connection between the meter, compressor, and evaporator. A methodical protocol is important for an HVAC technician to not lose sight of any issues.

Heat Pump Installation, Maintenance and Repair

Heat pumps are often used instead of propane or oil to operate an HVAC system. These two-piece components are installed outdoors and use electricity to draw hot air from outside and pass it through a refrigerant evaporator. Heat pumps contain a standalone, external compressor and internal unit that transfers the heated or cooled air indoors. People who have mini-split air conditioners rely on heat pumps to cool their homes.

Understanding how heat pumps work and how to repair them is important because they provide greater temperature control to people that live in homes that do not have any ductwork. This makes heat pump air conditioners and heaters more affordable alternatives to homeowners whose properties lack any type of ventilation system.

Refrigerant Handling and Safety Measures


As the primary focus of the EPA 608 Universal Certification, you must master everything there is to know about how to handle refrigerant and safely use it. Refrigerants previously contained harmful pollutants that eroded the ozone layer. Earth’s atmosphere is impacted by everything we do as humans; part of being an HVAC professional is utilizing the latest technologies to ensure that human comfort does not come at the expense of the planet’s health.

Refrigerants can be liquid or gas; they go through transitions as they move through a heat pump or evaporator to rapidly cool warm air. Compressors and evaporators use refrigerant compounds to produce cool air according to a thermostat’s setting. When you take the EPA 608 Universal Certification exam, you must be able to demonstrate your knowledge of refrigerant types, handling procedures and safety disposal protocol.

Refrigeration Principles


In addition to learning how refrigerants should be handled, you also learn how refrigeration works. The science behind refrigeration is not limited to air conditioning units. HVAC/R professionals know how to work with refrigeration systems found in retail establishments, restaurants, and medical settings. As refrigeration systems continually evolve, an HVAC/R technician must be able to step in and make urgent repairs.

An HVAC/R technician that is certified to work with refrigeration systems can even find work exclusively monitoring and optimizing them.

Hydronic, Airside and Balancing Systems

Hydronic technology uses liquid-based heat transference to provide heating and cooling throughout a home or building. Airside balancing helps improve and correct airflow in HVAC systems through a variety of techniques and system optimizations. Knowing how to balance an HVAC system is integral to improving temperature control, increasing comfort, and promoting energy efficiency.

To balance air systems, you must first learn how all the components work together to achieve a desired result. Once you are comfortable working with the various parts of an HVAC system, you can begin learning how to modify them to operate more efficiently.

Energy Codes and Licenses for Regulation

There are many energy codes laid out by the Environmental Protection Act that detail how a professional should operate. There are both local and federal energy codes an HVAC technician should know when they work; the goal is to maximize a system to consume as little energy as possible while providing the best performance for consumers.

Water Treatment and Building Management

HVAC professionals must also understand how water can impact the performance of a system. Scale build-up can lead to malfunction, and bacterial growth in ducts can pose serious health threats to residents and consumers. HVAC water treatment involves knowing how to properly manage and maintain a building’s water system to ensure it is free of any harmful contaminants.

HVAC Certification Preparedness

Certification preparedness includes practice exams and a variety of challenging exercises to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Throughout the course of training, instructors are preparing you to take the exams. Certification preparedness allows you to build confidence and get any personalized attention you need so you are ready on test day.

HVAC Externship

You will participate in an externship to gain real-world HVAC experience. You will also work with licensed HVAC technicians and assistant them in both domestic and commercial settings. Upon graduation, you will be able to list your work experience on your resume and be more comfortable entering the workforce.

Final Thoughts

If you are ready to begin your career in HVAC, we are ready to help. Contact us today to learn more about our HVAC training program so you can go on to pass the EPA 608 Universal certification exam and earn all the certifications you need to work in HVAC.

HVAC Technician Diploma

The HVAC Technician II program has been designed to prepare graduates for entry-level positions as a Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanic and/or Installer through relevant classroom knowledge and hands-on technical skills. Learn in small classrooms or hybrid! Gain hands-on experience and college credits with local employers during a five-week practical externship.

Contact us today to learn more about HVAC technician career opportunities offered at ATA College.

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