European training providers have announced a joint training plan that aims to “Help reach the goals of the F-gas regulation by working together to increase the knowledge on the hydrocarbon split market.”
Four European training providers from UK, Germany and Italy, in cooperation with Clivet have launched a joint training plan to increase awareness and build competency in the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants in split systems.
This plan is the first of its kind to be launched in the European market and will help it to move towards the adoption of alternative highly flammable refrigerants in small commercial and domestic air conditioning to respect and match the future regulations and future trends within the required time frame and improve safety at the same time.
The proposed revision of the EU F-gas regulation, expected to be in place from 1st of January 2024, after completion of the legislative process, will place a ban on split systems using a refrigerant with GWP (global warming potential) above 150 with thermal capacity up to 12kW; at present for these kinds of applications the only refrigerant matching the requirement is R290.
The systems, manufactured in production facilities suitable for charging, pressure testing and handling the flammable refrigerant, have been delivered to the classrooms, laboratories and workshops of the training organisations in the first week of October.
These training centres have been equipped with specialist tools and equipment for use with flammable refrigerants (i.e. recovery machines, vacuum pumps, mobile and permanent leak detectors, ventilation fans to dilute the flammable concentration) to ensure safe operation of the new units.
All equipment is approved for use in a flammable atmosphere in accordance with regulations.
The procedure for the safe installation, servicing and maintenance of equipment utilising natural refrigerants as R600a and R290 is completely different to those required to work with more traditional synthetic HFCs.
For this reason, the technicians who will handle these kinds of systems, potentially hundreds of thousands of people across Europe, will need to be retrained. This is a concern that has been expressed by the European contractors body AREA and BESA in the UK.
The training which will be provided by the selected training centres will follow the real alternatives project principles and program. It provides a certification scheme which is mutually recognised in 20 countries globally and translated into 17 languages. The certification is already mandatory in Spain, Netherlands and Denmark. All EU countries will probably follow and 500 000 technicians (already Fgas certified) will potentially need to be certified for the alternative refrigerants on top of the Fgas certification they already hold with a further 2 days’ specific training and certification.
In particular, the practical part of the training will provide the procedure to install and service those systems in a safe manner, focusing on the connection of the external and internal units, pipe jointing, evacuation, charging and recovery of refrigerant, leak testing and commissioning.
For improved experience, a specific feedback form will be handed to the attendees at the end of the training asking specific questions aimed to understand the problems, the solutions and the familiarity of the technicians who will need to perform those activities in the future.
Heat pumps (including air to air split systems) also have a bright future due to the European policy of decarbonisation and the change in refrigerant, if not followed correctly by all parties within the chain, could jeopardise this important growth (34% in 2021 and 25% in the first half of 2022 – EHPA), necessary to reach EU goals.