Save Money And Carbon Emissions

The credit crunch is now starting to bite with works engineers under increasing pressure to cut costs. Simon Barnes, Head of EPBD Implementation, Communities and Local Government, explains how air conditioning inspections can point to small changes that can result in big financial savings, the focus of his seminar at the forthcoming RAC09 (NEC, Birmingham, 24-26 February 2009), the biennial event for the refrigeration and air conditioning sector.

The air conditioning use in a building can amount to as much as a third of the building's annual energy cost. Older, oversized and poorly maintained air conditioning systems can use more energy and cost more to operate than necessary. Air conditioning inspections are now being introduced in England and Wales, with the aim of providing building owners and operators essential information about the energy performance of their air conditioning systems. But just what do they mean for businesses and what are the legal obligations?

From 4 January this year all systems with an effective rated output of more than 250kW need to have had an inspection. This is the first phase in the implementation of mandatory inspections. The inspections are part of a wider green initiative, which aims to help buildings reduce their carbon emissions through the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates, Display Energy Certificates and inspections to air conditioning systems. By using energy more efficiently businesses can save money, save energy and reduce their overall carbon emissions.

An air conditioning inspection will provide works engineers with information and advice which highlights the potential measures that could be taken to improve the energy efficiency, electricity consumption, operating costs and carbon emissions of the system. Regular maintenance checks and the compulsory inspections will help works engineers not only ensure their air conditioning system is operating as efficiently as possible, but also keep a check on fuel bills as we find ourselves in a more challenging economic climate.

Inspections are being introduced for all air-conditioning systems with rated cooling output greater than 12kW. This includes the combined output of one or more individual air conditioning units in a building. If the air-conditioning system you deal with has a rated output greater than 250kW, you are legally obligated to have had it inspected by 4th January 2009. If you haven't had an inspection, you risk facing a fine from your Local Authority.

For systems with a rated output greater than 12kW, but less than 250kW the first inspection must be completed by 4th January 2011. Thereafter, inspections will be required every 5 years. For new systems installed on or after 1 January 2008, the first inspection must have taken place within 5 years of the installation date.

What does an inspection involve?
The inspection of an air conditioning system involves a visual assessment of the installation. The assessor examines equipment and air movement systems that are part of the air-conditioning unit, and their controls. They also examine any documents that help to understand the systems, or indicate the extent to which the systems have been maintained.

Once the Energy Assessor has completed a full inspection of the system and collected all the necessary information, they will provide you with a written report which gives guidance and advice on the following:

1 A list of any faults identified during the inspection and suggested actions
2 The adequacy of the equipment maintenance and suggestions for improvement
3 The adequacy of installed controls and settings and suggestions for improvement
4 The current size of the installed system in relation to the cooling load and suggestions for improving its energy efficiency, or, where appropriate minimising or avoiding the need for air conditioning

This report should be kept with the ongoing maintenance records in the building log book. While there is no obligation for you to act on any of the recommendations, the report does provide an opportunity to propose and implement changes that will reduce overall energy consumption and costs, key in the current financial climate. These changes may include upgrading your air conditioning equipment, but also finding ways to improve how the system is maintained and used.

All inspections must be carried out by an Air Conditioning Energy Assessor who is a member of an accreditation scheme. This will act as a safeguard to ensure appropriate expertise of assessors and that all inspection reports are consistent. If you manage a building with an air conditioning system that is affected by these regulations, you are responsible for ensuring that an inspection has been done by the deadlines and that you have a copy of the most recent inspection report.

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