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issue: March 2007 APPLIANCE Magazine

Tokyo Report
Japan’s Home Use Humidifier Market Takes Off

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by Wasaku Ishida, Japan Correspondent, and president, JARN (Japan Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News)

The Japanese domestic humidifier market is growing, driven largely by the increasing acceptance of space-heating room air-conditioners (RACs).

Since RACs that provide space heating tend to dry room air, humidifiers are needed to achieve comfortable heating. In 2005, sales of humidifiers in Japan totaled 1.35 million units and sales for 2006 are predicted to reach nearly 1.4 million units.
Product features emphasized by humidifier makers include energy savings, safety, cleanliness, and quality of humidified air. Both hybrid and natural vaporizing systems are designed to ensure additional cleanliness with improved anti-germ properties by sending air through the filter without heating it first.
The nanomist SHH55CD humidifier from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries utilizes the company’s shape memory polymer technology. Water molecules pass through the tube-type moisture permeable membrane; it becomes a mist below 10 nm in size and is discharged into the air. The company says larger particles such as mold and bacteria are too large to pass through the membrane, thus creating clean humidification.
Hitachi Appliances released new Clear series of humidifying air purifiers, including models with a 99 percent deodorizing rate.  This is achieved with an industry-first nanotech, four-stage deodorization system. The system utilizes the Circulash feature, which absorbs odor molecules with ultra-fine pores. The Ultra Fine Circulash is a newly developed unit said to be capable of faster deodorization due to the increased surface area realized by the ultra-fine particulate structure.

As Consumers Go All-Electric, OEMs Turn to Solar

Matsushita Electric Works Ltd. and other consumer appliance OEMs based in Japan are pushing further with their concepts for all-electric homes by marketing integrated devices such as induction heaters, solar cells and air-conditioners. All-electric-home systems are designed to do away with the natural gas used for cooking and water heating; the systems heat water at night when electric rates are lower.
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reports Mitsubishi Electric Corp. intends to quadruple the number of specialized staff selling integrated systems, which include solar generators.
Appliance and consumer electronics maker Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. plans to substantially increase its production capacity for HIT solar cells in Japan, and, in the process, make its Shiga Plant the home for its Think GAIA vision of environmentally friendly technology. Sanyo (Tokyo) said in January it will rebuild part of the plant for production of HIT solar cell modules.  Start-up is expected this year.
Shiga Plant once produced residential and commercial laundry appliances, as well as commercial microwave ovens and induction cookers.  Much of that production was moved in 2006 to Sanyo plants in China.
Along with the new solar cell production facility, the Shiga Plant will get a new center for Environmental Management, Quality Control and Customer Service, all helping make it the centralpoint for Sanyo’s Think GAIA campaign.
Sanyo earmarked about 2 billion yen (approx. U.S. $17 million) for new production facilities for the HIT (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin layer) solar cell, which is composed of a single thin crystalline silicon wafer, surrounded by extremely thin amorphous silicon layers. The technology is believed to have vast potential in mass-market residential solar power installations as falling costs make them more attractive and practical.
Sanyo currently assembles the units in Japan as well as Hungary and Mexico, and already plans a second phase of expansion in Shiga. The company said it intends to be the world’s biggest HIT solar cell producer by 2010.


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