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NABCEP Questions

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Member Posts: 304
Nabcep is less than a week a way.

Here was of one questions that stumped me:

If an installer is piping a SHW system what type of piping should he use?

a) galvanized pipe

b) black iron pipe

c) CPVC

d) PEX

CPVC has only 200* limit

No on PEX

That leaves Black Iron or Galvanized.

What would you chose? (Jeopardy music playing)

• Member Posts: 5,853
edited March 2011
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e) None of the above...

What the hell kind of question is that? Who are the people that are writing this test?

NO WONDER so many people are dis-satisfied with this organization.

I know, they want the answer that is least wrong, but still. This is bull crap in my professional opinion.

Government at its finest.

If those were my ONLY choices, I'd use black, because galvy pipe is going to wreak havoc with circulation due to galvanic corrosion. Where's copper??

EDIT, I removed the use of the word moron, substituted people....

ME

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• Member Posts: 2,666
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I hate it when the writer of the question does not know the subject matter.

When I was in high school, I had a really good physics teacher and I learned a lot. Then I had to take a college board exam that had physics questions in it. It presented two figures and asked which one was correct. The situation was a railroad track that went around a curve. The train in one figure was off the track on the outside of the curve. The figure on the other side had the train on the inside of the curve. Now you have to make a lot of assumptions to get the correct answer. Assume the terrain is flat and the tracks are not superelevated and in good condition. That is three assumptions. Assume there is only one locomotive or that they are all at the front. Assume the train is not "too heavy. In that case, the train was probably going too fast and it was thrown off on the outside of the curve.

Another way to derail the train would be to put the brakes on in Emergency. The braking starts at the front of the train and only later do the brakes go on on cars farther back. In that case the cars farther back could push the cars and they would fall off, but more likely make a mess, rather than have them all go off on just one side.

This could also be the case if the locomotive was at the rear of the train and pushing too hard to get up a hill, although it could result in a hodge-podge of cars instead.

Alternatively, if the train was too heavy and the engineer applied too much power, or if the rear brakes stuck or hadn't released yet, then the locomotive could have pulled the train straight and derailed it on the inside of the curve.

So new you have to estimate just how much the writer or grader of the test knows about railroad. If he did not know much, pick the derailed train on the outside of the track (that's what I did). But if he knew a lot about railroading, you are up the creek.
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Mark

Black Iron was my response when I took the test last year. I have no idea if it was wrong or right, but I received 67% on the test and needed 75%. That is the reason I posted this. If you have not taking this test before you have no idea of what your getting into.

More to come.
• Member Posts: 5,853
edited March 2011
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I know some VERY intelligent people who work with this stuff daily that have had to take this test NUMEROUS times before they passed, hence my comments.

Some people that write these tests get their jollies by tripping people up. In reality, they have NO formal field training in the given industries that they are writing the test for. They just want as many people to flunk as they can. Makes one wonder if these bureaucrats aren't getting a commission on the test fees, because it is my understanding that they charge you for each test you take, no?

I think it is time for a congressional investigation. They're not doing anything else worthwhile...

I assume you've seen this.

ME

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• Member Posts: 41
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Nabcep testing

Actually, I know the names of some of the people on the test committee - they're all solar pros.  They are trying to trick you.  No professional would use those materials for piping as first choice.  But there is one that you COULD use (black pipe - actually, if you're doing a drainback, you could use cpvc and pex also because the high temp storage limit on drainback controls keeps your return from collector temps lower than the cpvc (220) and pex (200) ratings.  But glycol systems could ONLY use black pipe.  In fact, glycol & galvanized pipe are the worst choice because glycol reacts with galvanized pipe.  So, too (as we all know) would the temp limits of the plastic pipes make them bad contenders for glycol systems.  Do you know of drainback systems where the htf from the collectors is 200 or greater?
• Member Posts: 5,853
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I guess I'd disagree on many fronts...

If it is an open drain back system, it is going to be subjected to significant amounts of oxygen, and will cause issues with oxidation. Rust never sleeps...

As for the use of plastic in ANY kind of solar loop, absotively, posilutely NEVER in MY book. Too many potential "issues", the least of which are stagnation (300+ degrees F).

