From this month, new government legislation introduced to reduce emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases (including HFCs) used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment came into force. Here, Simon Keel, from leading air conditioning specialist Daikin UK, explains what installers need to know about F-gas regulation
WITHOUT doubt, F-gases are one of the most long-standing issues in the air conditioning industry. With an extremely high global warming potential, they pose a serious environmental threat. For example, if no measures are taken to restrict fluorinated gas usage, it is estimated that, if unchecked, the levels of fluorinated gas would probably rise from 65.2million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 1995 to 98million tonnes in 2010, representing 2%-4% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
In basic terms, F-gas regulation, which is regulated and controlled by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change covered by the Kyoto Protocol, is designed to reduce emissions produced by HFCs by 20million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year until 2012, and then by 40-50million tonnes per year once the legislation comes fully into force.
This means the continued use of F-gases is permitted, with no plans in place to ban or replace them. However, this will be under strict control to reduce emissions, placing responsibility on member states within the EU to improve the control, containment and monitoring of HFCs.
So what are the implications?
While you would think that the majority of the weight of this regulation would fall upon air conditioning installers and specifiers, the legal responsibility for compliance actually lies with the equipment operator. This means the owner- operator, principally the person in charge of a building's services, has responsibility for making sure F-gas regulation is adhered to.
As an industry, it is therefore important we support our end-user customers to ensure the transition during the coming months is as smooth as possible.
Ultimately, the end-user of products containing refrigerant will be responsible for ensuring the refrigeration does not leak and is recovered properly when systems are serviced and repaired. The owner/operator will be responsible for prompt leakage repair, leakage checking and record keeping. They will also be responsible for seeing this is done by qualified personnel.
This will be a legal requirement and the frequency of the leakage tests will vary depending on the weight of refrigeration in the circuit. For example, with some exceptions, systems holding 3kg and over will need to be checked once every 12 months, 30kg systems every six months and 300kg systems and over every three months. Should a leak be found, this must be reported and repaired as soon as possible, with the system re-checked one month later.
The new regulation also demands logs are kept on any plant containing 3kg or over with a record of all works carried out. The log will provide totals of the installed charges, as well as those recovered and lost, making it possible to calculate the leakage rate of the equipment. End-users will be responsible for keeping records up-to-date so they can be made available to the competent authority to prove they are within the law.
Those that do not comply will be subject to penalties. The level of these still has to be set up by each EU member state. However, the regulation says these penalties must be 'effective...and dissuasive'.
For air conditioning installers, contractors and specifiers, the implications of the regulations are clear - any person involved in servicing or decommissioning of fixed refrigeration, air conditioning or heat pumps containing F-gases is required to hold a statutory minimum qualification. This is either the C&G 2078 Certificate in Safe Handling of Refrigerants or the CITB Safe Handling of Refrigerants Certificate, which is available from REFCOM. The existing REFCOM scheme is likely to be made mandatory in 2008 to control professional standards.
The good news is that government currently estimates 60-70% of existing technicians handling F-gasses already have the appropriate qualifications, leaving between 5,500 and 8,000 to either get more training or to be assessed.
One key change that will impact the industry is the introduction of indelible product labels for air conditioning which will give a clear indication that the system contains an F-gas, and the quantity used. For field installed systems this would have to be completed by the installer. The accompanying product manual will also have to list the F-gas used and state its global warming potential.
Service contractors will also need to be identified in the records of the building operator and the quantity and type of refrigerant used on site will also need to be logged. A maximum of 5% loss of refrigerant through leakage will be set, and used refrigerant not intended for resale, will need to be disposed of by a person deemed competent in the disassembly of refrigeration or air conditioning unit.
With the legislation imminent, the key now is for the industry as a whole to take heed of the new regulation, work with it and continue to promote high standards for all installations and maintenance work. By doing this, the industry will be better placed to support our end-user customers and build confidence in the sector.