Compulsory air conditioning inspections for systems with a rated output greater than 250KW must be completed by 4th January next year. Is your current system ready?
by Carol Sweetenham
7 August 2008
Air conditioning in your 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. Could the air conditioning system in your building be more energy efficient?
Energy consumption can increase by as much as 60 per cent as a result of poor maintenance and dirty components. Regular maintenance checks and the compulsory inspections will help ensure your air conditioning system is operating as efficiently as possible.
Air conditioning inspections are being introduced by the government as part of the implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in England and Wales, with the aim of providing building owners and operators essential information about the energy performance of their air conditioning systems. The information and advice will highlight possible improvements to the energy efficiency, electricity consumption, operating costs and carbon emissions of the system.
Mandatory 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 your air-conditioning system has a rated output greater than 250kW, you must have had your first inspection by 4 January 2009.
For systems with a rated output greater than 12kW, but less than 250kW the first inspection must be completed by 4 January 2011. Thereafter, inspections will be required every five years. For new systems installed on or after 1 January 2008, the first inspection must have taken place within five years of the installation date. With the first deadline just over six months away, facilities managers can get ahead of the game by finding out how energy efficient their air conditioning system is and reducing their office costs today.
Who can inspect?
All inspections must be carried out by an accredited air conditioning energy assessor. They will provide you with a written report giving you advice and guidance on how to improve the energy efficiency of the system. If you manage a building with an air conditioning system that is affected by these regulations, you are responsible for ensuring an inspection has been done by the deadlines and that you have a copy of the most recent inspection report.
From 4 January 2011, this will be a statutory requirement and the inspection report you receive should be kept with ongoing maintenance records in the building log book. All air conditioning energy assessors must be a member of an accreditation scheme which will act as a safeguard by ensuring appropriate expertise to conduct energy assessment and all inspection reports are consistent.
The inspection of an air conditioning system involves a visual assessment of the installation. The energy assessor will examine the equipment and, air movement systems and controls. Following the inspection, the inspector will provide you with a report containing:
The current efficiency of your equipment and suggestions for improvement
A list of any faults identified during the inspection and suggested actions
The adequacy of the equipment maintenance and suggestions for improvement
The adequacy of the installed controls and control settings and suggestions for improvement
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.
You are under no obligation to act on the advice provided in the inspection report. However, the reports will give you the opportunity to propose and implement changes that will reduce energy consumption and costs. These changes may include upgrading your air conditioning equipment, but also finding ways to improve how the system is maintained and used. Getting the air conditioning system in your building inspected now will not only ensure you are prepared in advance of the new legislation, but it will put you in a position to get the most out of your system.
Dr Carol Sweetenham is deputy director for energy performance of buildings at the Department for Communities and Local Government
Improve the efficiency of your air-con
Consider the following steps to improve energy efficiency of your air conditioning system:
Turn cooling thermostats up - set the temperature 'switch on' to around 25- 27°C and ensure heating switches off at around 19°C so that two systems don't operate simultaneously
Match air flow rates to demand - excessive draughts can cause headaches and dry throats
Switch off unnecessary electrical equipment
Let the building cool overnight
Place heat-emitting equipment in a separate, naturally ventilated area
Keep windows closed when air con is on
Display instructions on individual units and ensure that remote controls are accessible to users to make adjustments
Monitor your energy consumption by examining your energy bills
If you haven't done so already, book yourself in for an inspection. The inspector will examine your equipment and provide you with a report of recommendations for your business. You are under no obligation to act, but a few small changes can make a big difference to the health and wealth of your business.