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UK:  F-Gas compliance standards on many commercial refrigeration and air conditioning sites fall short of mandatory requirements, according to cooling specialist Cool-Therm, exposing end users to the risk of possible legal action.

It believes the industry needs to review current approaches to ensure that F-Gas requirements are fully met, and clients better informed about their responsibilities. A key element is the need to maintain detailed records on site for activities involving work on all F-Gas-containing equipment.

The requirement applies to all systems containing more than 5tonnes CO2-equivalent of F-Gas, and includes the common refrigerants R134a, R410A, R407C and R404A. Hermetically sealed equipment containing up to 10tonnes CO2-equivalent is exempt, and there is a grace period for units containing less than 3kg of any F-Gas to the end of 2016.

The mandatory obligation came into force on 16 April 2014, with the introduction of EC Regulation 517/2014, updating the previous 2007 Regulation.

Alex Strong, technical director of Cool-Therm, who heads up the company’s service operation, said: “The F-Gas Regulation lays down strict requirements for record keeping, designed to ensure a log is available on site for all operations affecting F-Gas plant.

“This has to include a log sheet for every applicable F-Gas asset, and record all mandatory leak tests carried out, whether any leaks are identified and if any remedial work is required, with a record of all refrigerant moved in/out of the plant. Importantly, there is a requirement to log all top-ups of F-Gas refrigerant made to equipment. Full records should be kept for at least five years.”

He added: “This is entirely reasonable and sensible, and designed to ensure there is a continuous log of F-Gas-related work, giving inspecting authorities a complete history to ensure cradle-to-grave compliance.”

Cool-Therm engineers carry out full F-Gas compliance checks on siteThe reality, however, is that on-site F-Gas records are at best inconsistent or poorly presented, with no annual summary or management review. And at worst non-existent, providing no documentary evidence of F-Gas work, in contravention of the law.

“On site visits and TM44 inspections, I see many examples – perhaps in 50 per cent of cases – where there is no F-Gas Register with the necessary information for each piece of relevant equipment. In these situations, end users are laying themselves open to legal action. In some cases, there is some form of register or fragmented service record, but the information is incomplete or out-of-date and very difficult to review, meaning equipment owners are not compliant. It is a major issue.”

The problem is particularly acute on sites attended by different contractors over a period of time, with varying approaches and levels of compliance. For example, a FM provider or contractor responsible for a site may be replaced, perhaps a number of times over several years, and data lost or subsequently recorded in a different format or physical place.

“The regulations assume there is full continuity, with seamless handovers of record keeping between companies and a minimum continuous record of five years. The reality, of course, is this is far from the case, and what ends up on a site that has been looked after by several providers can be fragmentary at best.”

He added: “In this situation, the client – whose responsibility it is to meet many of the F-Gas requirements – is exposed if an inspection reveals incomplete or non-existent records. Many equipment owners believe that because they have a maintenance contract with an F-Gas registered service company, they are fully covered in terms of F-Gas compliance.

“However, the regulation lays down specific responsibilities on equipment owners, for record keeping as well as physical leak checks, and they are legally responsible for meeting them. Responsibility is only passed to the service company if this is agreed as part of the contract. Unless this transfer of responsibilities is explicitly agreed, the default position is – the equipment owner is responsible in law.”

Enforcement agencies are known to be stepping up action around non-compliance, with some cases going to court. To help end users comply, Cool-Therm has developed a Reg-Gas add-on programme, which keeps track of all F-Gas equipment and maintains an up-to-date record of relevant data, ensuring compliance with all mandatory requirements.

It is based on multi asset registers for all relevant F-Gas equipment on a site or estate, with an annual summary sheet for each year. This highlights key issues and helps managers understand the impact of their F-Gas assets and identify trends so that improvements can be made. It is particularly valuable when used as part of a wider programme of carbon reduction management for a building or estate.

F-Gas losses can hugely affect overall CO2-equivalent emissions for a business or organisation, due to the high GWP rating of many common refrigerants. In some cases, gas loss may be the dominant component of a building’s CO2-equivalent emissions.

For example, a small business losing 5kg of R410a from small DX air conditioning unit is equivalent to a 10 tonne CO2 impact. This may equal the environmental impact of all the electricity it uses in a year, wiping out at a stroke the environmental gain made, for example, by changing to low energy light bulbs.

