Representatives from over 150 of the largest HVAC contractors provided their views on the Brexit debate, as part of a live poll conducted during the recent Daikin UK D1 Partner Conference.

The prospect of the UK leaving the European Union was cause for serious concern among HVAC installers and contractors - with over 60% of those polled worried about the consequences of such a move. This compared to just 22% of respondents who were worried about staying within the EU, while 18% of those polled felt it would make no discernable difference.

The assembled contractors also answered questions concerning issues impacting the air-conditioning industry, including barriers to growth in sales, investment in training, use of cloud-based systems, as well as changes to industry legislation.

In line with general construction commentary and trends, the respondents felt that economic uncertainty (34.6%) and the skills shortage (25.2%) provided the biggest barriers to growth. Also, indicative of the shifting technological landscape of the sector was the fact that nearly 80% of respondents now use cloud-based systems to capture project data.

The importance of ongoing training and development within the sector was also reiterated, with 70% of installers investing over £1,000 annually on training staff, 29% spending between £1,001 and £5,000, and over 13% investing over £20,000.

While more than two-thirds of the audience were fully aware of the latest legislative changes affecting the industry, the result did show that more could be done by the regulators to keep contractors fully informed.

Encouragingly, however, the survey did reveal that for those conversant with the new F-Gas regulations, there is a desire to change with nearly 80% of those surveyed either 'happy' or 'keen' to use new refrigerants such as R32, as required by the legislation. However, less than 20% have yet to witness a demand high enough to invest in training.

The European regulation placed restrictions on the use of certain HFC refrigerants in certain applications. Consequently, there has been an effort to phase down gases and refrigerants with high Global Warming Potentials (GWP). The implications of the legislation are that, over the coming years, the supply of all HFC's including R410a will be reduced and alternative refrigerants with a lower GWP, such as R32, are being sought as the environmentally friendly climate control solution.

Speaking on the poll results and the potential for the widespread introduction of R32 in the UK air-conditioning sector, Martin Passingham, product manager for DX at Daikin UK, said: "The results of this poll highlight that there is still some way to go, to get the entire industry fully prepared for the implications of the F-Gas legislation – and to educate end-users on the benefits.

“The installation of R32 gas systems is simple and straightforward and not very different when compared to a R410a installation. As the F-Gas phase out continues, it is important that installers make the move to lower GWP refrigerant-based systems that offer end users a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly climate control solution."