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    7-24. Take the EPA exam. - Electronic Edition

    7-24. Take the EPA exam. - Electronic Edition
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     One of the hardest places for a civilian owner-builder to do business is the local mechanical distributor where air conditioning and furnace parts are sold to tradesmen. But it’s possible. The difficulty is that air conditioning systems contain refrigerants with the potential to damage the ozone layer above the earth and hurt our environment.

     You can break the code by taking the test that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administers to certify those who service or dispose of refrigerant. Once certified, you can do business with these HVAC supply houses and buy furnaces, boilers, and air conditioning units directly as the mechanical subcontractors do. Yes, a normal person can take this test, and two owner-builders have called me to say they did so.

     The test is called the E.P.A. Section 608 Certification Exam. It is administered by thousand of mechanical distributors, community colleges, trade schools and government centers. One large testing service called the ESCO Institute offers a training manual and testing through its 6,000 registered proctors nationwide. The proctors are usually mechanical supply houses where you can sit and take the test for a fee on paper or on-line at their computer to get immediate feedback as to the outcome.

     I was able to pick up the $12.95 manual at a nearby ESCO proctor for free by agreeing to take the test for $60. I actually got “bidders” on this, too, as another place wanted $75 to test me. The friendliest place for training and testing I found was the local community college. They had a mechanical trades department with a very knowledgeable director. He gave me a 25-page study guide and 100-question practice test at no charge and said he could answer my questions and administer the test at my convenience for $60. Unlike the mechanical distributors, he didn’t ask what business I was in.

     The first question on the practice test is “Which refrigerants contain the most chlorine?”
A. HCFC’s
B. HFC’s
C. CFC’s
D. Ammonia

     The answer is C. CFC’s. (Chlorofluorocarbons) One O-B said: “It’s about as hard to pass as the written test for your driver’s license.” It could be well worth it, because as Kevin C. found out, you may be able to get your furnace and air conditioning units for 75% off list price.

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