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The Big Question: Can AC inspections benefit RAC industry?

The hot topic tackled by leading industry figures this month: What can the RAC industry do to capitalise on the AC inspection element of Energy Performance Certificates?

Hywel Davies, Technical Director, CIBSE

From 1 July 2011, all air conditioning inspection reports produced for systems in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will need to be lodged on the national register operated by Landmark. All systems with an effective rated output over 12kW need to be inspected.

There are tens of thousands of air conditioning systems used in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The great majority are of more than 12kW rated output, and they should all have been inspected by 4th January 2011 (or within 5 years if installed after 1st January 2008, and slightly different dates apply in Northern Ireland).

Yet too many landlords and occupiers just aren’t bothering with inspections. Inevitably many systems are using more energy than they need, without delivering effective cooling to the end users.

The introduction of mandatory lodgement is a good opportunity to make clients aware of this new requirement, remind them that they have a duty to have systems inspected, and encourage them to get on and do it. For those that think it’s a burden, not a benefit, then they might be interested in recent case studies published in CIBSE Journal which show how they can pay for themselves within months.

Mike Creamer, managing director, Business Edge

It is absolutely clear that the number of AC inspections being conducted is woefully short of the number actually required. Unfortunately, many end users and building owners are simply not even aware of their obligation to arrange AC inspections and Energy Performance Certification.

I’ve been told non-air-conditioning specialists offering AC inspection services at ridiculously low prices, thus causing professional companies and solo consultants within our industry to concentrate on more lucrative and reasonably paid work.

Furthermore, there is the problem of identifying end users with AC equipment that falls within the EPC remit. This involves the identification of the appropriate buildings or clients where such equipment is likely to be in existence, following which the person responsible must then be identified in order to submit a quotation/proposal, all of which is fairly time-consuming and consequently expensive.

I believe these issues might partly explain the low percentage of buildings and systems being tackled.

I’m also very concerned that the quality of AC inspections is simply not adequate. The rules and recommendations do not require the AC Inspector to take any useful measurements in terms of pressures, temperatures, etc.

Even if such information were recorded, it is absolutely useless where the true equipment performance in terms of cooling capacity, COP, isentropic efficiency and so on are concerned and surely these are the elements that determine the suitability of the equipment for the cooling task.

Finally, the Air Conditioning Inspector training I and industry colleagues received from a well-known Institute was both inadequate and dangerous. Consequently, I have decided that Business Edge will provide the industry with this training.

Scott Gleed – HCVA Chairman Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Group

Most building owners are unaware of their responsibility, and local authorities are not enforcing the regulations. As a result, the HVCA estimates that fewer than ten per cent of the required inspections have been carried out.

There may be some improvement with April’s introduction of “compulsory lodgement”. However, the maximum penalty for failing to have your system inspected is a modest fine of £300. This is unlikely to focus minds too hard.

The secret is in focusing on the positive – for most clients it will simply be ignored as yet another legalistic irritant and tick box exercise, when in fact it has the potential to dramatically cut their running costs and carbon emissions.

The opportunity for our industry is clear. Our engineers are ideally qualified to carry out these inspections and we should be promoting them as part and parcel of regular service and maintenance work.

The air conditioning report, produced as a result of the inspection, should include recommendations on how the systems could be run more efficiently – and this expert advice needs to be provided by someone who knows something about ac systems if they are to be practical and valuable.

By implementing our recommendations, businesses will save money and improve comfort conditions for building occupants by getting poorly maintained systems up to scratch. We can also save them legal time and hassle all as part of a better ongoing service that will be a source of continuous business for us.

And we will also aiding the Government over its commitment to reducing energy usage.

Readers' comments (1)

  • How do we know that the take-up has been 'woeful'. I don't disagree by the way, I just want to know where to go, or who to ask to find out how many have been done in the UK so far.

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