Whereas the European Commission is considering measures towards a decreased use of HFCs, an internal survey from AREA, the Voice of European Air-Conditioning, Refrigeration and Heat Pump (RACHP) Contractors, warns against the risk of shortage of contractors trained in the use of low GWP refrigerants. We advise compulsory EU training based on harmonised minimum requirements.
The European Commission is working on a revision of the F-Gas Regulation that could include measures in favour of a decreased use of HFCs in RACHP equipment. Such measures would, in turn, result in an increased use of alternatives, namely low GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants, and in particular the so-called “natural refrigerants” (CO2, hydrocarbons and ammonia). Mindful of the key role played by contractors in the safe, efficient and reliable functioning of equipment working with natural refrigerants, AREA sought an overview of the availability and level of training in the EU.
The survey reveals that out of all RACHP contractors active in the 14 countries that replied, 6% are trained with CO2, 11% with HCs and 12% with ammonia. Some training facilities exist in Western Europe but - except in some countries such as Denmark or the Netherlands - they are generally insufficiently equipped, thus focusing on theory rather than practical training. Training is scarce in Eastern Europe. Training schemes are usually set up by the private sector.
“At present, the proportion of contractors trained with natural refrigerants is commensurate with these refrigerants’ market share. This means that the training market has so far been able to fulfil natural refrigerants’ needs. Considering the current level of training, the enhancement of natural refrigerants’ development through EU legislation would most probably generate a gap and result in a shortage of trained contractors. This could pose serious safety risks not to mention the negative consequences on efficiency and reliability of the systems,” warns Marco Buoni, Vice-President of AREA and Chairman of its Task Force Low GWP Refrigerants.
AREA is not only concerned with the level of training in terms of number of courses but also in terms of content. “Current training is very heterogeneous; moreover, it tends to focus on theory and lack practical instruction. To address this situation, we advocate compulsory EU training based on harmonised minimum requirements. In AREA, we are already working on such requirements as a follow-up of the low GWP Refrigerants’ Guidance we issued last year,” continues Marco Buoni.
Finally, sufficient transition time must be given for RACHP contractors to cope with increased use of low GWP refrigerants. As Mr. Buoni explains: “We estimate training costs of up to €3,000 per craftsman, excluding additional costs in brazing or protective equipment, for instance. Our membership, which consists mostly of very small companies and has just invested in F-Gas training, will need some time to adapt. Such time is also needed for training facilities to develop anyway.”