Retail Technology
| Log in | Subscribe

Subscribe | Log in
Retail Technology

Connells gets ahead of refrigerant ban

By Retail Technology | Monday July 29 2013

Forward thinking and early action pays dividends on future ventilation maintenance right across estate agency chain

Tackling the challenge of R22 replacement is paying dividends for estate agents Connells Group, with running cost savings of over £150,000 a year and a cut in carbon emissions for the building services in each branch by more than a half. 

Like many businesses with old air conditioning (AC) systems the company faces a real challenge at the end of 2014, when the use of R22 refrigerant is banned completely. Whether operating equipment in a single building or across a nationwide network, the ban means that it will no longer be possible to maintain old air conditioning properly. Systems will therefore need to be replaced when maintenance issues requiring de-gassing occur.

For The Connells Group, leaving things to chance was not an option and the forward-thinking company has already begun a replacement programme across 203 affected branches.

Raising impact awareness

Specialist supplier Air Conditioning Solutions (UK) (ACS), which has worked with Connells since 2000, first alerted the group to the implications of the R22 ban on its business.

R22 refrigerant was used in the majority of air conditioning systems until about 10 years ago. However, it has been shown to have ozone-depleting potential. So the use of virgin R22 gas was banned in 2010, but companies have been able to use recycled and reclaimed R22 to maintain equipment. 

As there are estimated to be over 750,000 R22 systems still in use in the UK, the ban poses a real challenge for businesses that will face maintenance issues with old systems.

Joanne Jackson, Connells Group purchasing director, said: “When ACS first approached me, I could see that we faced some real issues managing the cost and disruption so it was important to us that we could provide real evidence of the need and benefits to the business.”

Finding a flexible solution

“In the case of The Connells Group, the estate had a real mix of equipment from all the major air conditioning manufacturers, due to the historic development and expansion of the Group,” explained Neil Moran, ACS commercial director. “We undertook an initial assessment of ten branches that The Connells Group chose at random to produce a detailed report comparing the potential savings of a phased replacement programme against the likely repair and running costs of existing kit.”

The report helped secure agreement for a full design specification and Connells and ACS started looking at replacement options whilst assessing the best ways of keeping disruption in each branch to a minimum.

“This is where Mitsubishi Electric's Replace technology comes into its own,” continued Moran. “In some cases replacing the pipework is challenging, so we are looking to reuse existing pipework wherever possible and this allows us to just change the outdoor and indoor units, regardless of the original manufacturer.”

The replacement technology, which is available across the Mitsubishi Electric City Multi and Mr Slim air conditioning ranges, allows for the reuse of the existing copper pipes to save on both installation time and costs. Disruption has been kept to a minimum for Connells, with the average installation taking a two-man ACS team just a day to complete for each unit. As a Mitsubishi Electric Business Solutions Partner (BSP), ACS is also able to offer The Connells Group an extended seven-year warranty on all new equipment.

Calculating sustainable benefits

ACS used Mitsubishi Electric's Audit Tool – specially designed to assess the running costs, maintenance expenditure and CO2 emissions of existing equipment and compare it to modern, inverter-driven replacement systems.

“The results from the audit tool helped justify the investment and convinced the Group that a phased programme was the right way to go,” Jackson added. The analysis from the audit tool demonstrated that annual running costs would be reduced by 61% - from £250,859 to £98,872, while carbon emissions would drop 60% - from 1,249,242kg to 493,760kg.

Another important factor for The Connells Group was the comprehensive recycling programme that Mitsubishi Electric has developed with Overton Recycling. The old equipment is collected from each store and sent to Overton's Stourbridge plant, where the equipment is carefully stripped so that around 99% of all materials can be collected and recycled.

Fully managed product lifecycle

“We really liked the fact that Mitsubishi Electric offer a full ‘cradle to grave’ approach and seem to have thought of just about everything,” Jackson said.

Work on the replacement programme started in October 2012 and is scheduled to run until the end of 2013. To date, 81 branches have been upgraded and each has seen an improvement in performance in line with the analysis by the audit tool.

“The final benefit for Connells is that the equipment we are installing is all listed on the government's Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme, so the capital costs can be offset against the annual tax bill,” added Moran.