Australia & NZ

Australian Contractor AJ Baker Sees NatRef Training as Key for HFC-Free Refrigeration

AJ Baker & Sons, a Perth, Australia-based refrigeration contractor that believes natural refrigerant training is essential for an HFC-free refrigeration industry, expects its own Victoria-based training center to be operational in 2021.

This message was delivered by Mike Baker, Managing Director of AJ Baker, in his contractor’s insights presentation during ATMOsphere Australia, an online event hosted by shecco (publisher of this website), on July 28.

AJ Baker & Sons, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in May, regularly supplies and installs natural refrigerant-based refrigeration systems, including transcritical CO2 and hydrocarbon cabinets.

Australian engineering groups like Grosvenor and retailers such as Woolworths are also investing in natural refrigerant training for staff and apprentices.

AJ Baker & Sons’ training center, which is expected to be in operation within the next 12-18 months, will help to “upskill all of our industry to gain confidence in new technologies,” according to Baker.

The center will feature a transcritical CO2 rack designed by Italian OEM EPTA, “which will allow us to in-house train our own technicians on CO2 technology.”

The demand for CO2 systems is growing in Australia, following European trends and the development of more efficient systems, Baker said.

Thus, “barriers to change are being broken down,” Baker said, in a video address aired before the session.

Initiatives such as the training center are needed to future-proof both the technicians and the industry, but they will require assistance from Australia’s Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions, according to Baker.

His company recently partnered with TAFE South Australia (SA) training academy to develop virtual-reality content for a hydrocarbon refrigerant training module.

Partnering with TAFE institutions will help ensure that training is “as relevant as we need going forward” and guarantee technicians are “honed to be the smartest in the industry,” he said.

In addition to fixing gaps in technician training, it is important to phase down high-GWP refrigerants, noted Baker. “The longer that we have higher-GWP gases available, it still gives people the opportunity to install those.”