Overview of Mechanical PE Exam and HVAC and Refrigeration Study Tips

Overview of Mechanical PE Exam and HVAC and Refrigeration Study Tips




The specialized engineering license is one of the most important steps in an engineer’s career. It allows the individual to legally practice engineering in the state of licensure. This credential can also help the engineer to acquire higher compensation and provide the first step in developing a credible reputation. But in order to acquire this license, the engineer must first meet the qualifications as required by the state of wanted licensure, including working a minimum amount of years under a registered specialized engineer. These engineers must serve as references on the application. The state licensing board for the exact amount of years and references required should be contacted. The engineer must also have passed the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Finally, the engineer must pass the specialized Engineering or PE Exam in his or her discipline.

The Mechanical PE Exam consists of an AM or breadth portion (4 hours) which covers HVAC and refrigeration; Mechanical Systems and Materials; and Thermal and Fluids Systems. The PM or thoroughness portion (4 hours) covers the engineers specialty.

HVAC & Refrigeration Study Tips

The first step in studying for the HVAC & Refrigeration afternoon module of the mechanical PE exam is to acquire the appropriate references. These references are the most commonly used references by a working HVAC & Refrigeration engineer. For some these may be old college textbooks and for others they may be just the working code books. I recommend the following references: ASHRAE Fundamentals, ASHRAE HVAC Systems AND Equipment, ASHRAE HVAC Applications and ASHRAE Refrigeration, a Mechanical Reference Manual, appropriate ASHRAE codes (62, 90.1, 15, etc.) and NFPA 90A. Working specialized engineers will most likely have more than these references, but for the PE exam I feel these are the minimum references.

The second step is to acquire the necessary minimum skills and knowledge of a specialized engineer. The hardest part of this step is calculating these minimum skills. One way to accomplish this is to think like the test-creator. If I were a test-creator what would I qualify as the minimum skills of a specialized engineer and what can I test? I feel that these requirements all rule back to the fundamentals of engineering in practice. The term “In practice” excludes the science behind the actual skill and focuses on the actual doing and solving of a problem. The best way to explain the difference between a skill and the science behind it, is with examples:

Navigating a refrigeration diagram and using it to find the capacity of a chiller operating at certain parameters, not explaining the theory behind the diagram.

Navigating a psychrometric chart and using it to solve air combination problems, not explaining the theory behind the creation of the chart.

Navigating the steam tables and using it to solve for the amount of super heat, not explaining the equations used to create the tables.

Knowing your references. Several problems may be as simple as finding the appropriate reference and looking up the solution. In the practice of engineering, many problems are solved by researching the applicable code or a reputable reference.




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