I learned most of my solar education the hard way, back when there were no rules. Used PVC for the interface piping on a solar heated hot tub. Ever seen PVC spaghetti? It is U G L Y and emberrassing.

I realized after I called them morons, that it was a mistake and bad choice of words, hence the EDIT on my post. Why do they WANT people to fail this test?

I know some VERY respectable people who have had to take this test numerous times before they passed, and I'd trust them with my life. Tough is one thing. Really stupid is another. If you're going to ask inane/ambiguous questions, at least give enough parameters to the point that the answers at least make SOME sense. Otherwise, the answer is nothing more than a W.A.G.

Did you pass the test the first time around? I've never had occasion to take it, but based on what I've seen, I'd probably have to take it again as well.

Does this organization even have something that resembles a recognized code book on ST installations? I'd be MORE than glad to debate with them on this subject here if you can get them to come here, as I am sure others would as well.

JMHO, open to discussion.

ME

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• Member Posts: 304
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the button with your comments. The PV from what I have seen is much more straight forward than the solar thermal.

I think it will take people of your standing and the likes of HotRod, Siggy to speak out against this so-called test to have it changed. There is so many installers like myself who will not be listened to and can be ignored. Even though I have been doing solar thermal for over 5 years with some great people, I felt lost on that test.

Thanks Mark for you input

I will post more questions that I remember for those who care in the next few days.
• Member Posts: 5,853
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Not that easy ...

I do instruction services for the local state solar organization, and when I attempted to get in contact with them to see what I needed to do to get my hydronic/radiant solar interface classes NABCEP certified, but they wouldn't even give me the courtesy of a return phone call. This has all the appearances of a PV dominated, blatantly biased, arrogant organization. ST is considered a red headed freckle faced step child with no significant subsidization. Funny, because solar thermal is ONLY 60+ percent efficient, versus PV at 20%?? What's wrong with THAT picture?

I hope I am totally wrong and completely off base, but my thoughts and considerations have been paralleled by other well qualified hydronic heating instructors from across the country.

I'd LOVE to have them prove me wrong.

I think this country needs a good comprehensive ST code and training/certification organization, but I'm not convinced that NABCEP is the right organization for the job. I'm not impressed so far. I can be made to change my mind, if they are willing to invest some time in responding to my charges, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

ME

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• Member Posts: 18
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NABCEP Organization

The organization only consist of three people and groups of volunteers.  How can an organization with such limited resources represent both the PV and ST industries fairly when one industry has taxpayer subsidized lobbyist?

I have had issues with my re-certification but once I contacted the NABCEP office things fell into place.  I have offered to volunteer my time with shaping the ST policy of NABCEP but have not heard anything from them and I do not have the time to persue it.  The desk jockey's end up taking the volunteer spots because they have the time and the field guys have to answer to these "people". Until the laws change to reward performance of any renewable energy systems, the agenda will be set by those with the most tax funds.

At the ISH this year I learned of the 20 year contracts that German renewable producers receive through the Renewable Energy Sources Act.  Until we have feed-in tariff's, the marketplace will be inconsistent, in all sectors of renewables.  The issues with NABCEP or any renewable organization, are just a symptom of short term thinking.

I'd vote black iron.
• Member Posts: 304
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Oil Oil Oil!

That is why there is no funding for SHW. Plan and simple. Maybe one other reason is we need the PV to feed our ever growing need of electronics and gadgets. Humans need to simplify.
• Member Posts: 304
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NABCEP Questions

I agree that they are under staffed, but where is all the money going. These test are not cheap as you know. \$300.00 a pop! I agree with Mark that maybe some other organization should take over for SHW. Especially people that have the know how in hydronics and solar thermal.

Black Iron it is.

Michael
• Member Posts: 22,266
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NABCEP

I think their intent is good.

It would be nice to have several groups that offer certification. The pipefitters unions come to mind.

Same for collector certification.

As I look at the list of certified ST installers on their website I wonder how many actually pick up the tools and do installations? Seems some, maybe many are engineers and company owners not the actual on the roof installers?

The test should reflect the ability to work with the tools and know the pipefitting and electrical "arts" But I understand the logistics of testing that side of the installation.

