Staying ahead of the pack As natural refrigerants become increasingly popular HVAC&R solutions for complying with the EU’s F-Gas Regulation, the need to train technicians to operate these systems is becoming more acute. German manufacturer TEKO is investing in training to stay one step ahead of the competition. Accelerate Europe reports from Altenstadt. – By Andrew Williams
he bees in the hedgerows are not the only ones buzzing with expectation as the sun beats down on the headquarters of TEKO Kältetechnik in the German town of Altenstadt, some 30 kilometres northeast of Frankfurt-am-Main. For today is a special day. HVAC&R technicians from across Germany are on site to learn more about working with natural refrigerants, which currently represent 60% of the German manufacturer’s product portfolio. “We want to share our knowledge with our customers, because they do all the installation and servicing. They have to know what to do to get their plant running correctly and efficiently,” says Jürgen Schmidt, the training manager. TEKO has been offering training courses since 2012. Currently it offers two types of training. The first centres on planning complete projects, and is customdesigned for technicians, planners and engineers. The second course type is customised for contactor’s needs and focuses on the installation of CO 2 units.
“Most of our customers are contractors, who build the plants for food retailers. Nevertheless, we also have some from the industrial sector,” Schmidt says. In 2016, the company trained 600 people, 300 of whom received training on CO 2 . Schmidt expects this number to increase. “Every course is requested very well. We’re trying to have smaller groups, because then the learning effect for participants is much higher,” he says.
Change is coming fast
internally a lot. But the refrigeration schools have to do more education on natural refrigerants,” says TEKO Managing Director Andreas Meier. Meier argues that it would too simple to characterise this so-called ‘training gap’ as industry-wide. “If you go to Switzerland or Germany, people are already trained,” he argues. The next phase will be to train individuals from countries that are less familiar with natural refrigerants, he believes, citing Poland or other Central and Eastern European nations as examples. TEKO has been offering CO 2 training since 2012. “You can only get people to overcome their fears by training them,” Meier says. The CO 2 courses are designed to teach participants what to consider when planning and installing a system. They are complemented by practical exercises, for example in TEKO’s test supermarket installation or on the working CO 2 rack housed opposite the training centre.
The EU F-Gas Regulation aims to reduce the bloc’s HFC use by 79% by 2030, compared to the baseline of average levels in 2009-2012. To help deliver this target, it is progressively banning the use of certain HFCs in different types of new equipment. In 2022, for example, bans on using certain HFCs (GWP ≥ 150) in new centralised and plug-in commercial refrigeration equipment will come into effect.
“We also give an impression of control strategies, which is about Wurm control systems,” Schmidt says.
“For everyone in the industry, the changes are very fast. We’re facing a shortage of trained technicians. We train
TEKO is considering adding training courses on hydrocarbon chillers for air conditioning. For now it is not
Most courses are held in German but TEKO has already hosted groups from Poland and the Netherlands, for whom the training takes place in English. “I also travel a lot, mostly for specialised training on customers’ needs,” says Schmidt.