UK: The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has accused online retailer Appliances Direct of being “irresponsible” in selling R290 split systems to unregistered installers and end users.
In an announcement today, condemning online retailers for “playing fast and loose with public safety”, BESA, which runs the UK’s main F-gas certification body Refcom, says products containing flammable refrigerant gases were being bought by DIYers and unqualified installers.
Appliances Direct was specifically named for posting irresponsible messaging alongside one of the products for sale on its website after concerns raised by Refcom members. It claimed that the product, which contains R290 (propane), “does not require installation by an F-Gas registered engineer or specialist equipment for typical installation – everything you need is supplied”.
While selling these products online is not illegal, BESA is urging all retailers to take responsibility by only selling to properly qualified and registered installers.
“This is just one of a number of instances where online retailers are undermining enforcement of the regulations by selling directly to end users and non-registered companies and operators,” said BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox. “Dodgy operators, who undercut properly certified engineers, get their products online – so the best way to control them is to cut off their supplies at source.”
Amongst a range of split systems Appliances Direct offer two Electriq brand inverter controlled wall-mount splits using R290 – a 9,000Btu and 12,000Btu model. The Electriq units are thought to be of Chinese origin.
“Selling air conditioning products containing propane to all and sundry online is an accident waiting to happen,” said Fox. “In many amateur installations, connecting nuts are not properly tightened and air in the pipes is not removed because the installer lacks the tools and knowledge to carry out work safely,” he explained.
“The refrigerant used in this product is similar to the gas used to fire up barbeques. If it leaks, it will create a potentially explosive atmosphere and put lives at risk. It is just like taking a bottle of camping gas into your living room and opening a valve.”
BESA urged online sellers like Appliances Direct to take responsibility instead of leaving it to the authorities to try and track down dangerous installations once the public was already in danger.
“What they are doing is not illegal, but it is clearly dangerous,” argued Mr Fox. “It is only a matter of time before these online retailers are legally prevented from doing this because the process to improve the F-gas regulations will start later this year.”
Appliances Direct has been contacted for comment.