Up the scale, a chiller plant losing 100kg of R134a is equivalent to 130 tonnes CO2 impact. This is the same impact as consuming 288,888kWh electricity or 650,000kwh of natural gas, and can dramatically alter the green credentials of the end user responsible for the leak.

Cool-Therm offers consultancy assistance and independent audit of F-Gas compliance, along with dedicated TM44 Energy Inspections. For more details, contact Alex Strong on 01189 700808 or email alex.strong@cooltherm.co.uk

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UK:  The Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Industry Board (ACRIB) have today issued an update on training requirements under the F-Gas Regulations as there is said to have been some confusion amongst training providers on the issue of re-certification and requirements from 2015.

DEFRA and the Environmental Agency have confirmed existing individual F-Gas Certificates issued in accordance with the 2006 F Gas Regulations remain valid under the new 2014 Regulation EC517/2014 (article 10 paragraph 7).

This will be a great relief for the 30,000 or so UK operatives who are already F-Gas Qualified in the UK.

However those certificates only remain valid “in accordance with the conditions under which they were originally issued” which means that if your certificate has an expiry date, you will need to undertake a reassessment. Reassessments are now available for those holding expired CITB Certificates.  For those holding City & Guilds 2079 (or relevant units within the 7189 or 6187 qualifications) no reassessment is necessary.

The UK, like all member states, has an obligation to ensure that any F-Gas certificates issued in future cover the changes that have been introduced by the 2014 Regulations – such as the different leak checking requirements and knowledge of the phase down timetable and new specific bans - some of which come in from January 2015.  Both the CITB and City & Guilds F Gas Certificates will be updated in line with the changes to the knowledge element of the assessment in the required timescale so that anyone new to the industry taking their F Gas Certificate is up to date.

There are still a number of uncertainties in the 2014 F-Gas Regulation on which UK Government and industry is awaiting clarification on. For example the requirement for already F gas Certified individuals to have access to information regarding technologies to replace HFCS, and existing regulatory requirements for alternative refrigerants.  There is also a clause in the new Regulations that says Member States have to make available training for anyone who wants to update their knowledge.  The Commission is planning to carry out a review of existing legislation covering training for the safe-handling of alternative refrigerants and, if appropriate, submit a legislative proposal. The results of this review are expected in 2017. 

The 2014 European F-Gas Regulation 517/2014 is directly applicable in UK law.  However UK legislation is needed to cover the compliance and enforcement measures.  A draft of that legislation, which will repeal the previous UK F Gas Regulation, is due for consultation this autumn.  The full text of the 2014 European F Gas Regulation is available at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2014.150.01.0195.01.ENG

Further guidance on how the new F Gas changes will impact end users and contractors is being prepared by ACRIB and by European Contractors’ association AREA and will be available shortly. Check http://www.acrib.org.uk for updates and come to the ACRIB F Gas update conference on 11th November in London. 

About ACRIB

ACRIB is an umbrella organisation for the UK RACHP industry comprising trade associations and professional institutes: AMDEA, ARC, B&ES, BFFF, CIBSE, CRT, FETA, FSDF, IOR.  It provides the ACRIB Skillcard scheme for the recognition of individual operative qualifications in working with the full range of refrigerants. For more information see www.acrib.org.uk

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UK:  With a little over 4 months left to go until refrigeration and air conditioning equipment operating on R22 can no longer maintained, it is imperative that businesses if not already done so take action to ensure that after January 2015 there systems are compliant.

If your retail business unit or offices have air conditioning that was installed 9-years ago or more, you most likely could be affected by the ban. if you've not already done so you should be thinking seriously about the best replacement plan for your air conditioning system.

What is R22: R22 is an HCFC, or hydrochlorofluorocarbon, commonly used in air conditioning, process cooling and industrial refrigeration. It has been banned for use in new equipment in the UK since 2004.

HCFCs are ozone-depleting substances, which means that when they are released into the atmosphere they react with and damage the ozone layer. This results in greater UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface, causing wide-ranging environmental effects. These include rises in skin cancer, cataracts and sunburn, smaller and lower quality crop yields and destructive changes to ecosystems.

