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F-Gas Directive may cause 'EU environmental catastrophe' says AREA

The EU faces a potential environmental catastrophe if it does not tighten up its own F-Gas Directive, according to the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration European Association (AREA).

Speaking at the association’s general assembly in Dundee, AREA President Graeme Fox said it was time for the community to get serious about tackling potential refrigerant leaks.

“The European Commission’s own figures show we could have 30 million new domestic heat pumps installed across the EU by 2020,” said Mr Fox. “That is another 90 million kilogrammes of global warming refrigerant in use.  The consequences do not bear thinking about if these systems are not properly installed.”

AREA, which represents contractor trade associations from all over Europe, is lobbying legislators in Brussels for mandatory registration of individual operatives as part of the current review of the F-Gas Regulation to reduce the threat posed by poorly qualified installers.

During the general assembly, which was hosted by the HVCA’s Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Group, Mr Fox said mandatory registration of individuals was “crucial to making the Regulation workable”. Currently only companies are compelled to join certification schemes under the F-Gas Regulation.

AREA also opposes the provision in the F-Gas Regulation that only systems with more than 3kg refrigerant charge need be checked for leakage. However, its proposal that this threshold be removed has already been rejected by the EC.

However, Mr Fox stressed that this did not lessen the need for all systems to be properly installed.

“Our main concern is that the regulations are properly applied and that means all systems must be installed by a properly qualified professional,” said Mr Fox. “The 3kg threshold only applies to leakage checking.”

The AREA delegates also agreed that the association did not favour the setting of maximum leakage rates because “that implies any leakage is acceptable – and it is not”.

The meeting also heard that the EC was receiving negative advice about HFC refrigerants from organisations supporting wider use of ‘natural’ alternatives such as ammonia, hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide.

The association believes the focus should be on improving installation standards to reduce leakage rates rather than favouring particular types of refrigerant gas.

 “Our position is that we do not champion one type of refrigerant, but focus on the best solution for each application,” said Scott Gleed, chairman of the HVCA Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Group. “Ultimately, it is the energy efficiency that matters most.”

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