Four European training providers in the U.K. Germany, and Italy have joined forces with Italian OEM Clivet (part of the Midea Group) to offer training certification in the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants in split air conditioners (AC), starting this month.

This plan has been called the first of its kind to be launched in the European market and aims to drive the market towards the accelerated adoption of propane (R290) refrigerant in small commercial and domestic air-conditioning in line with expected policy changes, according to an announcement shared by Italian industry news outlet Industria e Formazione.

The four training providers, qualified by the EU-funded REAL Alternatives project, are Business Edge in the U.K., the Renewable Energy Institute (part of Centro Studi Galileo) in the U.K., IKKE in Germany and Centro Studi Galileo in Italy.

The proposed revision of the EU F-gas regulation, expected to be in place from January 1, 2024, would place a ban on split systems of 12kW (3.4TR) and below using refrigerants with a GWP greater than 150. Currently, the only refrigerant matching these requirements is R290 – hence the urgent requirement for a recognized training certificate to increase awareness and build competency in the maintenance of hydrocarbon-based split systems.

Expected to become mandatory

The training, which will be provided by the four selected training centers, will follow the REAL Alternatives project principles and program. It provides a certification scheme that is mutually recognized in 20 countries globally and translated into 17 languages.

The certification is already mandatory in Spain, Netherlands and Denmark. All EU countries are expected to follow suit, meaning that the 500,000 or so f-gas-certified technicians will potentially need to also be certified for hydrocarbon refrigerants on top of the certification they already hold. This will require two days of specific training.

The practical part of the training will include the procedure to install and service hydrocarbon systems in a safe manner, focusing on the connection of the external and internal units, pipe jointing, evacuation, charging and recovery of refrigerant, leak testing and commissioning.

The training centers have already received the systems for the practical element of the training. They have also been equipped with specialist tools and equipment for flammable refrigerants (i.e., recovery machines, vacuum pumps, mobile and permanent leak detectors and ventilation fans to dilute the flammable concentration) to ensure the safe operation of the new units.

All equipment has been approved for use in a flammable atmosphere in accordance with ATEX and Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR).

The training centers are internationally recognized in refrigeration, air-conditioning and renewable energy training. They have been active in around 100 training projects with Agencies of the United Nations Environment Programme.

The training kicks off as follows:

  • Italy: November 29—30.
  • U.K.: October 20; February 20, 2023; and March 30, 2023.
  • Germany: January 12, 2023.

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