Industry must pull together

The air conditioning industry must work together to educate businesses about system inspections legislation to avoid falling foul of the law, says Simon Keel of Daikin UK.

Keel’s comments come as the January deadline for the inspection of air conditioning systems is imminent. By 1 January 2011, all buildings with more than 12kW of cooling capacity should have had an inspection. By not complying with the legislation, companies are breaking the law, jeopardising the UK’s ability to hit carbon reduction targets and, possibly most pressing in the current economic climate, costing themselves money.

“There must be thousands of small premises owners who are ignorant of the law and others who are afraid that it will all be a waste of time and money,” says Keel. “Of course, ignorance of the law is no excuse, but there are a number of end users who do not know their obligations. Given that the Government has done nothing to educate businesses or publicise the law, it is up to the air conditioning industry to take on this role.”

The January 2011 deadline comes two years after the first deadline for all air conditioning systems with more than 250kW of cooling capacity to have been inspected. More than 18 months after that deadline, the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) estimated that fewer than 5% of buildings had yet complied with Energy Performance in Buildings legislation. There is no evidence to suggest that a higher percentage of businesses will have complied with this latest deadline.

Keel argues that by viewing the energy assessment of air conditioning systems as a route by which information can be gathered to improve thermal efficiency, significant energy performance improvements could be achieved, which will make a real difference to the UK’s ability to hit its carbon reduction targets, while also improving a company’s bottom line in today’s financially sensitive market place.

Key to this argument is that the role of the assessor is to offer advice on how improvements in performance can be made going forward – vital information in providing even higher reductions in a building’s energy usage – as well as assessing how an air conditioning is functioning at the point of inspection.

Keel continues: “A good idea is one that is practical, operable, has positive implications and outcomes but is not excessively expensive. In fact, if it can be seen as self-funding or even profit making, why would anyone not undertake an inspection?

“Of course there will be a cost implication and a natural resistance to spending more money, but current feedback from inspectors’ reports shows that long term savings can more than pay for the initial outlay. Building owners and managers who enter into the spirit of these inspections are the ones who will profit the most. By cooperating fully both before and during the visit, the quality of the report will be raised to the highest level and thus deliver greatest value in terms of savings.

“The question is; why would anyone whose duty under law is to undertake an inspection not go ahead and organise it. The answer must be that they have very little information on what it entails and what benefits it can bring. Perhaps the fault lies elsewhere. It seems that a communications exercise should be done, perhaps by the inspecting bodies, to improve understanding in the marketplace.

“It is highly unlikely that help can be sought from the public purse. This leaves us in the industry to demonstrate a duty of care and spread the word wherever and whenever possible.”

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