Certainly knowing the theory, sizing, and codes is important, maybe a designer and installer certification should be developed.

Regardless I not convinced "trick" or multiple correct answer, questions serve a true purpose for the "wrench turners" especially when the selection are specific to locations or local conditions.

I'd like to see the swimming pool solar be an additional certification also, and beef up the ST test to cover closed loop, drainbacks and up to date controls and components, not just the "pre-war" hydronics/ solar stuff they test on

hr
Bob "hot rod" Rohr
trainer for Caleffi NA
Living the hydronic dream
• Member Posts: 1
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NABCEP Test question

Exam questions are NOT meant to educate or trick. The minimally qualified person taking an exam is presented questions and with the knowledge they have are able to deduce the best possible answer.

I will say there are now at least two systems in the market that are using PEX pipe and have been certified. So I guess Mark is not as informed as he thinks he is....

The subject of this string is about the proper pipe and while the answer is clear to me Mark has issues with NABCEP and not the specific question Michael raised. I presume the intent of this web site is for Heating Help not rants about issues not related to the question posed - Mark and JBD why don't you find another place to direct your rant and let professionals help those asking us for assistance? Please.
• Member Posts: 22,266
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But SolarDell

the folks taking and failing this test are for the most part experienced solar installers with 10, 20, 30 or more years of actual hands on installation experience. All I have spoken with have gone through manufacturers training classes specific to solar thermal and code compliance.

I'd rather that person install a system on my house then someone fresh out of school, or desk bound, with little or no hands on experience, but with great memorization skill that are needed to past this test.

If I need design and number crunching skills I call an engineer, but I prefer a plumber or HVAC tech for the wrench turning. Granted there are P.E.s with wrench turning skills, no slam intended to them.

A similar thing happens when lawmakers and attorneys start writing codes and tests for the trades.

Memorizing formulas and specs on ladders and fire extinguishers is a nice concept, but the lack of memorization or testing skills to retain that info should not cause a qualified, experienced installer, plumber etc to not get certified.

I think the number of certified solar thermal contractors under this program bears out this fact.

hr
Bob "hot rod" Rohr
trainer for Caleffi NA
Living the hydronic dream
• Member Posts: 18
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NABCEP

The use of PEX tubing is not a good idea for FP or evac. tubes.  The only system that I'm aware of that uses PEX is not a true solar thermal collector but a cooling method for the PV modules, mounted on the roof above.

The test should be about "best practices" not about exceptions to the rule.  The committee that determines the solar thermal focus should have a balance between desk jockey's and the wrench turner's, focus on modern installation and troubleshooting techniques, and write only right or wrong questions.

Please see the attached photo of what a real solar collector does to PEX.
• Member Posts: 5,853
edited March 2011
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Well Dell...

I didn't say that there weren't systems with PEX that weren't approved. I said based on my 36 years worth of field experience that I would NOT allow plastic tubing of ANY sort in MY system.

You're right, I have issues with NABCEP, and it's not like I didn't try and reach out to them. Numerous times, to no avail. But I also have issues with the nature of theirs and other amiguous questions, and organizations that pride themselves in their testing failure rate. Not just NABCEP, but other organizations (RPA) that use those tactics as well.

Combination potable water/radiant floor heating systems are approved under the code as well, but you won't catch me putting one in... Just because it's "certified" doesn't mean its the right thing to do. And time WILL prove that out.

Are you an employee of NABCEP, or a testing proctor for NABCEP?

And as for me going away, stand there and hold your breath.....

As long as I am a licensed master plumber, and the subject has to do with heat and water, I am not going to go away. Regardless of your wishes. :-)

ME

PS, I've checked. You've never posted in this or any other forum on this site before. Unless you are posting now under an assumed alias...

Lead, follow or get out of the way, but don't just drop in at your convenience, chastise and run.

ME

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• Member Posts: 304
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Rant and rave and whatever else

Thank you Dan for this site.

It's great for education of all levels of human info. Rants and Raves are included like or not folks.

You can't make a change in this world with your head stuck in the sand or else where. Conformity is like convenience it kills.....

HR and Mark thank you for your input. Now lets get it to the hands that may change things.
• Member Posts: 139
edited March 2011
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Nabcep

First, I think someone ought to mention that NABCEP has nothing to do with any government agency as far as I've been able to determine.   there may be some grant funding and such, but what serious organization doesn't persue any available funding?

