issue: July 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine
Heat Pump Water Heater Market Grows in Japan
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by Wasaku Ishida, Japan correspondent, and president, JARN (Japan Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News)
New housing starts have been declining in Japan since July 2007, slowing the strong growth in the heat pump water heater (ECO CUTE) segment. Japan’s housing market is now expected to pick up again in 2008 and positively affect ECO CUTE shipments as well. New housing construction starts in Japan are projected to grow to 1.3 million units in 2008. Perhaps more importantly, the rate of newly constructed all-electric single-family houses is predicted to reach 44.5%, up 3.5 points over 2007. The rate of all-electric newly constructed luxury apartments is also expected to increase, by 1.6 points, and reach 13.9%.
In the average Japanese home, water heating accounts for about 1⁄3 of the home’s total energy consumption. ECO CUTE heat pump technology utilizes inexhaustible heat in the air for air-conditioning and water heating. The units make use of less-expensive late-night electrical power to save the homeowner energy costs. Some units have a learning capability, tracking the home’s water-use habits and heating only the amount of water typically required by the family, thus avoiding wasting energy to heat unneeded water. Growth has been dramatic in the short history of this segment. Data from the Japan Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry Association (JRAIA) shows a dramatic escalation in shipments: from 3000 units in 2001 to 1,130,000 units in 2007.
Configurations of ECO CUTE appliances have diversified to include fully automatic units as well as semiautomatic units with selectable hot water supply options. Hot water storage tanks are typically offered in sizes from 260 to 550 L. Other product configurations include cold-climate models for heating water even when the outside temperature is very low. Space-saving models are offered with a built-in water storage tank. Vacuum heat-insulating material is used in some water storage tanks for even greater levels of overall energy efficiency.
Major OEMs in the product segment include Hitachi Appliances, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (Melco), Sanyo Electric, Matsushita, and Daikin.