Harris Lamb is advising commercial landlords and occupiers of pending changes to legislation regarding the coolant used in air conditioning units which have major cost implications for those using older systems.
While the consultancy isn’t advising clients to invest in replacement units before the end of 2014, when the use of R22 refrigerant in air conditioning units will be illegal, it is stressing the importance of allocating budget to replace new systems and to prioritise those serving critical areas.
At present, there are still an estimated 750,000 air conditioning units using R22 in the UK, despite the fact that the last R22 units were produced in 2003.
Paul Wells, Director of Building Consultancy at Harris Lamb, said: “R22 is being withdrawn from the market because it releases HCFC compounds (hydro chlorofluorocarbons) into the atmosphere. Those using systems installed prior to 2003 could be facing substantial cost implications.
“The coolant was not available to buy from the end of 2009, and while reclaimed R22 will be available for use for the remainder of this year, stock-piling new or reclaimed R22 will be an offence. The newest system still using the refrigerant will be 11 years old now, but the majority are significantly older and won’t have a manufacturers’ warranty even if serviced regularly, and while there are alternative ‘drop in’ refrigerants available to replace R22, these are often expensive and adapting old machinery to comply with them can make the systems less reliable.
“Given that R22 equipment is now approaching the end of its lifespan and is more likely to fail, and that the sourcing of R22 and spare parts will become more difficult and repair times longer, it is important the any businesses operating one of these systems considers its position,” said Paul.
Paul advised that those using R22 based air conditioning in non-critical areas could bide their time and  wait until a failure occurs before taking appropriate action, which will not contravene the new legislation, while others should plan alternative solutions for units serving critical areas.
“Business could consider the option of replacing the existing R22 refrigerant with ‘drop in’ alternative coolants, which may extend the life of the equipment, but the new refrigerant is likely to make the system more prone to failure.
“For critical areas it may be worth replacing systems with R410 based equipment.  This has capital cost implications but will ensure the ready supply of manufacturer recommended refrigerant and parts should they be required.  The new systems should also offer an increase in energy efficiency of up to 50 per cent for older systems,” said Paul.
“For critical areas such as server rooms it would be prudent to replace the systems or investigate ‘drop in’ conversions this year before R22 is banned from 1st January 2015,” he advised.
For advice and support, contact Harris Lamb on 0121 455 9455 or via www.harrislamb.com