In accordance with the Montreal Protocol and due to their detrimental impact on the environment, HCFC R22 and other ozone-depleting substances are being phased out globally. Modern refrigerants, such as the industry standard R-410A, which do not damage the ozone layer, are now being used in their place.

Protecting your business: The production of new R22 has been banned for some time now and your service provider will have until now been using recycled R22 to top up your system, however as this is to be banned from 1st January 2015 and your Air Conditioning breaks down it will no longer be able to be maintained. Which if you have air conditioning systems in critical areas like server rooms and IT suites where a system failure will have a huge impact on your operations it is very important to protect your business from these potential risks by replacing or retrofitting your system before the ban takes effect.

Options for replacing Air Conditioning Systems operating on HCFC R22 systems:

The options for operators equipment fall into 2 groups:

a) Replace the existing system with a new plant using a non-HCFC refrigerant.

b) Modify the existing plant so that it can operate with a non-HCFC refrigerant.

What are the alternatives for HCFC R22:

What now: There are a number of advantages to investing in new equipment through support from the government and advances in technology.

Advantages to investing in new systems:

  • The full value of any installation can currently be offset against your corporation tax in the first year under the Government’s Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme (ECA)
  • New equipment will be more energy efficient because of advances in technology, and realistically you can expect to save up to 40% on your annual energy costs
  • Manufacturers are providing longer warranty periods so your new units will be fully protected against product faults
  • The Carbon Trust (www.carbontrust.co.uk) offers UK businesses of all types of low interest loans through its partnership with Siemens. These loans, are designed to fund investment in a wide range of modern, energy efficient systems such as air conditioning
  • Replacement of your R22 units will improve the carbon footprint of your business

One thing you mustn't do is "do nothing". as this could significantly add to your costs and could also leave your business at risk should a breakdown occur after the 31st December 2014.

Make sure you book your survey in now!

You can find qualified reputable engineers in your area by visiting www.fridgehub.com/air conditioning companies

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UK: A recent survey of over 2,500 businesses who bought air conditioners prior to 2004 found that nearly half of the systems are still operating on R22, despite the fact that the use of R22 for top up and servicing will be banned from January 1, 2015.

The survey which was conducted bu AirConUK's database of businesses who had bought air conditioning systems prior to the ban on new R22 equipment from January 1, 2004, found that whilst many businesses have compliant air conditioning systems some of those with pre-2004 units are struggling to come to terms with the new legislation.

Of companies still with air conditioning operating on R22; 

  • 52% said they’ve made the change or were in the process of doing so.
  • 40% said they were aware of the need to change but have done nothing
  • 8% said that they were unaware of the R22 phase-out.

Nearly two-thirds of those who still have systems operating on R22, cited cost as the major factor in having delayed the work.

“British businesses have known about this change for years now,” said AirConUK.co.uk spokesman Jonathan Ratcliffe, “and leaving things to the last minute is reckless in the extreme.”

Ratcliffe puts the lack of action by many companies down to the economic downturn, which has made them reluctant to invest in changes to their systems.

“We’ve known about the R22 phase-out for older systems for years now. Back then, it seemed a long way away, and troubled financial times mean that business owners are hoping to ride out the storm before paying out for the necessary changes. They are happy self-maintaining, and if it works, great."

So who pays? - If you are the owner / occupier of a commercial or residential building with air-conditioning containing R22, then you alone will be hit by the costs and you need to get your AC system altered or changed before the end of this year.

If the building is let to a single tenant and the tenant is responsible for the repair and maintenance of the whole building (including plant and equipment), it is likely that the tenant is required to replace equipment which can no longer be repaired.  It will depend on the wording of the repairing covenant and your lease is the first place to look. If the landlord has responsibility for maintaining the plant and equipment then the works need to be done at his cost.

If the building is let to several tenants, then the landlord will want to recover the cost of replacement or modification through the service charge. Whether the landlord can do this is dependent on the wording of your lease. In multi-let buildings, the service charge provisions of all leases should be checked because the terms may have been negotiated and there could be differences.

Other offences - If the works are not carried out before the end of this year, tenants could not only be committing a statutory offence, but could also be in breach of the covenant in your lease (on complying with statutory obligations). This may give rise to the landlord attempting to forfeit your lease.

