Seven stellar HVAC technicians will compete in the final round of the fifth annual North American Technican Excellence (NATE) Certified Technician Competition, to be held during HVAC Comfortech, September 14-17 in Nashville, TN.

The Certified Technician competition demonstrates the technological, systemic, and mechanical knowledge required to install and service today's heating and cooling equipment. NATE describes the seven finalists as being "the best of the best," having been chosen from more than 10,000 technicians who tested between May 31-June 30.

And don't think for a minute these guys are graded on a curve. NATE reports that each year, the criteria for being a semi-finalist and finalist have increased, as technicians' grades have increased.

Contestants will compete in a series of timed, hands-on events. HVAC simulators are rigged with specific heating and cooling problems that require contestants to demonstrate their problem solving skills by analyzing, diagnosing, and correcting equipment and system malfunctions.

Barnard Blank Eichenlaub Newhouse O'Neill Searingen Yarus

Who are these Barons of Btu, you ask? Here's a look at this year's NATE finalists:

  • Doug Barnard, Fresno, CA, Fresno City Building Maintenance.
  • Richard Blank, Toledo, OH, of Heating & Cooling Wholesalers, Inc.
  • Randy Eichenlaub, Randy Eichenlaub, McDermott, OH is with 2-J Supply Company, Inc.
  • Wilson Newhouse, Lebanon, PA, is a service manager with G.F. Bowman Inc.
  • Kevin O'Neill, Myrtle Beach, SC, a partner in O'Neill Bagwell Cooling & Heating, and a frequent contributor to Contracting Business.
  • Ron Swearingen, Grand Prairie, TX, a technician with Metro Energy Savers.
  • William Yarus, Kalispell, MT, a technician with Air Works, Inc.

All NATE contestants have a wealth of experience in HVAC, so there will likely be little margin for error during the competition, whch could ultimately be decided by who beats the clock.

Swearingen has more than 40 years of technician experience.

O'Neill and Blank have worked in HVAC for nearly 30 years.

Barnard, Eichenlaub, Newhouse, and Yarus have approximately 25 years of experience.

All seven contestants believe strongly in the value of NATE certification, and understand what it means to customers, the industry, and the company's they serve.

"NATE certification provides a standard for technicians to prove their knowledge," says O'Neill.

Blank adds that NATE certificaion "proves to both employers and customers that the technician is knowledgeable."