All creatures cool and EU compliant - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

All creatures cool and EU compliant

ANDY WHITELEY managing director of Andrews Air Conditioning Services, discusses the effects of EU regulations

IF you asked them, most vets would agree that an efficient air conditioning system is essential to their business. However, in the majority of veterinary surgeries the air conditioning goes largely unnoticed … until it breaks down.

Maintaining a comfortable temperature is not only a nice-to-have for veterinary practitioners and their human customers, it can also be critical for the safe recovery of sick and injured animals.

Most well-managed practices will have suitable air conditioning for their needs and a maintenance contract to help ensure it works efficiently all year round. So far so good. But even the most well-maintained system can develop a fault; leaving the practice with the challenge of delivering a business-as-usual service while the air conditioning is out of action.

Not an insurmountable challenge by any means if you havealatest generation air conditioning system that meets EU legislative standards: the problem is that many veterinary surgeries have older air conditioning systems that will become obsolete over the next few years, thanks to EU regulations.

As a result, if their system breaks down it may be uneconomical or simply impossible to repair, leading to a longer period with no air conditioning and an unexpected capital outlay.

The problem with older air conditioning technology is with the type of refrigerant it uses. The Ozone Regulation – EU Regulation 2037/2000 on ozone-depleting substances – came into force in 2000, banning the use of ozone-depleting HCFC refrigerants such as R22 in newly manufactured air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

What most practices don’t realise, however, is that, from 2010, any air conditioning systems installed before 2000 may still use R22 refrigerant but the legislation will prohibit the manufacture of any new R22. What’s more, even recycled R22 will cease to be available from 2015 onwards.

What all of this means for practices with an R22 air conditioning system is that, with R22 scarce and very expensive, repairs will be very costly. But that’s not all: with the technology becoming obsolete, manufacturers are likely to cease production of associated components, which would make any breakdown or fault irreparable, forcing the practice to replace the air conditioning as a distress purchase.

While replacing an air conditioning system that is working perfectly well at the moment with more up-to-date technology may seem like an expensive indulgence, in fact it is a very sound commercial move. Not only will it avoid future problems with refrigerant shortages and repair problems, it will also reduce the practice’s energy consumption, achieving payback much sooner than you might think, potentially within just three years!

Using less energy

This is because, rather than incurring the continual running costs of older fixed speed systems, the new generation of air conditioning technology usually works on an inverter-driven system which uses significantly less energy. What’s more, most modern systems provide heating as well as cooling, allowing complete, year-round temperature control in a single system.

And there’s more good news.

Because phasing out HCFC refrigerants is suchakey element of UK and EU climate change policy, there is financial assistance available to help businesses make the switch to newer air conditioning technology.

Interest-free loans are available to some businesses through the Carbon Trust and in some circumstances companies can claim back part of the cost of their new air conditioning system in the form of Enhanced Capital Allowance against taxable profits. As a result, the payback period will be even shorter.

In an increasingly competitive sector, service matters – and providing a relaxing environment for both customers and their animals is an important element in delivering high service standards. With the possibility that your R22 air conditioning system could become defunct within a matter of months, isn’t it time that you applied some cool logic to investing in new technology?

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