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issue: July 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Tokyo Report
Japanese Household Refrigerator Market


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by Wasaku Ishida, Japanese correspondent, APPLIANCE magazine, and vice president, JARN (Japan Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News)

According to domestic shipment statistics compiled recently by the Japan Electrical Manufacturers’ Association (JEMA), shipments of refrigerators in 2003 accounted for 4,230,000 units, down 3.8 percent from the previous year, and valued at 347.7 billion yen (approx. U.S. $3.1 billion), which is down 9.3 percent from 2002.

Although the domestic shipments incurred a downturn for 2 years in a row, they have shown a full-scale recovery since September 2003.

Super Large and Small Size Units
A breakdown by size shows that super-large refrigerators more than 400 L are selling well. Although total demand in 2002 showed a two-digit drop, refrigerators more than 400 L enjoyed a 6.2-percent increase in 2002, followed by a 4.0-percent increase in 2003, with 1.5 million units being sold. Demand for small refrigerators less than 140 L showed a 4.4-percent drop, with 1.31 million units sold. These two sizes reflect 2/3 of total demand.

Energy Efficiency
According to a manufacturers’ survey, more than 90 percent of buyers who were replacing a refrigerator 9 years or older said the most important feature they looked for when buying a new refrigerator was energy efficiency.

According to an estimate made by the Agency for Natural Resources & Energy, the top four household appliances that consume the most electrical power are air-conditioners (24.4 percent), refrigerators (16.5 percent), lighting fixtures (15.8 percent), and televisions (8.6 percent), reflecting about 65 percent of the total energy consumption.

Because refrigerators are operated continually (as opposed air-conditioners, lighting fixtures, and TVs), their energy-saving performance directly affects electrical power costs. Given this fact, refrigerators can offer households the significant energy savings.

Since the late 1970s, refrigerator manufacturers have taken steps toward energy savings. While improving the motor and compressor efficiency, they have also attempted to improve the performance of heat insulators and heat discharges.

As a result, power consumption per 1 L decreased from 0.31 kWh per month in 1979 to 0.18 kWh per month in 1983. In 1997, further energy savings were achieved due to the adoption of the inverter control and vacuum heat insulator, dropping consumption to 0.14 kWh per month. Matsushita’s U Series, released in late 2002, demonstrates the industry’s energy-saving achievements, with power consumption less than 1/5 that of the company’s same-size model 10 years prior. The end result was high sales and a market sensation.

Triggered by the success of the U Series, the energy savings race between Japanese refrigerator manufacturers has intensified, and new products continue to report significant decreases in power consumption.

 

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