Don’t be left out in the cold

It might seem like a long time, but by July 2011 all engineers or technicians working on stationary refrigeration, air-conditioning or heat pump equipment that contains or is designed to contain F gases need to hold one of the new F gas (stationery equipment) qualifications.
Fluorinated gases (F gases) are a family of man-made chemicals that are very powerful greenhouse gases; emission of even a small quantity of an F gas to the atmosphere is harmful to the environment. Most F gases are between 1,000 and 20,000 more powerful than CO2 in terms of ‘global warming potential’. The F gases are part of the Kyoto Protocol-basket of greenhouse gases. In the EU the use and emissions of F gases is regulated by EC Regulation 842/2006.
The F gases that may be found in refrigeration, air-conditioning or heat-pump equipment are:

  • HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons): common uses include refrigerants in refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pumps used in many applications such as industry, offices, retail, hospitality and cars. Other uses: aerosols, insulating foam, solvents and fire protection. Examples of HFCs (usually a blend of a number of HFCs) commonly found in refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump equipment are R134a, R404A, R410A, R407A, R407C etc.
  • PFCs (Perfluorocarbons): found in some unusual refrigerant blends.

Qualified engineer
The engineer who comes and installs, services or maintains refrigeration, air-conditioning or heat pump equipment that contains F gases needs to hold a qualification. At the moment an engineer can hold either an interim or a full F gas qualification. However, by July 2011 all engineers working in this sector need to hold a full F gas qualification. There is strong concern in the sector that not enough people are currently getting trained and are putting off this training so there could be a bottleneck next year.
Our research shows that less than 10 per cent of engineers hold the new full F gas qualification. The 93 per cent who still need to attain the new qualification represents in excess of 12,000 engineers.
There are plenty of training providers across the country though they tend to be booked up several months in advance. A course can take up to five days depending on the level of skills and knowledge engineers have. Pre-assessments are possible and will indicate the level of ability of a candidate and give a guide as to the length of course that they should take.
It is also worth noting that as well as a full F gas qualification the companies that employ these engineers need to hold a full Company Certificate by July 2011 and their engineers must all hold the new qualification before they can apply for the full Company Certificate.
Company Certification affects businesses that handle F gases for the purpose of installation, maintenance or servicing of refrigeration, air conditioning or heat pump equipment. Defra has designated three Company Certification bodies  – Bureau Veritas, Quidos and Refcom.

Qualifications needed

There are a number of options; firstly you need to choose your trainer from the two training boards, either City and Guilds or Construction Skills (CITB). Both offer the same level of qualification that is backed up by a quality assurance programme. Whichever course you choose the training provider/assessment centre will work to the same high standards in assessor qualification, practical test equipment, and knowledge test conditions.
Then you need to choose the right category of qualification. There are in fact four levels of qualification. Each is intended for a different candidate. It depends on what work an engineer does and the type of equipment he works on as to which is the right Category of qualification. The table above describes the activities for each Category and lists the training board reference.
The courses are not intended for the beginner, but for those with a significant amount of knowledge and experience. The course will cover the ground rules, but also more complex aspects of working with refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat-City & Guilds Reference pump equipment such as commissioning, efficiency, component design and installation.  
The new stationary F gas qualification is Europe-wide. That means an engineer that holds one of these qualifications can work in other EU Member States as long as they hold a copy of the certificate translated in the local language. The European Commission will hold a list of all the courses that are recognised across the EU Member States.
As an employer or a client, will the new F gas qualification make a difference? In a word, yes. For some in the industry it has been a long time since their knowledge was tested. The new F gas qualification is more involved and demanding than previous qualifications with many engineers coming out of the qualification and feeling more confident. So the new courses provides the customer and the employers with the reassurance that engineers’ skills are up to the required standard and confirms that they understand why they are doing what they are doing.
One of the main reasons the EC F gas Regulation was introduced was to improve the containment of F gases. The new qualification should test skills resulting in an improvement in reliable, efficient and leak free systems.

For more information
Help Line: 0161 874 3663