I'm in the group, as is another on this thread, that spent several days developing the new task analysis for the ST test.   the consensus on the NABCEP ST installer test is to judge the ability of an installer in the field to make good choices in the field.  I'll just say that it is not a test of engineering capability or system design, just good practice in the field, which is a seriously different skill set.    It's not a test of your plumbing code knowlege, which varies pretty widely from AHJ to AHJ, never mind state to state.  NEC makes the PV world pretty uniform, with some variances.

I took the test 3 years ago, and heard all the griping about trick questions and all, and I didn't find anything there tricky or outside basic physics, math, common sense, and knowing some slightly oddball technical details specific to solar thermal.   and I did better on that test than i did on any test before or since.

that said, I know there is a large pool of questions, and there may be some that are confusing to some people (you can please some of the people some of the time, etc.)

honestly If I found a question confusing, i came back to it again and tried not to overthink it.

as far as the specific question: absolutely there are cases where black iron would not work, but it's the least worst answer.  show me a test where there is never a question that is a least worst answer.  or a good and better answer.

I respect the expertise of the ranters on this thread, but they also should keep in mind that their job/profession is doing, not analyzing educational priorities and testing methods and such.

I've been an installer for 10 years, NABCEP certified for 3, wrench turner for 20 and business owner for 5, MREA Instructor for 3 and tech college instructor for 2.

My time is split between desk when it needs to be done and field when I can possibly justify being in the field.

we all bring something valuable to this discussion and the wall, and I'd like to see it remain a place for positive discussion and the occasional "what the hell??" photo.

Is that question from a practice test or what? post again after the test and let us know what you think.

I've said my piece and won't be coming back to this thread.  or I don't plan to.

Karl

PS:  I Know Solardell and he's been in the ST industry longer than I've been alive.
• Member Posts: 5,853
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Thanks Karl...

I respect and appreciate ALL of your input. You obviously know what you're doing.

As it pertains to tests, taking and writing, I have significant experience in both fields. Hence my concerns. I extended my offer to NABCEP to help further the organization, but they have not responded. I guess it is what it is, and I guess people will just have to deal with it.

My offer stands, but based on previous experience, I don't think I will be hearing from them.

Fortunately for me, I no longer do installations, hence I don't have to worry about taking the test. However, I do instruct the solar contractors about the correct ways of interfacing their ST systems with the hydronic heating systems in the field, so I do still have a vested interest in seeing things done right, regardless of which side of the storage tank the work is being done on.

Sorry if I offended anyone with my "rant". No shortage of words or opinions here... ;-)

Let us know how you make out on the second test michael.

ME

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• Member Posts: 5,853
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Further research..

Solar Dell (Dell Jones) has a dog in this fight, and understandably so. He sits on the Board of DIrectors for NABCEP. Fair enough.

All bickering aside, if I were sitting on ANY B.O.D., and it was brought to my attention that there is dissention and or dis-satisfaction within the ranks, I think I'd want to be aware of it and at least make an effort to reach out and correct it.

With all due respect, I too have a dog in this fight, because your NABCEP certified installers will be attempting to interface their systems with the hydronic heating systems of the world, and it is CRITICAL that they be done correctly, or all of you efforts are for naught. And your industry, once again, may end up as a smoldering heap, as it was during the first round (70's and 80's, which I think some of us old timers remember) which is not good for either of our organizations.

I appreciate Mr. Jones contributions to the industry as a whole (been at it for a longtime) and will continue to extend my hand (and 36 years of hydronic experience) and offer to help move BOTH industries forward.

Sincerely,

ME

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• Member Posts: 304
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after the test

I feel that I did much better on this test than the last one I took a year and half ago, the main reason being that I knew what to expect. It seems that there have been some changes made to SHW NABCEP test. This is an improvement. I studied my **** off once again and have no complaints about it. These last two times I studied for the test I learned a few things I did not know and I love that. I do feel I passed the test. I answered about 60 questions without much problem and there were 8 or 10 I had to keep going back to. I realized a pattern was being used and once I figured that out I knew how to answer the remaining questions.

