by Dave Cocking
4 December 2008
Air conditioning can account for more than a third of the energy used in a building and is therefore specifically targeted in the new Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations (England and Wales). The regulations pertaining to inspections represent the final part of this extensive legislation to come into force, with non-domestic EPCs and DECs having been introduced earlier in 2008. The inspection aims to provide building owners/operators with basic information about the performance of the systems they control and to identify opportunities to improve efficiency, thus saving energy and ultimately reducing energy costs and CO2 emissions.
When will the regulations on inspection take effect?
The regulations are being adopted in two phases. The first phase applies to 'complex' systems with a rated cooling capacity above 250 kW and the second phase to the remaining systems with cooling capacities over 12 kW cooling. The timelines are as follows (system description - cut-off date):
complex systems over 250 kW - 4 Jan 2009
systems from 12 to 250 kW - 4 Jan 2011
systems installed after 1 Jan 2008 - five years from the date of commissioning
Which systems apply?
For the purposes of this legislation an air conditioning system is defined as mechanical cooling for the comfort of occupants, and does not include process cooling such as that used for cold stores and maintaining equipment temperatures below prescribed levels. What comprises an air conditioning system and who is responsible for that system are commonly misunderstood. One or more air-conditioning units within a building controlled by a single person/organisation are considered to comprise a single air-conditioning system. And the person responsible for the operation of the system is the person who controls the technical functioning of the system, not just someone who can just alter the temperature.
A system therefore includes all central plant and smaller 'window-box' and split units in one building which are under the control of one owner/operator. The rated cooling capacity of the system is the sum of the cooling capacities of all the units in the system.
What is involved?
The inspection is essentially a "health check" of your system and the deliverable will be a report highlighting measures which, if adopted, will have the potential to reduce energy consumption, emissions and costs within a reasonable payback period. The inspection is necessarily detailed and a lot of the information is gathered from visual inspection of plant and equipment. However, there is some information, including maintenance and control details, which cannot be gathered in this way. The client is obliged to provide this information. The inspections are non-invasive, but will require air handling units to be isolated so that the inspector can check the condition of filters. The inspection of a complex system will generally take two to three days on site.
The inspection will examine system components from the cooling plant to the means of delivering the conditioned air to the occupants. It will also estimate whether the system is suitably sized for the cooling load. It is envisaged that wherever possible the inspections will be undertaken parallel to associated routine activities such as maintenance and F-Gas inspections for reasons of economy. The inspection report will identify system design and operational issues and gauge the adequacy of maintenance and controls regimes. It will often highlight simple no-cost and low-cost measures such as changing settings which can result in immediate and significant savings. Reports will remain valid for five years, after which the system will require another inspection.
Who can inspect?
Air conditioning system inspections and reports can only be provided by a qualified and accredited air conditioning inspector. It is estimated that there are approximately 20,000 complex systems requiring inspection by 4 January 2009. Given that there are only a handful of qualified inspectors at the time of writing, the reality is that only a small percentage will be inspected before the deadline. A practical barrier to achieving the first deadline is that the inspector needs to see the equipment in operation, therefore many systems cannot be inspected until there is a sufficient comfort cooling load in spring/summer 2009. This may result in a similar situation caused by the DEC assessor shortage, where transitional arrangements were put in place to prevent enforcement action against organisations where the FM has taken all reasonable measures to comply.
Dave Cocking is the managing director of Arrow Energy Solutions
Information is available on the government website at www.communities.gov.uk where you can download Improving the energy efficiency of our buildings: A guide to air-conditioning inspections for buildings. This publication has some useful rules to help FMs to identify whether
an inspection is necessary. The website www.cibsecertification.co.uk can help you to
find an accredited inspector
Are you responsible for the inspection?
The indicators that you are the responsible party for the inspection are:
if you are the FM and are contractually responsible for the operation and management of the system
if you are a maintenance organisation contractually responsible for all inspections.
if you are the owner and you control the operation of the system
if you are a tenant who takes total responsibility for the services (maintenance/repair/insurance)
In all cases the landlord, tenant or owner has a duty to ensure that the inspection is carried out