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The why and where of leakage

IOR president Jane Gartshore introduces the latest from the Real Zero leak reduction project

The Institute has recently released the latest stage of its Real Zero project with the publication of self-study material. We are at the end of the Carbon Trust-funded stage of this project, but we are just starting to see the benefits to the rac industry.

The why and where of leakage

The project’s conclusions as to why and where leaks occur fall can be summarised as:

  1. Lack of awareness of the environmental and financial impact of refrigerants and the scale of refrigerant leakage
  2. Low priority from some equipment owners on finding and repairing leaks
  3. Inadequate service and maintenance regimes, with equipment sometimes inaccessible, valves left uncapped, pipework not supported etc
  4. Lack of thorough leak testing on site and monitoring of faults
  5. Inappropriate design, such as excessive joints and valves or inaccessible pipework
  6. Poor installation workmanship, from basic brazing competence to good component installation
  7. Inadequate processing e.g. strength and leak tightness testing

The project has tried to address these and other points in detail in its five good practice guides, a calculator which translates leakage into carbon emissions and financial cost and an F Gas spreadsheet which helps monitor refrigerant use, which can all be downloaded for free at www.realzero.org.uk.

The role of skills and training

The new self-study training material will help to ensure that the knowledge necessary to tackle these issues effectively is recognised throughout the industry. The complete course builds on the practical knowledge and skills required by the new F Gas Certificate Qualifications but does not repeat it. Therefore an F Gas qualification and evidence of experience in the sector is required before anyone can take the Real Zero assessments.

However the introductory level is designed to be suitable for everyone - including equipment owners and service engineers - focusing on two aspects:

  1. Environmental, cost and legal aspects of refrigerant leakage - covering elements such as calculating the financial and environmental aspects of refrigerant leakage and making a case for leakage reduction
  2. Reducing leakage through appropriate maintenance and service - covering system maintenance regimes, how to reduce leakage potential in existing systems and maximising effectiveness of direct and indirect leak test methods.

The full training course includes two further modules:

  • minimising leakage in new systems - covering relevant system design, installation and commissioning issues;
  • reducing leakage through site specific surveys and advice - covering a recommended site survey methodology

Also part of the full course, which will lead to an IOR CPD certificate, is an online assessment, and an independent evaluation of a sample report.

Those who have passed the complete course can apply to become listed on the Real Zero website, so that they can help equipment owners to audit their refrigerant use and develop refrigerant management strategies.
The aim is that more and more equipment owners will benefit from the technical material the project has developed and more refrigerant loss will be prevented across the sector. But you don’t have to take the assessments - just reading the self study material provides a lot of very useful information.

The guides, calculators and training material provide useful information for various elements of the industry to help address refrigerant leakage problems. But there remains a significant opportunity to reduce refrigerant leakage in the RAC sector. Since the project started, there have been some encouraging signs:

  • More interest from equipment operators for leak reduction, if the leakage data is presented as a cost saving and when legal obligations are spelt out.
  • More interest from contractors in raising standards of installation, service and maintenance.
  • More collaboration from equipment owners and end users are in taking a proactive approach to refrigerant management
  • Increasing availability of F Gas Regulation training is now becoming available and will help to build up rac operatives’ basic skills

As we look to the future, we know that now is the right time to be making these changes so that the industry can demonstrate improved containment for the 2011 F gas review and future Kyoto negotiations. There will be an ongoing need for industry to share its expertise in identifying causes and ways of reducing leakage. This is why the Institute sees www.realzero.org.uk as just the beginning of a bigger process.