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We are taking a proactive approach to business’ compliance with regard to a new law coming into practice from 1st January 2015. The regulation prohibits the use of ozone-depleting HCFC gases, in particular R22, in the maintenance and servicing of all refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps.
Residential properties and businesses are both at threat, particularly in the food and drink industry, pharmaceutical, health, retail, hospitality, finance and data processing. Affected systems include fridges and freezers, blast chillers and cold stores, as well as many types of air conditioning and heat pumps
R22 refrigerant gas is commonly used in systems older than 2004. It has since been proven to increase UV radiation if released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change, carbon emissions, rising energy costs, serious health problems and the decline of crop production.
The new law prevents the removal or addition of R22 gas during service and maintenance work. The penalties for breaking the law include large fines and, in extreme cases, company shutdown. This is the final stage of the phase-out which began in 1995, when the use of R22 in new equipment became illegal. In 2010, existing air conditioning was included, and since then, only recycled R22 has been permitted.
There are two options available. The recommended course action is to replace the system. Newer equipment uses refrigerant which has zero ozone-depleting potential and is proven to be more energy efficient. Alternatively, it may be possible for the existing system to have its refrigerant replaced with a more environmentally friendly type, however several considerations would need to be made, for example the system’s age, efficiency, reliability, compatibility with alternative gases, and the manufacturer’s own advice.
Any companies or households affected by the impending legislation should be making provisions in preparation for change. Most companies should have an environmental policy which states its commitment to reducing energy consumption.
Landlords, tenants and professional advisors should consider the ban when negotiating new lease terms. The Energy Act (2011) made it unlawful to let properties with low energy performance ratings without working to make improvements. Prospective tenants may be reluctant to agree to a fully-repairing lease and may demand replacement systems before signing. Several sources predict a 2 tier market may arise, where there are different lease values for offices with R22 and those without. Tenants should inspect new contracts carefully, to ensure cost liability for old R22 systems is not their responsibility.
The newer, more environmentally friendly refrigerants also carry their own hazards. A specialist Refcom and ACRIB accredited refrigeration engineer is always required to handle them safely.