Anecdotally, at the peak of the hot and humid weather in late January, the Auckland market was said to have run out of electric fans.
We all know that this category is a highly reactive one and that this year’s peak summer weather was exceptional, but just about every retailer we called was out of stock, barring some premium-priced products.
Is that a good result for the category or a poor one?
Heat pumps continue to be cool…
Looking at the category’s year as a whole, though, Darren Hayward at Panasonic (www.panasonic.co.nz) has enjoyed a great one as people have cottoned on to the cooling button on their heat pumps.
“New Zealand has traditionally been very much a heating market but we are seeing a lift in the use of our heat pump products through that summer period as well,” he confirms.
If the market is becoming more air-con savvy, are the sorts of products being asked for changing too? Within Panasonic’s heat pump sales, Darren Hayward has seen the biggest growth in ducted systems.
“So, rather than just a hole in the wall, it’s one system that will sort out 4-6 rooms of a house and it’s discreet, hidden away. We’ve seen unbelievable growth in that area for new builds and retrofit,” Hayward says.
That’s an appliance supplier’s perspective, but how do the pundits see the heating & cooling picture from the housing perspective?
But are heat pumps always the best option?
As a consultant rather than a supplier, sustainable housing expert, Matthew Cutler-Welsh, has a different perspective on the heating/cooling landscape.
Previously a Homestar employee (Homestar being the independent tool that rates the performance of New Zealand homes), Cutler-Welsh has branched out on his own with Home Style Green, offering Homestar ratings services, design reviews and home assessments as well as a blog and, most recently, a podcast.
In terms of heating trends, he sees heat pumps as a clear winner with their efficiency and ease of use being hard to beat with the added benefits of cooling also selling people.
However, Cutler-Welsh doesn’t feel that even a well-ducted heat pump system is always the best option and believes that there are other solutions that could be given more consideration.
“The best way to distribute heat is water,” he says. “There are very few cars that are air-cooled and there is a reason for that. So, if I was designing a home from scratch, I’d be looking at some form of radiator heating or in-slab heating (hydronic) with pipes laid inside the concrete. This system uses water to move heat while also making use of the thermal mass,” he explains.
A radiator-based system like this can apply to retrofit solutions as well. Cutler-Welsh uses his own 1950s home as an example: “The best retrofit for my situation would be a gas fired boiler running six or seven radiators throughout the house because that for me would be the same price as putting in three heat pumps, which is what I would need to heat the house effectively.”
While only PlaceMakers out of the DIY retailers and merchants is currently showing any real interest in what’s called central heating in the UK, it does show that the building and construction market is at least open to alternatives to heat pumps.
What’s the relevance of this for the appliance channel? With electrical retailers clearly still struggling to come to terms with the perennially highly variable retrofit market, be aware of the alternatives, especially when it comes to new home builds.