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Time to learn the routine

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) requires that all air conditioning systems of 12 kW or above undertake an independent inspection for the assessment of a system’s overall efficiency.

It stipulates that a routine check should take place at a minimum of every five years and within the first five years of the original commissioning of the unit.

From 6 April 2012, it became a statutory requirement to lodge all air conditioning inspection reports on the central Non-Domestic Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Register.

Legislation, however, is not the only driving force when it comes to routine inspections. While the maintenance and servicing of systems is commonplace (often with immediately noticeable results), for many it is hard to comprehend the cost-saving benefits of an inspection, especially when the primary advice in older properties may be to upgrade the air conditioning.

AC inspections should be seen as a crucial part of building ownership, so they need to be properly understood in order to recognise what an inspector is looking for and the benefits an inspection can bring. Routine inspections can be fundamental to ensuring improved performance, efficiency, reliability and management of air conditioning systems.

Recent documentation from the Carbon Trust, CTV046 Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning, indicates that through proper checks and assessments, the risk of unexpected failures and unit breakdowns are significantly reduced via early fault identification and subsequent prevention. Indeed, the guide suggests that poorly equipped and maintained facilities could potentially use up to 60 per cent more energy than their well looked after counterparts, and thus encourages the routine cleaning of fans, filters and air ducts.

Blocking efficiency

The trust says: “There is no point in having an efficiently running system if the conditioned air gets stopped by a solid wall before reaching the work space. Blockages in HVAC systems are common and increase running costs, so make sure the filters are regularly checked.”

These inspections therefore demonstrate the need to ensure that those in charge of such systems fully understand and appreciate the recommendations and advice resulting from inspection reports.

It is too often assumed that energy efficiency is due solely to the core manufactured air conditioning unit itself. What some fail to understand is how important the set-up, routine maintenance, structural build and external environments are to the efficiency and performance of the system. Examining the installation as a whole, an assessor may be able to provide a valuable insight into the true potential for a facility. Therefore by taking into account the control of the building and understanding the purpose and use of the air conditioning system it is also possible to increase efficiency.

More often than not, the importance of routine inspections comes to light when the use or layout of a building is changed. This is because the demand for air conditioning and airflow usage varies depending on the space and the original specified layout, the number of occupants and the proximity to air conditioning units.

Routine inspections help assess and monitor a building’s need and demand for air conditioning equipment, and thus can provide reassurance for regulating both the efficiency and the cost.

Assessors will then take a close look at the control settings and strategy for the system, including the day-to-day usage requirements for the building, as well as internal and external temperature set points. Quite often it is possible to reduce energy costs significantly by simply recognising and understanding these requirements and thus adjusting the settings to respond only when they are most needed.

Paperwork will also be closely looked at to give the advisor a better understanding of any routine care and maintenance.

The principal role of the air conditioning inspection is to improve the overall energy efficiency of a building. The overall aim is to significantly reduce carbon emissions and meet UK climate change commitments. The inspection report looks to highlight opportunities for energy improvements, through adjusted operation, and where relevant, the options to upgrade to more energy-efficient systems. By adhering to the advice, the process will improve the building’s EPC (energy performance certificate) rating.

Key information

One way to increase longevity of air conditioning installations is ensuring that staff are as well trained and appropriately informed. Training schemes, both from manufacturers and government initiatives, offer the ideal solution, allowing attendees to be privy to the most recent and relevant information that will impact future projects.

Air conditioning assessors are independent and will not endorse any particular manufacturer or brand; their role is to impartially advise facilities managers on how they can improve their cooling systems.

It is equally important for suppliers to understand these regulations to best represent ourselves and ensure our products best reflect the government guidelines and best practice.

More information on the inspections can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/air-conditioning-inspections-for-buildings

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