Bob Towse, head of technical and safety at the HVCA, explains why legally-required air-conditioning system inspections are a welcome business boost for engineers willing to accept the challenge
Since 4 January 2009 it has been a legal requirement for all air-conditioning systems of more than 12kW to be inspected, regardless of whether the system is in a commercial or domestic property.
The new rules under the European Union’s Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD) and legislation in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland also state that it is illegal to sell or let any commercial building without a current, valid air-conditioning inspection report covering all installed, in-scope air-conditioning equipment. The regulations will be enforced by Trading Standards and £300 fines.
Far from this being more red tape, the Government has actually done the hvacr industry a favour: almost all commercial buildings in the UK have air-conditioning systems which now require inspection – and that’s a lot of potential business.
Only qualified and accredited energy assessors can carry out the inspections and the HVCA strongly believes that only people with the relevant skills and experience in air-conditioning should become assessors.
That means air-conditioning engineers are the prime candidates to become energy assessors, with a surplus of clients awaiting their services. In the midst of a recession, air-conditioning engineers have a new revenue source but only if they accept the challenge.
BESCA (Building Engineering Services Competence Accreditation), an HVCA subsidiary, runs government-approved Energy Assessor Schemes to accredit suitably qualified and experienced engineers to carry out inspections of both simple, packaged or VRV air-conditioning systems and complex, central-cooled air or water-cooled air-conditioning systems.
The first person to sign-up for BESCA’s scheme, John Smith, managing director of Cool Heat Services Limited in South Woodham Ferrers in Essex, said elements of the course were clearly designed for those qualified in and working in the air-conditioning sector.
He said: “Our early surveys carried out as part of the accreditation procedure brought some interesting factors to light, and we were able to pick up on points that people from outside this industry may not have. We therefore see a positive benefit and an exciting opportunity for our industry.
“However, two problems need to be overcome before the anticipated rise in business for air-conditioning engineers: a lack of awareness among property owners and a shortage of certified assessors. Businesses are finding themselves in a non-compliance situation without realising. As an industry we need to make people aware.”
Dean Clackett, operations manager at Pitkin and Ruddock in Lowestoft, Suffolk, signed up to BESCA’s energy assessor scheme because BESCA was more closely associated with the hvacr industry than others. Mr Clackett identified the need to become an accredited energy assessor and the potential for increased business.
He said: “We like to keep up to speed with developments but we were also aware that if we didn’t provide the solution, our competitors would. It will take some time for the benefits to sink in and increase demand.
“But for a relatively small investment people will be provided with the potential to save energy and reasonably large amounts of money. The driving force will come when property owners want to let or sell their building and realise they need the inspection report.”
The inspections can highlight issues and show how to make significant energy and cost savings. This legislation is an opportunity with financial benefits for both the hvacr industry and the end-user.
Energy assessment - how it works
The BESCA Energy Assessor Scheme accredits experienced and qualified air-conditioning (ac) engineers to enable them to assess the energy efficiency of a/c systems legally and provide their clients with a one-stop-shop for all ac-related services.
BESCA air conditioning assessor candidates:
- must have wide experience in the design, installation, service and repair of ac systems
- may hold formal NVQs or SVQs in ac or related subjects. Qualifications are not essential but qualified candidates will be recognised during the BESCA application process
Other required skills include:
- customer communications and relations
- problem solving
- an awareness of health and safety issues and guidelines
- an understanding of buildings, and building services
Engineers interested in becoming energy assessors or companies wishing to receive an application pack can find details of the two-step training and accreditation process at www.besca.org.uk. Alternatively, contact BESCA on 01768 860449.