Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Refrigeration and air conditioning

Fridges, coolers, air conditioning and all refrigeration units

What you must do

Fluorinated gases in refrigeration equipment

You must check that anyone who works with your equipment has the correct qualifications.

If you work with F-gases in stationary refrigeration and air-conditioning systems you will need to hold an industry qualification. There are different qualification categories and you will need to select the appropriate one for your work:

See our guidance on F-gases in refrigeration and air-conditioning

Ozone depleting substances in refrigeration equipment

The use of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) has been phased out across Europe. Older equipment may still contain ODS and if you own or operate refrigeration or air-conditioning equipment that contains ODS you must:

  • take steps to prevent, minimise and repair leaks
  • recover ODS during servicing, maintenance and at the end of the equipment's life
  • use a qualified person to service and decommission the equipment
  • transport ODS in refillable containers
  • label containers as reclaimed ODS, with the batch number and the source of the ODS.

If your stationary refrigeration and air-conditioning system contains more than 3kg of ODS you must:

  • test for leaks at least once a year, more frequently for larger systems
  • keep records about your equipment, including service history.

See our guidance on ODS in refrigeration and air-conditioning.

Ozone depleting substances (ODS)

Air conditioning

If you have an air-conditioning system, you should keep it maintained to ensure that it does not use too much energy.

If your air-conditioning system has an output of over 12kW, you need to meet certain requirements for inspecting the energy efficiency of your systems. If you have more than one air-conditioning unit within a building they are considered to be a single system.

In Northern Ireland if your air-conditioning system has an output over 12kW it must be inspected at least every five years. If your system was first put into service on or after 1 January 2008, it must have its first inspection within five years of the date when it was first put into service.

To find an accredited energy assessor to carry out the inspection, please search the Northern Ireland register at the following website:

Northern Ireland Energy Performance Certificate Registers website

In Scotland if your air-conditioning system has an output over 250kW, it must be inspected at least every five years. If your air-conditioning system has an output between 12kW and 250kW, it should have been inspected before 4 January 2013.

Inspections must be carried out at least every five years by an accredited energy assessor who will assess the efficiency of the system and advise on improvements. All accessible parts of the system should be inspected, and most assessors will carry out a full inspection.

The requirement for all accessible parts to be inspected will become a legal requirement in all buildings owned by public authorities by 1 Jan 2019 and for all other buildings by 31 Dec 2020

Scottish Government: Inspection of Air Conditioning Systems over 12 kW

Other pollutants in refrigeration equipment

If you discharge any effluent from your refrigerators to surface waters or groundwater you must obtain:

  • a discharge consent, groundwater authorisation or pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit in Northern Ireland
  • an authorisation under the Controlled Activity Regulations (CAR) or PPC permit in Scotland.

For more information Contact your environmental regulator

See our guidance on water pollution in:

Preventing water pollution

If you discharge any effluent to a public sewer you must obtain a trade effluent consent from, or have a trade effluent agreement with, your water and sewerage company or authority. You must ensure that your discharges comply with all conditions in your trade effluent consent or agreement.

Trade effluent

You should put compressors on a drip tray to collect any leaking oil. You will need to check and empty the drip tray regularly. You must dispose of water and oil in the drip tray as hazardous/special waste.

Avoid causing a nuisance

Compressors can be noisy. If your operations cause noise, dust or odour that is a nuisance to the surrounding community, your local authority can stop or impose restrictions on your operations. For more information see our guidance on noise, odour and other nuisances.

Good practice

Energy efficiency of refrigeration equipment

The energy efficiency of your refrigerators and chiller units can be affected by where you locate them, the way that you use them and how well they are insulated.

  • Put refrigerators in unheated, well-ventilated areas.
  • Regularly clean the heat transfer surfaces on your refrigerated units.
  • Check the setting points for refrigerators and chillers. For instance, if the temperature is too low this will increase your costs. Keep the number of times that doors are opened to a minimum.
  • Ensure that the pipes on chiller units are properly insulated.
  • Ensure that the thermostats controlling chiller units are appropriately placed. They should be halfway down walls and away from doorways where temperature variations will be greatest.
  • Turn off refrigerators in accommodation units that are unoccupied for more than a day.
  • Have separate areas for cold and hot equipment. Place insulation between your chiller units and cookers.
  • Most motors on chiller units are only under full load for a few minutes, after which they could be reduced to 50–60% of full load. Consider using variable speed drives to reduce the speed of the motor and save around 20% on electricity.
  • Regularly check door seals on refrigerators and freezers. Replacing damaged seals will reduce the amount of energy you use.
  • Ensure that refrigerators are the correct distance from the wall and out of direct sunlight.
  • Without compromising food hygiene requirements, stack food to make maximum use of the chilled space available. Ensure that you do not enclose the evaporators, as this will cause your refrigerators to work harder.
  • When stock is low, turn off spare refrigerated units. They will only take one to two hours to return to the right temperature.

New equipment and tax breaks

  • When you purchase new equipment, choose the most energy-efficient option. Look for labels that grade energy efficiency
  • Maintain your air-conditioning system regularly to help ensure it operates as efficiently as possible.
  • Check whether you can use enhanced capital allowances. These allow you to claim tax breaks when you purchase certain types of energy efficient equipment.

Enhanced Capital Allowances Scheme

Storing chemicals

  • Store all chemicals, including secondary refrigerants such as propylene glycol, in an area where spills will be contained.
  • You must store chemicals within an impermeable bund, which will contain at least 110% of the volume of the largest tank or 25% of the total volume likely to be stored, whichever is greater. Remove any accumulated rainwater regularly, and if it is contaminated you may need to treat it as hazardous/special waste.
  • Maintain and inspect your refrigerants regularly to prevent and repair leaks.
  • Ammonia refrigerants are highly toxic. You should never allow them to enter watercourses or surface water drains. If water contaminated with ammonia enters a watercourse or surface water drain, report it immediately by calling the UK wide pollution hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
  • If contaminated water enters a sewer, tell your water or sewerage company or authority immediately

Find your water company on the Scotland-on-tap website.

Northern Ireland water

Further information on ODS and F-gases in refrigeration

F-gas Support is a UK wide government-funded team that provides guidance for manufacturers, operators and contractors who make, sell or handle F-gases and ODS and associated equipment.

Email: f-gassupport@environment-agency.gov.uk

GOV.UK: F-gas: Guidance for users, producers and traders
Real Zero: minimising leaks from refrigeration systems

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