Open-access content 3rd August 2010
Energy assessment of air conditioning systems is not an optional extra – it provides a useful route to the information we need to help meet the nation’s carbon reduction targets
by Simon Keel
5 August 2010
The implementation of this document means that all air conditioned premises, with a total cooling down to a minimum of 12 kW, have to be inspected. Various bodies were set up to train and certify inspectors who would bring expertise and vision to end users operating qualifying plant which may well be running inefficiently. The recommendations would not be obligatory, more of a helpful constructive critique.
However, the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (Cibse) estimates that fewer than 5 per cent of buildings have so far complied with this Energy Performance in Buildings legislation requiring them to be inspected by 4 January 2011.
This figure, if true, is shocking, even after taking into account the teething troubles encountered when endeavouring to train up sufficient inspectors. Initially the courses for inspectors, when they were eventually set up, could not cope with the numbers needed to cover all the in-scope buildings. This meant a temporary reprise for facilities managers, whose excuse for non compliance was that no inspectors were available.
The situation now is quite the reverse. There are plenty of inspectors chasing inspections and all >250kW buildings have had plenty of time to have been inspected by now. Even so, many of the small number of buildings that have been inspected and have had reports issued, have still not taken any remedial action. This may be due to financial constrictions on businesses, but is more likely to be spawned by apathy.
By acting in this way, companies are jeopardising the UK’s ability to hit carbon reduction targets and – possibly most pressing in the current economic climate – costing themselves money. This is due to the fact that the subsequent report would be highly detailed and contain a full description of systems and comprehensive recommendations on how to make it run more effectively, thus saving carbon emissions, operating costs and enhancing user comfort.
By viewing the energy assessment of air conditioning systems as a route by which information can be gathered to improve overall efficiency, significant energy performance improvements could be achieved that will make a real difference to the UK’s ability to hit its carbon reduction targets, while also making significant steps in improving a company’s bottom line.
Key to this argument is that the role of the professionally qualified assessor is to offer advice on how improvements in performance can be made going forward. This is 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.
The government must act now to force building managers to comply with regulations for air conditioning inspections if the UK is to meet carbon reduction targets. What is needed is either a bigger stick (not likely in today’s new political environment) or a bigger carrot. The latter could take the form of direct grant help (also not even remotely likely in the wake of today’s financial cut backs). More realistic are subtle drivers which would ultimately affect the pockets of the non compliers.
These subtle drivers could include clauses added to initiatives like the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme. They could take the form of stipulating that all reports should be acted upon within six months of publication, unless reasons why this is not feasible are given. Without this report the company would not be placed on the Carbon Reduction Commitment league table.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but there are a number of end users who do not know their obligations. This can only be put down to the lack of impetus from the government in raising awareness of regulations within the industry. Without this follow-through, there is no evidence to show that the rate of take-up of inspections will change and therefore there will be no change in the amount of carbon emitted from commercial buildings, seriously putting into question the achievability of the country’s carbon reduction targets.
Key points to remember
• Cibse TM 44 (Inspection of air conditioning systems) was developed in collaboration with an Industry Working Group comprising Acrib, Bre, Bsria, Cibse, Feta, HVCA, IoR and Summit Skills
• The Energy Performance of Building Directive (2002/91/EC) Article 1.e requires regular inspections of air conditioning in buildings. This became UK law in January 2008
• It requires inspections of all air conditioned premises with a minimum total cooling down to 12 kW.
• Systems over 250kW should have been inspected by 4 January 2009.
• All systems over 12kW must be inspected by 4 January 2011.
• The fine for not having undertaken an air conditioning inspection is £300.
• Cibse estimates that around 50,000 sites that were required to have been inspected by January 2009 have not so far been inspected.
• Figures showing compliance with the air conditioning inspections directive is around 5 per cent. This compares with 80 per cent for Display Energy Certificates and 70-75 per cent for Energy Performance Certificates.
Simon Keel is product executive at Daikin UK