United Nations Environment Programme
Certification is the means by which a person (or enterprise), as a result of training, education, external review and assessment, receives official approval of being able to competently complete a job or task. Certification can be a legal requirement or a measure undertaken voluntarily for professional advantage. Certification schemes which are mandatory by legislation have the advantage of providing a strong incentive for technicians and enterprises to comply.
Certification does not refer to the state of legally being able to practice or work in a profession. That is normally achieved by a licensing. Usually, licences are administered by a governmental entity primarily for public protection purposes and professional associations administer certification schemes. Licencing and certification are similar in that they both require the demonstration of a certain level of knowledge or ability. In the context of refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) servicing, certification is important to verify the competence of the personnel handling both equipment and refrigerants to ensure best practice and prevent leakage of the refrigerants.
The competence of the personnel handling these refrigerants is important both from the environmental perspective (e,g. ozone depletion and climate change - CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs) and for safety reasons (hydrocarbons, ammonia, carbon dioxide, HFOs). It is therefore recommended that only certified technicians should be allowed to install, maintain, repair, recover, and dismantle RAC systems and to purchase refrigerant. Certification can include certification of personnel (servicing technicians, refrigeration craftsmen, etc.), certification of enterprises or companies, or a combination of the two.
In the near future, there will be a considerably higher uptake around the world of alternative refrigerants such as hydrocarbons, ammonia, carbon dioxide, unsaturated hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) –or hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) and HFO mixtures. The RAC industry will have to adapt to both the technical and safety issues concerning these refrigerants. In particular, many of the alternative refrigerants have specific characteristics regarding toxicity, flammability and high pressure which are different from those used previously such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). During the installation, maintenance, repair and dismantling of RAC equipment containing or relying of such alternatives, safety and technical issues need to be carefully evaluated and considered. Certification is the best practical method to verify the competence of personnel handling refrigerants and to ensure the correct installation, maintenance, repair and dismantling of a refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump systems.
This is all the more important when servicing technicians have to deal with refrigerants with properties that they were previously not familiar with, particularly related to safety.