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Get set for change as the ErP Directive takes effect

Marc Diaz looks at the impact the directive will have on improving energy efficiency in the air conditioning and heat pump industry
From 1 january next year, the energy performance calculation for air conditioning and heat pumps systems will change from COP to SCOP and EER to SEER. The S integrates the seasonal performance of the heat pump. These changes to the Energy Related Products Directive, or ErP, will give the building services industry a better understanding of the real efficiency of air conditioning and heat pump systems which are a key source of energy consumption in buildings.

The schedule for each product category will vary with changes to air conditioning units coming into force from January 2013 with heat pumps following in 2015.

The ultimate aim of the directive is to force manufacturers of energy-using products at the design stage to reduce energy consumption and other negative environmental impacts on products. These measures are great news for businesses which will get even more value for every pound spent on energy efficiency.

Installers and specifiers will notice that the energy class will extend to A+++ and the C classification will be removed.

The directive means that heat pump and air conditioning units will have to be more efficient. Indoor and outdoor units may also have to be bigger to achieve these improved efficiencies.

The Energy Related Products Directive should mean that the less efficient heat pump and air conditioning systems disappear from the market as they simply will not meet the ErP minimum energy classification. The new energy efficiency ratings reveal a huge difference between B class air conditioning and to A+++ class AC - more than two points difference (from 3.1 to 5.1).

Any initiative that drives a reduction in CO2 is welcomed as in the past; the COP or EER gave a value at fixed points, detailing the efficiency of the air conditioning system or heat pump. The new directive shows seasonal performance and this is the key, as by showing the overall performance rather than just the best or worst levels it gives a truer picture of energy performance. It's a tougher system of rating but a far better one.

The directive will have a significant impact on the market. The most efficient air conditioning and heat pump systems meeting the standard have nothing to fear, but it is the budget systems at the bottom end of the market that will suffer.
Policing the new directive is still a matter of conjecture. I can still see older, inefficient systems languishing in the warehouse for some time and yet eventually finding their way to market.

Installers are likely to stick to their tried and trusted brands for key projects but it is the budget products that they will let go. Consultants and end users will look for the ErP mark and installers will follow suit.

Tough market for installers

There's no doubting that the current market is a tough one for the installer, the specifier and the manufacturer. The uncertainty over the Euro and economic conditions makes companies more cautious and they are holding back on spending. There is business out there but it is not easy to come by. The VRF market is holding firm and there is a lot of refurbishment going on, especially with the replacement of R22. I think we are through the worst of it but it could take at least another two years before any major growth will take place.

When the recovery happens, I fully expect the private sector to be to the fore. There is lots of talk about the possibility of large public sector housing investment and any movement in this direction would be welcomed, but energy efficiency will continue to drive our industry. That's something that's not going to change in the near future. We are leading the way to meet that challenge.

The author is Panasonic UK country manager
10 December 2012

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