Air-conditioning can account for a third of annual electricity costs for an individual business. Improving the efficiency of your air-conditioning can therefore lead to significantly lower energy bills as well as improved staff comfort and productivity.

Energy assessor inspections

All air-conditioning systems with an effective rated output of 12kW must be regularly inspected by an energy assessor at intervals not greater than 5 years.

If your system was installed before 30th December 2008 and an inspection for energy efficiency has yet to be carried out, it needs to be inspected now under the Energy Performance of Buildings (EPB) (Certificates and Inspections) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008, as amended.

If your system was installed on or after 30th December 2008, it must be inspected within 5 years of its installation date.

The relevant person in the building must have in their control at all times a copy of the most recent air-conditioning inspection report.

Failing to have your air-conditioning system inspected or failing to have a copy of the inspection report could result in enforcement action and the issue of a penalty charge notice.

The introduction of mandatory inspections of air-conditioning systems by an energy assessor aims to improve efficiency and reduce the electricity consumption, operating costs and carbon emissions for your system. Energy inspections will highlight opportunities to replace older, less energy efficient systems or oversized systems with the new more energy efficient systems.

The energy inspections introduced by these regulations are in addition to the normal activities associated with the ownership and operation of air-conditioning systems. These include inspection, maintenance and cleaning programmes to maintain the ability of the system to provide healthy and comfortable environments for building occupants, limiting the escape of refrigerant gases and ensuring the safety of equipment. These activities should be carried out on a much more frequent basis that the energy efficiency assessment required under these regulations.

What is an air-conditioning system under the regulations?

An air-conditioning system refers to any system where refrigeration is used to provide cooling for the comfort of occupants. This would exclude separate refrigeration provided solely for process applications such as cold stores, pharmaceutical production, IT server rooms, etc.

One or more air-conditioning units within a building controlled by a single person are considered to comprise a single air-conditioning system for the purposes of the regulations.

Who is the relevant person?

With regard to the inspection of air-conditioning systems, the relevant person is defined as the person who controls the technical functioning and operation of the system. This is not just someone who can adjust the temperature.

The owner of a system will usually control the operation of the system even where day to day operation is contracted out to another. Where a tenant takes total responsibility for a building and its services, then the tenant will usually control the system.

What should I do with my report?

The inspection report is evidence that you have had your system inspected and complied with your legal duties under the EPB regulations. The person who operates the system must retain a copy of the report for the 5 years for which it remains valid. Not having a copy of the report, even if the system has been inspected, is a breach of the regulations and could result in a penalty charge notice.

There is no requirement to act on the recommendations in the inspection report, but you may cut energy use and costs to your business if you do.

What happens if the relevant person changes?

The outgoing relevant person should hand over a copy of the inspection report to their replacement. If you have recently taken over responsibility for operating an air-conditioning system and the inspection report has not been handed over, you have 3 months in which to arrange a new inspection.

What does an inspection involve?

The inspection must be carried out by an accredited energy assessor who must be a member of an approved accreditation scheme. Inspectors will examine the air-conditioning equipment, air movement systems and controls. They will need to inspect equipment located in plant rooms or on rooftops.Once the inspection is completed the assessor will give a detailed report to the responsible person.

What information does an inspection report contain?

The following information must be included:

  • the address of the building in which the system is located
  • the name of the energy assessor
  • the name and address of the energy assessor's employer, or the name under which the assessor trades and his address
  • the date on which the inspection occurred and
  • the name of the approved accreditation scheme that he is a member of

In addition the report will include:

  • information on the current efficiency of your equipment
  • suggestions for improving the efficiency of your equipment
  • advice on replacing inefficient equipment and/or refrigerants
  • any faults identified - such as the condition of air filters - and suggested actions
  • information on the adequacy of your equipment maintenance and how to improve it
  • advice on reducing your need for air-conditioning

What do I do if I am not satisfied with my air conditioning inspection report?

If you have any problems with the quality or validity of your inspection report, you should contact your energy assessor in the first instance.

If you are still not satisfied, you should contact your energy assessor's accreditation scheme which will be listed on your report.

What if you want to 'opt out'?

Anyone can opt out of having their data made publicly available by completing a simple form on the EPC register and requesting that the property is opted out of any data searches. It is possible to opt back in at any stage.

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