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As with all industries, the air conditioning market is forever changing with new laws and regulations which must be adhered to. Although our business heavily revolves around air conditioning, we appreciate that other companies and the businesses of our clients, predominantly do not. More often, than not, air conditioning is seen to be just a piece of equipment used in the day to day running of the company and is of little interest (unless it is too hot or too cold!).

In this section, we aim to bring to you small, easy to understand bites of information regarding recent and up and coming legislation or law changes which may affect you as a user of air conditioning equipment. Should you have any further queries after reading any of the information below, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Refrigerant gas changes

Briefly put, refrigerant gas is the ‘blood’ of your air conditioning system. It cycles around the unit through the pipework, cooling or heating the air inside the area you wish to air condition. There are a few different types of refrigeration gas. However, the main four are R22, R407c, R410a and R32.

The change relates specifically to the R22 refrigeration gas (as well as a number of other less used gases).The reasoning behind the changes in the R22 refrigeration legislation is simple- studies have shown they have a detrimental effect on the ozone layer resulting in excessive ultra violet levels. Due to this, the R22 refrigerants may contribute to further environmental damage. The extent to which R22 refrigerants contribute to global warming is still the subject of intensive debate, although many companies have taken the opportunity to comply with the new regulations earlier than planned.

This is being demonstrated at two levels:

Firstly, the majority of R22 air conditioning units in the United Kingdom are at the end of their design life. As existing R22 air conditioning systems begin to require modernisation, most companies are choosing to phase these out rather than go to the expense of needlessly repairing or maintaining them.

Secondly, unlike the older air conditioning systems which use R22 refrigerant gas, Newer air conditioning unitsnow use refrigerants such as R404a, R410a and R32 which have lower ozone depleting potential. Although these newer air conditioning units using R410a refrigerant gas are proven to be more energy efficient than the older air conditioning systems which use R22 refrigerant, these too, are aging, with many of them either approaching or beyond their design life. These are systematically being replaced by still more efficient and reliable R32 refrigerant systems. These R32 systems are therefore a wiser and more popular choice for the companies in question.

When do the changes have to be completed by?

Although many companies have undergone or are in the process of R22 replacement, there are still some functioning systems. It is no longer legal to undertake work that involves the refrigerant on these systems. If these R22 systems fail in any way that involves the refrigeration circuit or a risk of refrigerant release is identified, they must be immediately and safely decommissioned.

The following dates below, along with the information should give you more of an insight:

From 01/01/2010 – The use of virgin HCFC’s (Hydrochlorofluorocarbons – which R22 gas is a type of Hydrochlorofluorocarbon gas) has been prohibited in the maintenance and servicing of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment existing at that date.

From 01/01/2015 – The use of recycled HCFC’s has been prohibited in the maintenance and servicing of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment existing at that date.

Air conditioning energy efficiency inspections

Having your air-conditioning system inspected by an Energy Assessor is designed to improve efficiency and reduce the electricity consumption, operating costs and carbon emissions for your system. Energy inspections will highlight improvements to the operation of your existing systems or opportunities to replace older, less energy efficient systems or oversized systems with new energy efficient systems. As the replacement of refrigerant is restricted in older systems (as mentioned above), there is an additional incentive to improve or replace older systems with more modern energy efficient units.

Building owners and managers who control air-conditioning systems have statutory obligations and duties of care in the operation and maintenance of air-conditioning systems. The energy inspections discussed in this guide are in addition to the normal activities associated with the ownership and operation of air-conditioning systems, such as planned maintenance.

When are air-conditioning inspections required? All air-conditioning systems with an effective rated output of more than 12 kW must be regularly inspected by an Energy Assessor. The inspections can be a maximum of five years apart. The regulations require the first inspection of the affected air-conditioning systems to be carried out as follows:

From 4th January 2011, if the person in control of the air-conditioning system changes and the new person in control is not given an inspection report, the new person in control of the system must ensure the air-conditioning system is inspected within three months of the day that person assumes control of the system.

Air conditioning leak check requirements

F Gas regulations and UK legislation state that leak checks for air conditioning and heat pump equipment containing refrigerant must be carried out:

Leak checks must be carried out by F Gas Certified (qualified) personnel. If a leak is detected and repaired, a further check must be carried out within one month to ensure that the repair has been effective.

A record of maintenance and servicing activity must be kept for each system.