Since the 31st December 2014, it has been illegal to top up or replenish an AC system using R22 gas. Many manufacturers have continued to supply spare parts for systems originally sold as R22 but with all sources of the refrigerant now banned, installers are facing a dilemma in how to deal with their customers who are still using these systems in their buildings.
Although the phase down of high GWP refrigerants has been underway since 2000, the final ban on topping up or replenishing R22 in existing systems was expected to impact widely on the air conditioning sector and on all AC engineers using the refrigerant.
Eight months after the ban, Daikin UK undertook a survey of AC contractors and installers to establish the impact of the R22 ban, and to understand the barriers installers face when moving toward using new, lower GWP refrigerants.
Shedding light on the changes
Adding to this, the majority of installers conceded that their biggest challenge is that customers are unwilling to change their AC system at this time, with a shocking 78 per cent waiting for their existing system to reach its end of life or breakdown before considering a replacement refrigerant.
This is having an impact on the number of opportunities available for AC installers, as although many are ready and trained for using, for example, R32, the opportunities to upgrade systems from using older refrigerants are scarce.
Customers therefore need educating on the benefits of upgrading to newer refrigerants such as R32 and R410a. As well as being more energy efficient, R32 is a cost-effective replacement for R22 and as a single component refrigerant easier to reuse and recycle.
When considering the most important features of alternative refrigerants, opinions of installers were split; with 23 per cent believing energy efficiency is the most important factor, and 23 per cent also considering affordability to be an important.
Split on safety
With more than 75 per cent of installers choosing R32 or R410a as their preferred alterative, it is clear that installers are embracing the move toward more environmentally friendly solutions.
The difficulty the UK air conditioning sector now faces, is the challenge of leading customers toward more efficient refrigerants, rather than waiting for their current inefficient systems running R22 to break down.
As a forward-thinking manufacturer, Daikin UK is providing all of its installers with cost effective and highly efficient alternative refrigerant solutions and the necessary training to enable contractors to offer them to their customers. To assist contractors in persuading their clients to update their climate control systems with newer refrigerants, manufacturers should also be providing a range of training, information advice and documentation to help them make informed decisions for their clients.
In the meantime, its worth reinforcing the facts: end-clients can benefit from lower running costs over the lifetime of the system, extended warranties, renewed confidence in an effective system and a dramatic reduction in a company’s carbon footprint by choosing full replacement of their R22 systems.