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R22 summit leaves 'more people clued up' about ban

08 May 2013

A major R22 summit on 23 April showed the 2014 ban of an HCFC refrigerant isn’t as far away as it seems – and that property owners and premises managers need to be prepared or they will be caught napping

Sponsored by HVAC company Ergro, the summit at the Royal Society of Medicine concentrated on helping an invited audience of building managers, consultants, architects and business leaders get to grips with the various implications of the ban.

The panel comprised Martin Fahey of Mitsubishi Electric; Saleem Fazal of international law firm Taylor Wessing; Trevor Lake of chartered accountants and tax advisers LB Group; Graham Wright of Daikin UK and Kevin Groves of Ergro. Together they discussed the technical, logistical, financial and legal ramifications for businesses from the end of 2014, when the ban comes into force.

From 1 January 2015 the refrigeration circuit of systems using R22 will no longer be serviceable and any breakdown will lead to downtime, empty buildings and the associated risk to reputation and business continuity. The main problem facing the industry is a lack of awareness - but the ban is now just over 600 days away.

Many building operators and owners don’t yet feel any urgency, but as Ergro’s Kevin Groves pointed out: “Just 616 days until R22 phase-out means less than two financial years to make necessary upgrades - and as the ban date approaches the demand will soar.”

Graham Wright of Daikin has a wealth of knowledge on the background to the ban and explained that: “no new R22 plant has been made since 2003 and with the ban on the use of R22 looming, it is critical that plans are drawn up to ensure a replacement of old systems. This should be carried out to maximise energy savings and reduced CO2 emissions exploiting the benefits of the latest innovations available from the industry.”

Mitsubishi Electric has already helped many companies plan for the ban, as Martin Fahey explained, “Air conditioning that's more than 10 years old will no longer be supported so companies need to start planning replacement programmes now. That's why we have set up a website* helping people understand the case for replace.”

Saleem Fazal, head of real estate disputes at Taylor Wessing, explained that both landlords and tenants should be concerned about who is legally responsible for reacting to the ban: “It’s very complex if you rent part of a building and liability will depend on the terms of the lease and the type of system. Also you should protect yourself now in respect of future costs if you are taking on a new lease or renewing your lease.”

The logistics involved in maintaining an operational building after the ban where access and outside authorities may be involved shows how planning ahead is vital. A company based in a city or town might need to apply for permission to close a street, and use a crane for the extraction and replacement of air conditioning equipment. This is not something that can be organised at short notice but is likely to affect many urban buildings.

Where plant replacement is necessary, the financial blow can be eased, according to LB Group’s Trevor Lake. “There are substantial allowances: up to 100% tax deduction for managing system changes in line with the legislation. Capital allowance can also reduce the burden, but the allowances may not always be available at the current levels,” he explained.

Many of the 750,000 systems in the UK that still use the R22 refrigerant use it for business critical cooling, such as for the server room, vital for business continuity. And research shows that staff and customer wellbeing cannot be ignored as it too can have a huge impact on profits and productivity when adequate climate control isn’t maintained.

Martin Fahey of Mitsubishi Electric expanded on the business critical nature of air conditioning to many companies, as it is not just about staff and customer support: ”Server rooms are of particular interest to major organisations. They can’t afford shut down; we’re all so dependent upon the computer systems that form the spine and nervous system of our information and communication that any shutdown would cripple operability,” he said.

If you have any queries about the R22 refrigerant get in touch with Ergro at Martin Fahey summed up the approaching ban: “750,000 systems run R22 but we’ve been through big changes before – it’s about understanding the issue, reviewing what you have and replacing in plenty of time.”

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