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Upskilling in downtime

There is no escaping the fact that the coronavirus issue has had a major impact on the HVAC sector. But this will ease and when it does the pressure will be on for industry to get moving as quickly as possible. Here Dan Wild, business unit director for the UK and Ireland for Conex Bänninger, explains how air conditioning installers can use their downtime to upskill, ready for the recovery

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown up many challenges, health and safety of course being the number one concern. But its effect on businesses, large and small, has also been dramatic. When things do get back to some form of ‘normal’ the pressure will be on to complete installations as quickly as possible, with timelines for projects compressed.

So, anything that can help installers increase their productivity is going to help.

The flame-free press jointing method is still relatively new in the world of air conditioning, but its benefits have been quickly realised by those who have adopted the system.

Faster installation, improved safety, increased security of joints and certainty of timelines are all key advantages, particularly when considering the long runs of pipework in air conditioning systems and that it often means working in tricky, confined spaces.

Many air conditioning engineers are self-employed and rely entirely on their own skillset. So, keeping up to date with the latest product developments and techniques is important.

When face-to-face meetings were ruled out, it puts a greater focus on the internet and there has been a definite increase in the availability of online training as an alternative. So, while the current ‘quiet’ period is not great for business, it presents an opportunity to learn new skills and be prepared for the recovery.

Higher pressures

At Conex Bänninger, we have seen a significant rise in the number of air conditioning and refrigeration (ACR) engineers registering for our free >B< MaxiPro e-learning course, which provides the opportunity for learners to become certified >B< MaxiPro installers.

The >B< MaxiPro range of copper press fittings was designed and engineered specifically for the higher pressures in ACR applications.

In the UK, >B< MaxiPro fittings have been used for air conditioning refurbishments in everything from office blocks to apartments, from industrial warehousing to a busy UK airport, from a popular nightclub to a library, where it was needed to control the humidity in the library’s stored documents area.

Initially training was conducted on-site by way of workshops by our technical sales managers with installers present. That will resume once it is safe to do so. But even before the crisis we saw online training as a great way to support air conditioning specialists.

By registering for the e-learning course, installers not only have access to training but also to helpful videos, installation guides and technical information, project case studies and the opportunity to post their very own installation images.

Learning the correct method of installation and becoming certified brings with it the added benefit of extending the warranty on >B< MaxiPro products from one to 10 years (terms and conditions apply).

Step-by-step guide

The e-learning course is split into three modules: Know Your Fittings, Using the Press Tool and Installing the Product. After each module there questions, and participants need to answer these correctly before moving on to the next one.

An installer successfully completing the course in one sitting will to do so in just over one hour and they gain access to a downloadable digital certificate.

If, however, they wish to complete a module and then return to the course later, they can do so with their results saved. Installers are allowed two attempts, but get an answer wrong the second time and they have to start the course again, rather than resuming from the module where they went astray.

The training has been set up this way because we think it is important installers’ knowledge is put to the test, which will help them recall essential information.

If they are new to press it will be important to familiarise themselves with the products available and the benefits. For example, >B< MaxiPro has a 3-point press, one each side of the bead and a third compressing the O-ring. The fittings range from a 1/4” up 1.1/8” meeting the higher pressure tolerances, up to a maximum 48bar, that are important for air conditioning installations.

There is also technical information such as continuous operating temperature and compatibility of the fittings to which refrigerants.

In addition, installers need to understand which is the correct press tool and jaws combination to use, and how to use them safely. All this is addressed.

Finally, the installation process is explained step-by-step, with key points such as deburring the copper tube correctly, inside and out, and discarding any tube that has scratches or scores on it.

The new ‘norm’

Looking ahead, we expect the popularity of online training to continue and to expand further as it becomes the new ‘norm’. Also that more and more air conditioning engineers will turn to press as the construction industry goes up a gear or three.

After all, why use a system that requires time-consuming hot works, when a flame-free press joint can be completed in just five seconds following preparation?

And businesses, eager to get back to work, will also benefit, for with press there is no need to clear a site or keep the public at bay.

 

3 June 2020

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