Don't leave it to chance - Contact your local air conditioning company today for advice on the options available - or search our directory for local air conditioning engineers near you by clicking here

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UK : Companies and individuals who carry out F-Gas work without the required accreditation or certification are being tracked down and compliance is being enforced, explains Steve Crocker of Refcom in a recent ACR Today article.

Unregistered trademan or as refered, a small cowboy element, can cause a disproportionately large amount of harm to our industry’s reputation and this is becoming evident in the increasingly robust enforcement of F-Gas regulations. Companies and individuals who fail to hold appropriate F-Gas certification or accreditation are not only being hunted down in growing numbers by the authorities, but are also being found out through customer complaints to Refcom about their work.

Refcom is the F-Gas certification body with which about 88 per cent of F-Gas certified companies are registered. In the same way that Refcom worked closely with Defra in setting up the F-Gas Company Certification scheme, now Refcom is liaising closely with the Environment Agency (EA) in its enforcement activities. Defra is still the policymaker but the EA is the policeman and Refcom is assisting with the investigative process.

Protecting commercial interests

All of this investigative and enforcement work is designed to help protect the commercial interests of the vast majority of companies that are complying with F-Gas regulations so that they don’t have to compete unfairly with businesses that are cutting corners. It is also to protect the industry’s professional reputation from being damaged by the small minority of installers and maintainers who flout the law and, of course, to help meet the objective of the F-Gas regulations thus safeguarding the environment from unnecessary leakages of fluorinated greenhouse gases.

Some unscrupulous businesses are simply ignoring the F-Gas regulations and hoping that they’ll get away with it. They either have no certification at all, or they have previously obtained interim certification but didn’t bother to upgrade to the full certification, which became a legal requirement in July 2011. This corner cutting mentality invariably has other symptoms, such as second-rate work. Customer complaints about unsatisfactory work within the scope of the F-Gas rules – the installation, maintenance or servicing of stationary refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment containing or designed to contain F-Gas refrigerants – start an investigation process that can often lead to uncovering failures in F-Gas compliance.

This unlawful element is also found out because properly accredited companies in the same geographic area eventually hear about them and report them. Refcom and the Environment Agency receive and encourage such information feedback from law abiding certificated companies.

Logos but no validity

Other violators are being more devious, trying to get around the regulations in ways they hope will allow them to argue their compliance – these actions are being uncovered by our investigative work with the Environment Agency and help from our members. A common offence is hiring, on a sub-contractor basis, individuals who have F-gas qualifications and then send them to do the installation or servicing work on the company’s behalf. These companies then claim to be certificated and often display a certification body logo on their website or stationary.

For a business to hold a valid company certificate, it must directly employ its own engineers and not pay them as sub contractors. Through our work with the Environment Agency, Refcom logos are being removed from uncertified company websites and those contacted are now seeking their own company certificates or receive formal regulatory advice.

Certification theft

Other complaints have led to investigations that have unearthed even clumsier violations. In recent months, one particular company was found to be using another company’s valid Refcom company certification. In instances like this, the Environment Agency will work with its own local area officers to make direct contact or liaise with local authorities’ Trading Standards to ensure these companies become compliant if they wish to continue trading in the future.

The Environment Agency is made aware of unscrupulous companies identified by Refcom and our members and works to ensure compliance. Those companies that choose not to work with the Environment Agency receive legal notices requiring direct actions with given timescales and, as a final option, those that continue to offend will be prosecuted by the Environment Agency’s legal teams in the same way it enforces the waste industry.

Refcom knows the Environment Agency is methodically going through business registers, websites and chat rooms tracking down companies to ensure they have the appropriate certification. The Environment Agency is working with certification bodies and trade associations to investigate cases that arouse suspicion.

And Refcom is in contact with the EA on an almost daily basis, reporting its own findings and helping to support our certified companies. From about 800 companies that were failing to comply with F-Gas regulations in 2009, we’re now down to around 90. If you’re one of those, there’s a fair chance you’ll get caught.

Source: ACR Today

Article by Jennifer Chappell, Bircham Dyson Bell @BDB_Law

Did you know that from the end of this year it will be illegal to use R22 refrigerant (new, recycled or reclaimed) in existing air-conditioning equipment?  The options are simple. Replace your whole AC unit or use an alternative modern refrigerant gas to top it up - which will still involve replacing major parts of your current AC system.

