Chris Wellfair, Projects Director at data centre design and build company Secure I.T. Environments, looks at the importance of regular system inspections.
If you are responsible for the air conditioning systems in your business, then you should already be familiar with the TM44 requirements to undertake regular inspections of the installation, to ensure that it is performing correctly and efficiently. It is not just a legal requirement, but simply good practice that can help identify maintenance issues, cost saving opportunities, reduce energy consumption and the carbon footprint of your business.
Whilst in most cases systems the estate was being fully inspected, you certainly don’t want to find yourself in a situation where an Air Handling Unit (AHU) gets missed, as you will be fined up to £500 for a combination of failing to get an inspection completed, and not being able to produce a current certificate for all AHUs.
The process of getting an inspection completed is not difficult, but because of the way companies often have their estate spread across sites it is possible for units to get missed if adequate asset lists are not maintained. Ignorance of the requirements will not be an excuse as far as the law is concerned of course, but if you already have maintenance contracts in place then this should be covered under that agreement. It is important to check though!
Inspections must be carried out by an accredited air conditioning energy assessor who is a current member of an accreditation scheme. Only inspection reports which have been produced and lodged by accredited air conditioning energy assessors qualify as valid reports.
So, who needs a TM44 inspection?
Basically, every company that has responsibility for its own AC implementation that is rated at 12kW or higher – companies that are a building tenant should be covered by the building owner.
TM44 emerged following the appearance of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive by the European Parliament in January 2003. Essentially it required all member states to introduce laws that would ensure that energy consumption and use where legislated for to ensure good practices. TM44 is published by CIBSE for those that want familiarise themselves more closely with the work of the working party that produced it.
All air conditioning systems with an effective rated output of more than 12kw must be regularly reviewed by an accredited ACI Inspector – inspections must be no more than five years apart. All air conditioning systems are now covered by TM44, but there were specific qualification dates depending on ‘into service’ date of your AHUs. The regulations require the first inspection of air conditioning systems to be carried out as follows:
- for all systems first put into service on or after 1 January 2008, the first inspection must have taken place within five years of the date when the system was first put into service
- for all other air conditioning systems, where the effective rated output is more than 250kW the first inspection must have taken place by 4 January 2009
- for all other air conditioning systems, where the effective rated output is more than 12kW the first inspection must have taken place by 4 January 2011
The inspection itself is a straightforward process. The inspector will need access to each AHU, as well as associated hardware and control panels. They’ll conduct a visual inspection of each piece of equipment, as well as measure the efficiency of the equipment. This information, along with any identified faults and suggestions for improvements to the efficiency of the system will be included in the report provided. Critically, they will also provide a certificate and guidance on how to review the use of air conditioning within your business. Acted on, this guidance will lower long term costs, reduce environmental impact and improve energy efficiency. Providing this report is a requirement on inspectors, so make sure you get it.
Choosing an inspection supplier
We’ve talked about the importance of the legislation and what an inspection involves, but how do you choose an assessor? There are four main considerations when you are choosing an assessor which we always give to our own data centre clients:
- Firstly, only appoint companies that are an ‘Accredited ACI Assessor’. Only inspection reports which have been produced and lodged by accredited air conditioning energy assessors are valid reports under the TM44 requirements
- We advise clients to choose a national company. It generally means that have better resources, are able to conduct assessments at short notice, and offer a greater level of cover depending on the support you are looking for from them
- Inspection charges are usually defined on cost per AHU, so be sure to get an estimate from the company before you appoint them. This should be transparent and clearly the show inspection cost of each piece of the estate. Do not settle for a quote that is not broken down
- Have a clear understanding of how the appointed assessors need to conduct the tests, the overall time required and downtime that may be needed. In the case of data centres, or temperature sensitive locations, it be appropriate to schedule assessments to take place outside busy office hours or times when the data centre will be operating under peak conditions.
It is easy for us all to get frustrated by red tape, but the truth is that the TM44 inspection regime can have a profound impact on the performance and efficiency of your air conditioning systems, as well as increasing its useful lifespan and lowering the risk of failure. If you cannot remember when your last TM44 inspection took place, then now is the time to review your air conditioning estate, check paperwork and seek out an Accredited ACI Inspector.