Air conditioning systems are a vital aspect of comfortable living, especially in the GCC region, where the climate can be scorching hot. However, to ensure that these systems are operating at their optimal level, it is imperative to have trained and certified technicians to perform installation, maintenance and service.
Regrettably, unlike in some other countries, there are no regulations or requirements in this region mandating that technicians be trained or certified. The importance of having trained technicians for air conditioning cannot be overstated. How do you know that the technicians you are using are properly trained to handle today’s technologically advanced HVAC equipment or, for that matter, refrigeration equipment? Without a properly trained technician, the installed equipment may never achieve its rated performance.
One of the most critical aspects of air conditioning maintenance and service, for instance, is the handling of refrigerants. Trained technicians are able to properly handle refrigerants, reduce leakage and capture them properly, which not only protects the environment but also helps to avoid costly repairs. Contaminated refrigerants also significantly reduce equipment performance. With the new global environmental regulations requiring the switch to low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants, most of which are classified by ASHRAE as mildly flammable, trained technicians will be even more vital to ensure their safe handling. In addition, such technicians are trained to work safely and to follow industry standards and regulations.
Another important aspect of air conditioning maintenance and service is the brazing of piping. Trained technicians are able to properly braze the piping and ensure that it is leak-free, which is essential for the proper functioning of the system. Insufficient or incorrect refrigerant charges will drastically affect the equipment’s rated capacity and efficiency. Improper charging is a very common issue with unlicensed or poorly trained technicians, and it causes the equipment to consume more power, run longer and break down more readily.
Properly trained and certified technicians have the knowledge and skills to perform maintenance and service on air conditioning systems, which can reduce the cost of installation, repair and service or of replacement parts for all stakeholders, including manufacturers, dealers, contractors, owners and end-users. They can also reduce the time and problems associated with installation. These technicians understand the intricacies of the different types of systems and can troubleshoot problems and make repairs quickly and efficiently. Manufacturers and distributors that certify their technicians often report drastic reductions in their warranty and replacement part costs.
The North American Technician Excellence (NATE), created by AHRI more than 25 years ago, is one of the largest non-profit certification organisations for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians. Its training materials and exams afford technicians real- world working knowledge of HVACR systems and validate their professional competency in equipment service and installation. The training and certification, with a nominal material and exam fee, can cover the basics of HVACR and expand to advanced and specialised areas and levels. Technicians are required to maintain their certification with continuous education to ensure that they stay up-to-date.
In today’s digital age, when products are becoming more advanced and complex, with sophisticated system controls and motors, the importance of HVACR technician training has become more critical than ever before. As customers become more educated, they ask more detailed questions and have higher service standards. To ensure that technicians are equipped with the latest knowledge and skills to meet these demands, many manufacturers and contractors in this region are starting to require ongoing training for their technicians. The good news is that advancements in technology have made it easier for technicians to access remote training, online resources and virtual reality to stay current with the latest developments in the HVACR industry. This makes it more convenient for them to stay on top of the latest products, techniques and best practices.
Another important factor to consider when discussing HVACR technician training is compensation. In the MENA region, the average salary for HVACR technicians is relatively low compared to other developed countries. Offering higher pay to certified technicians or sponsoring paid training/certification can motivate them to pursue training and certification, which can help them advance in their careers. This increased incentive can lead to a better- trained workforce, overall, helping to attract and retain top talent in the industry.
Another key factor that is worth mentioning is the importance of having proper equipment and tools to support the work of HVACR technicians. Providing technicians with the right equipment makes them better equipped to perform their job, which in turn helps ensure that the systems they work on are installed and maintained correctly. Proper equipment also helps to ensure that technicians are able to work safely, and that they are able to diagnose and troubleshoot problems effectively. Investing in the right equipment is essential for ensuring that technicians are able to deliver high-quality service and meet the needs of customers.
Simply put, having properly trained and certified technicians for air conditioning and refrigeration installation, maintenance and service is crucial for proper functioning, reduction of costs and environmental protection. The lack of regulations or requirements mandating technician training and certification in the GCC region is a concern, and organisations like NATE can provide valuable training and certification opportunities for technicians. Do not just take the word of technicians or providers with respect to competence. Instead, ask for or have them trained, tested and certified. Investing in the training and certification of technicians is a wise decision that will yield benefits in the long run for all stakeholders.
The writer is International Technical Director at AHRI MENA. He may be reached at NShahin@ahrinet.org