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Tennessee HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Professional

November 6, 2023 8 min. read
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If you’re looking to get into one of the most lucrative trade industries in the country, getting your Tennessee HVAC license is a great bet. Demand is growing nationwide, and the Volunteer State currently employs over 9,900 HVAC contractors.

The average salary for an HVAC contractor in Tennessee with 3-5 years of experience is around $39,000, but that jumps to over $48,000 for more experienced pros. Plus, you stand to earn even more money if you start your own HVAC business.

In this guide, we’ll cover the key things you need to know about becoming a licensed HVAC contractor in Tennessee. 

If you’re serious about getting your Tennessee HVAC license, check out our other free HVAC business resources. You’ll get templates, business advice, and guides to help you launch a successful HVAC career.

Do you need an HVAC license in Tennessee?

Yes, in Tennessee, you need an HVAC contractor license to bid and work on projects over $25,000. Projects under $25,000 still require that you be a limited licensed electrician, and you can’t market yourself as a contractor.

All contractor and limited licensing is overseen by the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors (BLC). The BLC also outlines which contractors, subcontractors, and trades are required to hold a license.

To see all the laws and regulations surrounding HVAC work in this state, check out the Tennessee Annotated Code

Types of HVAC licenses in Tennessee

In Tennessee, the BLC defines HVAC contractor work as a subclassification of its Mechanical Contractor class. According to the Board’s Classification Outline document, these are the following types of HVAC licenses available: 

License TypeDescription
Full Mechanical Contractor (CMC)License holder can perform a range of mechanical work, including: 
• Plumbing and gas piping
• Process piping
• Sprinklers and fire protection
• Pollution control
• Pneumatic tube systems
• Temperature controls
• Boilers 
• Fuel gas systems
HVAC Contractor (CMC-C)License holder can perform HVAC, refrigeration, and gas piping work, including on solar and geothermal HVAC systems

Tennessee contractors, including those doing mechanical and HVAC/Refrigeration (HVAC/R) work, have monetary limits determining how large of a project they can work on. 

According to the Department of Commerce and Insurance, the limit for a contractor is roughly ten times your combined working capital and net worth.

You can find more information about monetary limits on page 11 of the contractor’s license application.

Tennessee HVAC license requirements

The BLC lays out a number of requirements that you need to meet in order to get your full mechanical or HVAC/R contractor license: 

License TypeRequirements
Full Mechanical Contractor (CMC)Applicants must:
• Meet experience requirements for HVAC and plumbing work (preferably three years) 
• Pass financial inspection for monetary limit
• Pass the TN Business & Law and Mechanical Trade exams
HVAC Contractor (CMC-C)Applicants must:
• Meet experience requirements for HVAC work (preferably three years)
• Pass financial inspection for monetary limit
• Pass the TN Business & Law and Mechanical Trade exams

If you only want to work on projects with a value under $25,000, you will still need to get a license to work as a limited licensed electrician. This allows you to work on the electrical components of HVAC systems. The BLC recommends checking with your local codes office to ensure you meet all the requirements for limited electrical work. 

All HVAC professionals who work with refrigerants in the United States also need to get Section 608 Technician Certification under the EPA’s Clean Air Act. To get this certification, you need to pass the EPA test tailored to your type of work. After you’ve secured this certification, you don’t need to renew it again. 

How do I get an HVAC license in Tennessee?

The BLC’s Contractor Licensing Application Package outlines all the steps you need to follow in order to get your HVAC or mechanical contractor license in Tennessee. The Board also outlines all the licensing steps on its contractor page:

  1. Write and pass both the Business & Law and trade exams
  2. Submit your financial statement, completed by a licensed CPA, that uses your working capital to determine your monetary limit
  3. Include a letter of reference that has been completed by a past client, employer, or recognized code official
  4. Provide a certificate of insurance demonstrating that you have the general liability and workers’ compensation coverage necessary for your requested monetary limit
  5. If you are not applying as a qualified party for another business, file your business entity with the Secretary of State’s office
  6. Complete the contractor’s license application and provide information about your previous work experience and affidavit of citizenship

To work as a limited licensed electrician, you just need to pass the PSI trade exam and submit your application form and fees to the BLC. 

You can apply online or send all forms to the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors at the following address:

500 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243-1150

All necessary forms and applications can be found on the contractor licensing board resource page.

