Panasonic prepares for UK growth

Published:  03 November, 2011

An amazingly successful year — Enrique Vilamitjana.

There are many smaller players in the UK air-conditioning industry, but one has enjoyed double-digit growth for two years and is planning to break away from the pack.

Which refrigeration and air conditioning company is the number one in Europe and in many of the 36 European countries it operates in? It is, for example, number one in Spain, with a 20% market share, and number one in Italy. The company also has a 40% market share in the Nordic countries.

Those brief statistics came from Enrique Vilamitjana, managing director of Panasonic Home Appliance Air Conditioning Europe as he announced plans for the company to grow its much smaller UK market, with the aim of becoming number three by 2015.

The company has been enjoying strong growth in the UK for a couple of years. 2010 is described by Enrique Vilamitjana as ‘an amazingly successful year with double-digit growth’. And 2011 is continuing that growth, with turnover already up by 17% by the end of September.

Panasonic plans to build on its success of the last two years with a range of initiatives for growing the sales of its air-conditioning and heat-pump products.

The company has been investing in new products, many of which bring something different to the market.

Getting products to market has been achieved with the growth of the distribution network. Enrique Vilamitjana says, ‘Instrumental in our growth is the expansion of our distribution network. This year, we have appointed United Refrigeration to handle our air-to-air products, whilst on the air-to-water side, our partnership with Burdens Energy is driving substantial progress for the Panasonic range. We will continue to build on this network in the months ahead to ensure our customers have ready access to the Panasonic range.’

Helping to increase awareness will be participation in exhibitions. Watch out for the company at the ACR Show at the NEC in March 2012 with a 2000 m2 stand.

Training is another important aspect of boosting the company’s business. The PRO Academy at Bracknell is a fully equipped facility to enable contractors, installers and specifiers of heating and cooling systems to learn about the products as well as design, installation and commissioning skills. It is kitted out with working units from the ECOi VRF range, FS Multi and Aquarea heat-pump systems. The training room also demonstrates the gas-driven GHP system and the company’s wide range of controllers.

For the web-savvy there is the Panasonic PRO Club which provides a wealth of technical data, software and support tools. One of the main features is access to the latest software downloads, including Aquarea and Etherea design software. The Aquarea heat-pump program can be used to calculate prospective energy and cost savings compared to other heating methods.

Among Panasonic’s product offering are gas-powered heat pumps, the Mini ECOi VRF range and the Aquarea air-to-water mono-bloc heat pump.

And what about the products?

Let’s start with the Mini ECOi VRF 2-pipe heat-pump system with capacities from 12 to 15.5 kW and capable of serving up to nine indoor units with a diversity ratio of 130%. The equipment uses R410A and has DC inverter technology. EERs of up to 4.30 and COPs of 4.62 can be achieved.

Moving on to a different technology, Panasonic has expanded its range of gas-driven VRF heating and cooling solutions, which require minimal or no electrical input.

New to this range is the WHE (water heat exchanger) chiller range with cooling capacities of 25, 50 and 71 kW.

Another new S-Series GHP gas-powered unit is an 85 kW single multi (2-pipe) unit that enables the number of outdoor units for larger installations to be reduced. The S-Series range now extends from 45 to 85 kW and includes single- and 2-pipe units plus 3-pipe (heat recovery) units with capacities from 45 to 71 kW.

Targeted at the space-heating market is the Aquarea air-source heat pump, which has gained accreditation as an approved technology under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. They have a maximum COP of 4.74 (air at 7°C and water off at 35°C). Also notable is that the heat output is maintained right down to -15°C ambient. For example, the Aquarea T-Cap has an output of 12 kW with an ambient of 7°C, and at -7°C, and at -15°C (flow/return 35/30°C) — without the support of electric heating. As you would expect, the COP falls off — but is still a respectable 2.5 at -15°C.

In response to the nature of the UK market, a mono-bloc version of the Aquarea heat pump is available in 6 and 9 kW versions. The functions of the outdoor and indoor units are combined in a single package that delivers hot water to heat emitters such as radiators and underfloor heating.

Sales manager Paul Taylor is full of enthusiasm. He says, ‘Distributors agree that Panasonic has the goods and the people and is ready for growth. From the sales point of view, I have every toy in the toy shop.’

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