Gaining from air-conditioning inspections as an opportunity
While everyone is familiar with the benefits of regular servicing and maintenance of commercial and industrial air-conditioning equipment, fewer people are appreciative of the importance of routine inspections. Marc Diaz looks at the role of scheduled inspections in reducing energy consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions.
Legislation has been in force since 2007 requiring all air-conditioning systems of 12 kW or above to be inspected by an independent body to assess the overall efficiency of a system. In line with international efforts, the legislation stipulates that a routine check takes place at least every five years and within the first five years of the commissioning of the unit. There is also since 6 April 2012 a statutory requirement to lodge all air-conditioning inspection reports on the central Non Domestic Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Register.
Whilst maintenance and the servicing of systems are commonplace, often with immediately noticeable results, for many it is hard to comprehend the cost-saving benefits of an inspection, especially when the primary advice in older properties may be to upgrade the air conditioning. Now an undisputable part of building ownership, HVAC inspections need to be understood fully in order to recognise what an inspector is looking for and the benefits that an inspection can bring.
Reports suggest that poorly-equipped and maintained facilities could potentially use up to 60% more energy than those that are well looked after. These inspections therefore demonstrate the need to ensure that those in charge of such systems fully understand and appreciate the recommendations and advice resulting from inspection reports.
When many people think of energy efficiency, the general assumption is that it is down to the core manufactured air-conditioning unit itself. What many people fail to understand is how important the set-up, routine maintenance, structural build and external environments are to the efficiency and performance. This is where the assessor provides a valuable insight, by taking those in control of the building a step back to examine the installation as a whole so as to understand the purpose of the air-conditioning system and the potential for that particular facility.
Air-conditioning inspection reports contain the following.
• Information on the current efficiency of equipment.
• Suggestions for improving the efficiency of equipment.
• Advice on replacing inefficient equipment and/or refrigerants.
• Any faults identified, such as the condition of air filters, and suggested actions
• Information on the adequacy of equipment maintenance and how to improve it.
• Advice on reducing the need for air conditioning.
Assessors will take a close look at the control settings for the system. This includes the day-to-day usage requirements for the building, as well as internal and external temperature setpoints. Quite often it is possible to reduce energy costs significantly by understanding these requirements and adjusting the settings to respond only when they are most needed. Paperwork will also be closely looked at to give the advisor a better understanding of the routine care and maintenance applied to the system.
The principal role of the air-conditioning inspection is to improve the overall energy efficiency of a building and help the UK to meet its climate-change commitments. An inspection report looks to highlight opportunities for energy improvements through adjusted operation, and, in some cases, options to upgrade to new energy-efficient systems. By adhering to the advice, the process will improve the building’s EPC rating.
A good way of keeping on top of the game and ensuring longevity of air-conditioning installations is to ensure staff are as well trained and as suitably informed as possible. Training schemes, both from manufacturers and Government-led initiatives, offer the ideal solution, allowing attendees the most recent and relevant information that will impact future projects.
Air-conditioning assessors are independent and will not endorse any particular manufacturer or brand. Their role is to impartially advise facilities managers on how they can improve their cooling systems. It is important for manufacturers, such as Panasonic, to understand these regulations in order to best represent ourselves and ensure our products best reflect Government guidelines and best practice.
Mark Diaz is Panasonic’s country manager for the UK and Ireland.