Tennessee HVAC license exam

To get a full contractor license, you need to pass two Tennessee HVAC license tests: 

  1. Business & Law exam
  2. Trade exam

For the trade exam, you have the option of writing the full mechanical contractor exam or just the HVAC/R trade-specific exam. These tests are carried out by the state’s testing vendor, PSI. 

Here’s what you need to know about writing each exam.

Business & Law ExamNumber of questions: 50
Time to write: 140 minutes
Passing score: 73 (37/50)

• Licensing Requirements
• Estimating and Bidding
• Business Organization and Financial Management
• Tax Laws
• Labor Laws
• Project Management and Lien Law
• Contracts
• Risk Management
• Environmental and Safety
Mechanical Contractor (CMC) Trade ExamNumber of questions: 120
Time to write: 325 minutes
Passing score: 73% (88/120)

Main Topics:
• Electrical Knowledge, Motors, and Controls
• Piping – Refrigeration, Hydronic, Steam, and Process
• Heating and Cooling Principles and Theory
• Heating and Cooling Equipment and Components
• Refrigerants and Refrigeration
• Fuel and LP Gas
• Combustion Air, Chimneys, Flues, and Vents
• Ducts, Ventilation, and Exhaust
• Plumbing
• Load Calculation
• Safety, Fire, and Smoke Protection
• Fire Sprinkler
HVAC/R (CMC-C) Trade ExamNumber of questions: 100
Time to write: 260 minutes
Passing score: 73% (73/100)

Main Topics:
• Same as the full CMC exam minus Plumbing and Fire Sprinkler

You can find more information about the Tennessee contractor Business & Law and HVAC trade exams, as well as the limited licensed electrician exam, in PSI’s Candidate Information Bulletin.

Does Tennessee reciprocate HVAC licenses?

Typically, reciprocal licensing agreements let contractors with an out-of-state license apply directly for an equivalent one in another state. 

In Tennessee, the BLC offers reciprocal licensing that waives the CMC-C exam requirements for HVAC contractors from the following states: 

Check out the BLC’s Trade Exam Waiver Agreement document for more information. 

How much is an HVAC license in Tennessee?

To get your HVAC or mechanical contractor license in Tennessee, you can expect to pay over $350 for the initial licensing process. If you just want to work as a limited licensed electrician, the initial licensing costs $50. 

Mechanical/HVAC Contractor License

Licensing stageFees
Examinations (Business & Law and Trade$57 per exam
Renewal (Late)$200 (+20 per month)

Limited Licensed Electrician

Licensing stageFees
Renewal (late)$50 (+$10 per month, up to three months)

Keep in mind that there may also be fees associated with getting the necessary insurance or securing permits from local authorities. 

Tennessee HVAC license renewal

All contractor licenses must be renewed with the BLC every two years, with expiration coming on the last day of the month the license was first issued. You can renew your license online through Tennessee’s new CORE portal or by submitting the physical renewal form to the BLC office.

What happens if my HVAC license expires? 

If you think your HVAC, mechanical, or limited electrician license may have expired, stop all work immediately. Working without a contractor or limited license in TN carries a range of penalties depending on the license, project, and monetary value.

The first thing you need to do is confirm the status of your license using the state’s License Verification Page. From there, you can progress through the normal renewal steps and pay any necessary late fees. 

If your license has expired longer than 12 months, you need to have it reinstated by filling out the reinstatement section of the renewal form.

How to start an HVAC business in Tennessee

Once you’ve built up your experience as a qualified mechanical or HVAC contractor in Tennessee, you can take the next step in your career by starting your own HVAC business. The Tennessee website has a New Business resource hub containing all the information you need to take to get started, including: 

  • How to register your business online
  • State and federal tax requirements and incentives
  • New business workshops and resources
  • An interactive “Smart Start Guide”

There are also some practical steps to starting your own HVAC business that you need to brush up on, including: 

Does an HVAC license in Tennessee increase your earning potential? 

Yes, getting your HVAC or mechanical contractor license in Tennessee allows you to work on projects of any size. Without this license, you’d be limited to projects under $25,000 as a limited licensed electrician. HVAC contractors with 3-6 years of experience average around $40,000 annually in Tennessee, but that number jumps significantly with experience, and you stand to earn a lot more if you start your own HVAC business. 

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