EPA Certification – What It Is, How To Get It

epa certification

EPA Universal Card

One of the most important licenses you can get to make yourself more valuable and marketable as a building engineer is an EPA certification. There are different types or classes of being EPA certified but the highest level, or most desired by employers, is generally the EPA universal certification.

If you have no idea what I am talking about or are even thinking, what the heck is an EPA certification, don’t worry. I’ll try to make this as basic as possible to follow. Being a building engineer requires to you to have some knowledge in several areas. You may be stronger in some, like me and plumbing for example, and weaker in others, like this topic, for me.

When you hear the acronym EPA, you should automatically think Environmental Protection Agency. Let’s just say they govern a lot of things related to our environment. They don’t want it damaged or polluted by people or companies.

When you hear EPA certification, or universal certification, you should think refrigeration – chillers, gases, refrigerants. It turns out that some of the products us humans have used can damage the environment. Who would have thought? Ha ha. For example, some of the refrigerants used in your car a/c unit, home, or the chillers at your work, when released to the atmosphere, can damage the ozone layer. We may get deeper into how all of this happens in another post but for here we are keeping it basic.

To protect the environment, the EPA set up a certification program that requires people that work on refrigerant systems or handle gases have some type or class of EPA license to do so. Having a certain class allows to perform work in that class like small appliances while having a universal certification allows you to work on all of the classes. They are referred to as types by the EPA though. I like using classes.

Along with some form of steam operator license, I would say the EPA universal certification are the two most important licenses a building engineer or facility operator should have in their hot little hands.

What is an EPA Universal Certification?

epa universal certificationAs you just read, the Environmental Protection Agency governs this program. If you want to be more valuable to your employer or make yourself more marketable to other employers you should get an EPA certification applicable to that job. A universal certification is ideal. You can do it all baby! Even if you’d be scared to like me. I mean, I have worked on refrigeration systems before just not enough to be even close to comfortable.

I did a lot more with refrigeration in the Navy than I ever have since and that was almost 20 years ago. There we moved refrigeration around, applied nitrogen blankets after we had evacuated and vacuumed the system. And then at one of my employers one of the roles was the refrigeration guy. Sadly I never got to do it. I was the water treatment guy. That company believed in having their engineers be able to do everything which was awesome. Most companies now hire work like refrigeration out now to contractors like York or Carrier. They are then required to have their guys licensed and trained.


Here is what the EPA says about being able to work on refrigerant systems which would mean you are certified/licensed under their program and up to their standard:

I can’t tell if that’s intimidating or not. It’s not. It may sound daunting I guess but most of the study materials or programs you find will generally guide you through specifically what you need to know to get your certification. I did mine in the military which was nice actually – they made you get it. Being forced to become more valuable. Okay I guess. And thank you. I still use it to this day. This license has been a part of every job interview and employee record everywhere I have worked since the Navy. And just about every other building engineer I have ever worked with, it is pretty important.

Okay you say. You’ve got it. Technicians that work on systems must be certified by the EPA. What’s a technician?

EPA Technician Definition

epa certification program

A high low pressure gauge manifold set.

Here is what the EPA calls a technician under their program:

EPA regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act define a technician as an individual who performs any of the following activities:

  • Attaching and detaching hoses and gauges to and from an appliance to measure pressure within the appliance.
  • Adding refrigerant to or removing refrigerant from an appliance.
  • Any other activity that violates the integrity of a motor vehicle air conditioner (MVAC)-like appliance or small appliance other than disposal.
  • Apprentices are exempt from certification requirements provided they are closely and continually supervised by a certified technician.

Types of Section 608 Technician Certification

So if you have the universal, that means you passed all of the different sections of the EPA test, the types. You pass all the types, you are universally certified to work on all of them despite what you may actually know, like me. Well what are the different types you are asking, I can hear you.

The EPA has developed four types of certification. The tests for each of these certification types cover different topics. Here are the four types:

  • For servicing small appliances – Type I.
  • For servicing or disposing of high or very high pressure appliances, except small appliances and MVACs – Type II.
  • For servicing or disposing of low pressure appliances – Type III.
  • For servicing all types of equipment – Universal.

Here are just some brief ideas of what you can expect in each type, obviously not all inclusive.

Type 1 – Small Appliances

  • Recovery requirements.
  • Definition of small appliance.
  • Evacuation requirements for small appliances with and without working compressors.
  • Use of pressure and temperature to identify refrigerants and detect non-condensables.
  • Need to install both high and low side access valves.
  • Need to operate operative compressors with a system-dependent or passive recovery device.
  • Decomposition products of refrigerants at high temperatures.
epa universal

A basic chiller plant.

Type 2 – High Pressure

  • Leak detection.
  • Leak repair requirements.
  • Recovery techniques.
  • Recovery requirements.
  • Disposal.
  • Major versus non-major repairs.
  • Leaky versus non-leaky appliances.
  • Refrigeration.
  • Safety.

Type 3 – Low Pressure

  • Leak Detection.
  • Recovery Techniques.
  • Recharging Techniques.
  • Recovery Requirements.
  • Disposal.
  • Major versus non-major repairs.
  • Leaky versus non-leaky appliances.
  • Refrigeration.
  • Safety.

Core – needed for universal:

  • Ozone Depletion.
  • Clean Air Act and Montreal Protocol.
  • Section 608 Regulations.
  • Refrigeration.
  • Recovery Techniques.
  • Dehydration Evacuation.
  • Safety.
  • Shipping.


You should now all be well versed at least in what the EPA universal certification program is. It has been mentioned a few times in this post about how crucial having this license could be in regards to you landing a job or maybe getting a raise for having it.

If you have any questions or comments, suggestions, let me know somehow. There should be a comment option somewhere or email. Something. Here are a couple links to the EPA site that you may find helpful on your quest.

Here is the main page:

A link to the types:

And finally, a link to the programs:

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