Karl and SolarDell,

The one thing I would like to see changed are the sample questions in the Solar Thermal Study guide and the guide itself. The sample questions are very misleading to what the test really is. Those questions in the study guide are rudimentary and do not even come close to what the questions are on the exam. I stay this with deep respect. I love the idea of the test and what it stands for, but at the same time I believe we all need to be on the same page to make "our" industry more credible. It's great to have a test that makes you think (which it did) and problem solve. I truly enjoy that. But people need to know what they're getting into. This test, as you know is very expensive. My company does not pay for the test. It comes out of pocket. Two tests add up. I understand the cost. The cost will attract serious minded people only and I am fine with that. In that case,there is a responsibility of the test giver to give proper information to the candidate to succeed. If that candidate does not use the tools shame on him/her!

I have been extremely fortunate to learn from some great solar thermal people (Bristol Stickney and Joe Annon) while in New Mexico and have made some ties with others (HR and folks here on the wall). I have almost six years in solar thermal and over three in PV. I am young to the industry (but not young of age), but I've been a tree hugger since my youth. Doing solar beats being peppered sprayed any day.

As for the ranting, I believe if people really don't care about something, they don't say anything. When I hear people rant usually I think they care. I know that is not always the case, but I feel that in this instance it is. If you don't care about what you're doing, don't do it. I am blessed because I believe in and love what I do for a "living."

I have fixed some half **** SHW systems in the last 5 plus years and it pisses me off to see that crap. I think the reasons for these types of systems are lack of education and the quick buck. Hopefully we can help with the education part, with this forum, NABCEP, general rules and guidelines established. For all of us that care, I would hope that means we work together.

Thank you for all the input on this thread and once again Dan thank you for this forum.

Michael

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• Member Posts: 26
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Feeling pretty bummed

I spoke with the folks at NABCEP yesterday and was told that despite my engineering degree, despite my 15 years as a pipefitter and 7 years as a mechanical contracting company owner with numerous commercial and industrial heating and a/c systems installed, despite my partnerships with top notch licensed master plumbers, despite my having been trained by Buderus and sat through numerous amazingly helpful Caleffi webinars conducted by Hot Rod, I do not qualify to sit for the certified installers exam..... Because I don't have (2) actual solar thermal installs done under my name.

I have had a real tough time selling solar thermal systems over the past two years up here in NYC. I try my ol' heart out. I promote the heck out of these things because I believe in them. The economy hasn't helped either. I thought an additional selling point would be certification. To add insult to injury, NYSERDA only offers incentives to owners that have their system installed by a "certified" installer. Guess who's certification the quote in their instructions for incentives....NABCEP..

Damn, I'm bummed. This thing stinks...I wonder what's going on here. Something doesn't seem right.

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NYSERDA does not require NABCEP until 2012

So you have time. You still need installs I believe to become a NYSERDA certified installer. If I can help feel free to contact me.

Michael
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I passed the NABCEP Solar Thermal exam

Yahoooooo!

Michael
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congrats

That's about how I felt when I found out I passed too.

Glad you've joined our noble ranks

Karl
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Congratulations Michael...

Go get 'em.

Steve Fontas, have yo considered installing a solar system on your and some of yrou relatives homes? Doesn't have to be a big system. I know three installers that got their certs by doing theirs and relatives systems.

It is a catch 22... By they are unwilling too listen to us, unapproved, unknowing, untested, but extremely experienced contractors...

I already P1\$\$ed off one of their executive board members who dropped by here and told me to keep my nose in my own business. I'm just trying to move the industry forward. Seems they don't want our help.

ME

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Congrats Michael

Truly.

And Mark, yes I have considered that. Planning on doing one on a relative's house this spring. Trying to come up with the money right now. Seems that even Mom has a hard time justifying a multi thousand dollar solar thermal system versus the damn \$600 gas hot water heater. My finances are kind of tight too so I can understand. None the less, I think it's going to be the only way to go.