What is R22? - R22 is an ozone depleting gas currently used in the majority of air conditioning systems that were installed before 2004. Since 2010, new or “virgin” R22 has been banned in all EU Member States.

Recycled or reclaimed R22 has been an exception to the rule until now. From 1 January 2015, use of any R22 will become illegal. Breach of the relevant EU Regulations could result in a summary conviction and maximum statutory penalty.  Replacement of an entire AC system is, of course, expensive. Modification of an existing AC system which uses R22 may be possible but, even if you can modify, it may be inefficient and increase energy costs which owners / occupiers are already trying to avoid.

So who pays? - If you are the owner / occupier of a commercial or residential building with air-conditioning containing R22, then you alone will be hit by the costs and you need to get your AC system altered or changed before the end of this year.

If the building is let to a single tenant and the tenant is responsible for the repair and maintenance of the whole building (including plant and equipment), it is likely that the tenant is required to replace equipment which can no longer be repaired.  It will depend on the wording of the repairing covenant and your lease is the first place to look. If the landlord has responsibility for maintaining the plant and equipment then the works need to be done at his cost.

If the building is let to several tenants, then the landlord will want to recover the cost of replacement or modification through the service charge. Whether the landlord can do this is dependent on the wording of your lease. In multi-let buildings, the service charge provisions of all leases should be checked because the terms may have been negotiated and there could be differences.

Other offences - If the works are not carried out before the end of this year, tenants could not only be committing a statutory offence, but could also be in breach of the covenant in your lease (on complying with statutory obligations). This may give rise to the landlord attempting to forfeit your lease.

2014 could be an expensive year for landlords and tenants. If you need help getting to grips with the implications of R22 then please do get in touch with Jennifer Chappell at www.bdb-law.co.uk

 

Fridgehub, providing information and resources to Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pump Suppliers, Contractors and Retail Business Operators

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New alternatives to the existing F-Gas refrigerant handling qualifications are now available to refrigeration contractors according to leading F-Gas certification body REFCOM.

Refcom Secretary, Steve Crocker, explained:

“We had a situation towards the back end of last year and the beginning of this year where training providers were training apprentices, only to find that they couldn’t guarantee that the modules they were teaching were a recognised equivalent to the existing F-Gas qualifications.

“Qualification requirements are written down in law under the F-Gas Regulation so, if there are changes, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has to alert the European Commission (EC) to this.

“It is important for companies to understand that there are choices in terms of F-Gas qualifications. City & Guilds (C&G) has introduced two new qualifications and Defra has reassured me that they are valid for Company F-Gas certification.”

Defra told Mr Crocker: “Learners will be issued with a certificate of unit credit demonstrating that they are F-Gas Category 1 competent once they have successfully completed either units 230/530 together or units 209/509 together, consisting of a multiple choice test and practical test. They will not have to wait until completing all of the other units from the 6187 or 7189 NVQ diplomas.” The new qualifications join two existing qualifications – C&G 2079 Category 1 refrigerant handling and the Construction Skills J11 safe handling – that have been in place for the past four years. Mr Crocker added: “Instead of apprentices attending a three to five-day course for the existing F Gas qualifications, if employers want to send them to college to do an NVQ, they can complete specific modules (C&G units 230/530 of the 6187-01 or 6187-02 NVQ diplomas and units 209/509 of the 7189-02 or 7189-03 NVQ diplomas) that are a direct equivalent to the existing F Gas qualifications.

“When they go to college, they do these modules first so they become qualified under F Gas and the ODS (Ozone Depleting Substances) Regulations. This means they can legally work on systems more or less straightaway and are therefore more ‘useful’ to their employer. Once they have completed the modules, they finish the rest of the course over two or three years.”

REFCOM maintains a register of companies competent to manage refrigerants, including fluorinated refrigerant gases. It operates a certification body under the stationary equipment provisions of the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations.

On 4 July 2009, it became a legal requirement for all businesses that install, maintain or service stationary refrigeration, air conditioning and/or heat pump equipment containing or designed to contain F-Gas refrigerants to obtain an F-Gas Company Certificate.  Companies wishing to upgrade or to attain a full company certificate can visit www.refcom.org.uk for more information.

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