By François Durier (CETIAT, France)
Certified characteristics of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) appliances are useful for product selection and users’ information needs. They also contribute to a fair competition between manufacturers. Certification of the energy performance parameters makes available trustworthy input data for the energy performance calculation of buildings.
What is certification?
Certification is the procedure by which a third party (i.e. a certification body) gives written assurance that a product, process, system, or person conforms to the requirements mentioned in the rules of a certification scheme.
Directive 2005/29/EC on unfair commercial practices (UCP) prohibits misleading commercial practice in the EU, e.g. the publication of false information about the product characteristics. In this context, certification is a way to prove that the published characteristics are true.
Annex I of the UCP Directive also prohibits "the display of a trust mark, quality mark or equivalent without having obtained the necessary authorisation". This guarantees that the characteristics of a product are certified, unless of course the supplier does not comply with the law.
Certification rules for products
Certification rules define which product characteristics are certified and what are the ways to check that the specified requirements are fulfilled.
Certification of products often relies on testing according to a referenced testing method (described for example in a standard), but also on audits and/or certification of the quality management scheme of the manufacturing company.
Certification is often linked to accreditation, i.e. the recognition by a third party of the competence of a conformity assessment body to carry out conformity assessment tasks (tests, inspections, certification, etc.). Certification rules can require that tests are operated by an accredited laboratory according to EN ISO/IEC 17025 standard. A certification body can also be accredited according to EN ISO/IEC 17065.
Product certification is usually a voluntary process as, inside the EU, a mandatory certification would create barriers to trade. Nevertheless, a voluntary certification scheme can be implemented by or on behalf of public authorities, as supporting policy, or for preparing the stakeholders for requirements to come and to test new methods of quality control. In some cases, certification can become de facto needed for a certain market, but this remains a demand from the market and not a mandatory requirement to put the product on the market.
It should be noted that CE marking is not a certification, as it does not fulfil all the criteria: CE marking is mandatory to show the conformity with the requirements of the applicable directives and it does not necessarily involve a third party to check this conformity before the product is put on the market.
Certification of HVAC products
Certification of heating, ventilation and air conditioning appliances can cover construction characteristics, performance, safety or fitness for use. The energy performance of HVAC products is very often part of the certified characteristics.
Certification schemes exist at the European level, such as the mark "Eurovent Certified Performance" for heating, ventilation and air conditioning products (with 21 certification programmes and more than 115 000 product references certified), the Heat Pump Keymark and the Solar Keymark for solar thermal systems. They include requirements on the energy performance.
In some European countries, certification schemes also cover HVAC products at national level.
Certification of the energy performance of HVAC products can require accreditation of testing laboratories for the measurement of product data, and if appropriate of certain data measured on-site. Certification of quality management systems implemented by companies can also be a requirement for product certification.
European regulations prescribing labelling for energy-related products according to the Energy Labelling Directive (2010/30/EU) are in force or under development or revision for most of the HVAC products for buildings. This mandatory labelling is not a certification as it does not correspond to the definition given above. It does not refer to a third-party; the label is established and affixed by the manufacturer.
Link with building energy performance
Certification schemes assuring the quality of published product data can support compliance at the building level by providing input data for calculating building energy performance according to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2010/31/EU). If allowed by national regulation, certified product data can be used as input data for the building's Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) calculation.
Databases of certified products, and databases in which manufacturers publish certified product characteristics under the control of a third party, provide easy access to product data useful for EPC calculation. In some cases, a direct link between these databases and the energy performance of building calculation tools facilitates the choice of the input data, while limiting the risk of errors. The European project QUALICHeCK has identified and documented several databases, at national or European level.
In summary, certification creates the conditions for a fair competition between manufacturers and a true information of building professionals and end-users. It makes easily available product data that can be useful for the energy performance calculation of the building if the national regulation allows it.