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goosnargh

Mark,

How is what a catch 22?  I don't see that not being able to sit for an accreditation exam without ever doing the applicable work is a catch-22.  I refuse to start my career over to work for someone else at near minimum wage so I can get my plumbing license, and I don't gripe about it.  Ok, maybe I do a little, but that's not the point.  the point is that I don't expect to sit for my plumbing license exam without ever doing any plumbing, in fact I would need thousands of hours working under a master to even think about it.

so where is it onerous to require someone to install a few systems before sitting for a voluntary certification?  hardly an insurmountable standard, methinks.

K
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The problem, as I see it...

If you can't do an accredited solar system without certification, and you can't get the certification without having proof of 2 completed installations, then how is one to get certified so that they CAN do certified installations?

To me, that is a Catch 22.

Do you have to cheat the system for the first two installations so you can show proof of previous installations? Do you approach your certified competition to get them to let you help them with an install so you can get the big two under your belt?

In my minds eye, the installations should occur AFTER testing and certification, say maybe proof of completed installations within one year of having had received "Apprentice" NABCEP certification. Maybe something like a provisional certification...with full certification after one year and a minimum of 2 installations.

As it is now, it appears that they have put the cart before the horse before you can get out of the gate. Shouldn't be that way IMPO.

I am not intimately familiar with the EXACT wording/requirement, but just because a person has a couple of installations under his belt does not qualify him as good, nor competent or as an expert in that field.

Trust me, I see my share of hydronic heating installations that were done by alleged experts, and they may have passed the AHJ's inspection, and are probably carrying a license of some sort, but the jobs were crap and wouldn't deliver comfort and efficiency. And I agree that a person should be able to show competency in the field, but who is to judge that?

Do you have a better suggestion of how one would get two notches in his tool belt prior to taking the exam?

I was here during the 70's and 80's and have seen the good, the bad and the ugly, and I fully agree with the movement towards a standard certification. I wish we had the same requirement for hydronic heating systems. I'm just concerned with the way it is coming together.

Suggestions to those who are trying to achieve NABCEP certification?

You mention "Voluntary" certification. I was under the impression, that here in Colorado, it is not voluntary, but is mandatory? Am I wrong?

ME

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mandatory

the mandatory beef should be picked with colorado and others, not nabcep.

you do not have to have your installations certified by a Nabcep certified installer.

Please go look at the requirements before judging.

I heard the catch 22 argument when the PV cert began many moons ago, and it wasn't true then, and isn't true now.

just having a couple of installations doesn't do it, but having a couple of installs and being a master plumber, or being a mechanical engineer, or master pipefitter does.  having a 4 year accredited degree in a related field will work too, or a 2 year assoc degree in renewables will.

there be many paths, and honestly, the having a couple of installs is the least onerous part of it, and the only one that can be done in a few months.

FYI, I had 30 SHW installs before I sat for the test.  plus that many PV and a dozen wind turbine installs.

Karl
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The Point I was making

is that it has been difficult to do solar thermal installs here in NYC due to a bad economy and nonexistant incentives (NY  incentives skew toward PV). I had hoped to give my potential clients an added measure of confidence by presenting them with a certification. However due to the "minimum two systems installed" requirement I cannot sit for the NABCEP exam despite my engineering degree, track record as a successful mechanical contractor and ability as a pipefitter. Mark's idea of a provisional certification was a good one.

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3

I think given your background, you'd do fine at solar thermal, and should go out and install a couple of systems.  then sit for the Nabcep exam.  the 3 legs of the stool are "experience" "education" and "testing'

you have the education and might be able to pass the testing, but don't have the experience, and should be able to make the case to a couple perspective customers that they should take your price, which for the first couple, could reflect the lack of NABCEP if that's really a selling point in your market (I really wish it was in mine, but here there are 5 thermal installers within 30 miles, and we're the smallest of the companies, although not the smallest ST installer, and I'm the only Nabcep certified one)

I was lucky in that I was able to get the test out of the way before we really set up shop in earnest on our own, and so that transition was pretty seamless.

If the market is really that down, Is the nabcep cert going to really make that big a difference?  It helps differentiate you from the other guy (who may be waiting to get his stuff in line to be able to take the test next time 'round) but it's probably not going to make the difference between someone installing a system or not.

K
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Will do Karl...

Will make an effort to get over there and read up more.

ME

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Karl you may have a point

In fact I believe you do. I am just trying to stack the deck so to speak.

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