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issue: November 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Tokyo Report
Japanese Air-Conditioning Market Trends

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

Heat Pumps and Cooling-Only Units, Thermal Storage Systems, and Gas Cooling

Heat Pumps and Cooling-Only Units

Electric heat pump units occupy a large portion of Japan’s air-conditioning market. Domestic shipments of room air-conditioners (RAC) with heat pumps in 2003 were reported to be 6.7 million units, while domestic shipments of packaged air-conditioners (PAC) with heat pumps were 598,000 units. Overall, heat pumps account for some 98 percent of all RAC shipments and 90 percent of all PAC shipments.

Domestic shipments of cooling-only RACs totaled 6.8 million units in 2003, while domestic shipments of cooling-only PACs totaled 659,000 units.

In recent years, the performance of heat pump units has improved dramatically due to the adoption of compressors using inverter-driven d.c. brushless motors and heat exchangers having high heat-transfer efficiency. Since heat pumps are produced in large quantities, manufacturing costs have reportedly dropped to relatively low price levels compared to those of cooling-only units, thus resulting in the further increase in sales.

Thermal Storage Systems

In order to level the peak demand for electric power during the summer months, the Japanese government has been taking various steps in cooperation with electric power and gas utilities.

Giving an incentive or subsidy to installers of thermal energy storage and gas-engine driven heat pumps is at the core of these actions. Although thermal storage systems have shown considerable growth for the past several years, the installation pace has been slowing down throughout the past 2 to 3 years.

According to the Federation of Electric Power Companies, in 2003, 48,522 de-centralized packaged-type ice thermal storage systems, which refer to the packaged ice thermal storage system “Eco-Ice mini,” were installed. Installations of de-centralized, packaged-type systems were much more numerous than the centralized type, which totaled only 5,155 installations in 2003.

The number of installations of water thermal storage systems is small (2,596 units in 2003), as they require a large space for thermal storage tanks. Nevertheless, the number of installations has been steadily increasing with yearly increments of several percentages.

Gas Cooling

Gas-fired absorption chillers and gas-engine driven heat pumps (GHPs) reportedly account for a major portion of the gas-cooling segment. Overall, gas cooling accounts for 21.5 percent of Japan’s total refrigeration tonnage, and GHPs account for 22.8 percent of total gas cooling, according to the Japan Gas Association. Installations of liquid natural gas (LNG) fired GHPs have outnumbered liquid propane gas (LPG) fired units for the past several years. In 2003, 27,866 installations of LNG units were reported, whereas only 13,657 installations of LPG units occurred. Kerosene-fired, engine-driven heat pumps (KHPs) are available in the Japanese market, but shipments of this type of unit are estimated to be only 1,500 units per year.


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