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AREA calls for compulsory training on low GWP refrigerants

WITH the EC taking measures towards decreasing the use of HFCs, the European contractors body AREA has called for compulsory training on the use of low GWP refrigerants.
A new survey by AREA bears out previously reported end-user concerns of a lack of knowledge and training in the use of natural refrigerants. It reveals that out of all the air conditioning, refrigeration and heat pump 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,' commented Marco Buoni, vice-president of AREA and chairman of its low GWP refrigerants task force. While acknowledging that this has so far been able to fulfil natural refrigerants' needs, he warns that 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,' he said.

AREA is not only concerned with the level of training in terms of number of courses but also in terms of content, its current disparate elements, its focus on theory and lack of 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,' continued Marco Buoni.

Finally, sufficient transition time must be given for 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.'

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