Every five years heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE) must pass an exam to retain their certification. So it was not unusual for John Hall, first certified in 1999, to take a recertification exam last month. What was unusual is Hall’s age. The owner of Hall’s Electric in Gulfport, Miss., is 84 years old.
According to Hall, the HVACR industry has undergone tremendous change during his lifetime. “Probably the biggest change is the move from mechanical parts and controls to digital and electronic controls,” said Hall. “And with that, equipment has become much more energy efficient than it used to be.”
Keeping up with those and so many other changes has not been difficult for Hall. “I subscribe to several trade publications, and buy and read quite a few books on the subject,” said Hall. “On top of that, I’m busy practicing my trade every day as I service my customers. I have to keep up with changes so that I can recommend equipment, and then install and service it.”
For those same reasons, Hall said he really did not need to study for his recertification exam. “That’s saying a lot,” said Phil Tapp, manager of the Johnstone Supply store in Gulfport and proctor for the exam. “The exam is a lengthy test that includes core questions that require a technician to know the material inside and out. It’s not an easy test, but one designed to show that a technician is an expert in his or her field. It’s quite impressive that John continues to take and pass the test.”
The first time Hall took the exam, he was required to do so by Mississippi Power. Today, he takes the recertification exam so that he can remain a Carrier authorized factory dealer. But Hall is quick to add that he would take the exam even if it was not required. “First of all, I like to see what I can achieve,” he said. “But just as importantly, I think the NATE certification is important for the technician and for the consumer. The exam makes sure that the technician knows what it is he needs to know to do his job well and keeps him knowledgeable on all the changes in the industry.
“At the same time, the customer or homeowner knows he is getting a well-trained technician to service his equipment, which probably means he is saving money in the long run because it is less likely mistakes will be made. So, as a business owner, it makes sense for me to keep up my certification.”
In fact, according to survey results by Service Round Table, professional contractors who employ North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certified technicians may see each of those technicians bring more than $10,000 in value to their company each year. This can be attributed to fewer call-backs, less warranty work and a greater ability to educate consumers about better options.
A second survey by Decision Analyst further confirmed more than two-thirds of contractor firms employing NATE-certified technicians believe these certified techs give them an edge in both marketing and customer relations. Beyond that, 78 percent of respondents either agreed somewhat or strongly agreed that their NATE-certified technicians give their firm a competitive advantage over the competition, and, perhaps, most important, 66 percent believe their customers responded positively to, and because of, their NATE-certified technicians.
Candidates for NATE certification can earn installation and/or service certification in the following areas: air-conditioning, air distribution, heat pumps, gas heating, oil heating, hydronic gas, hydronic oil, and commercial, light commercial refrigeration and senior efficiency analyst. NATE-approved testing organizations are located throughout the U.S. and Canada. To find a testing organization near you, visit www.natex.org/HVAC_HVACR/testing_findtest.asp.
Consumers interested in locating a NATE-certified contractor can visit www.HVACRAdvice.com. Using the Web site’s contractor locator, homeowners can enter their zip code and find local companies that employ NATE-certified technicians. To participate in the contractor locator, a contractor must have 50 percent of his or her technicians NATE-certified.