Daikin Industries is a global Japanese conglomerate with manufacturing facilities primarily in Asia (extending to Australia) but with branches in Europe and North America as well. They come to the air conditioning and refrigeration market by way of their initial chemical and hydraulics interests. Refrigerants and fluid handling are critical components in air conditioning systems. They recently co-developed a new refrigerant, 410a, with Carrier (the top player in air conditioning globally)1. As of the fall of 2010, they were the second largest air conditioning corporation and were in talks to buy Goodman Global, which would push them into first place2.
Along with the market power and penetration, Daikin is known for several innovations based on synergy with other branches of the Daikin Industries umbrella (hydraulic fluids and electronics). They offer inverter driven split-systems with variable demand to an outside condenser as well as an innovative split-type system with fresh air exchange and humidity control.
A split system pumps refrigerant from an outside condenser through thin lines to a wall or ceiling mounted “cassette.” There is no duct work required, although, to obtain fresh air, the cassette has to penetrate an outside wall. Initially more expensive, cassette style split systems offer a lower operating cost because each small unit can be independently controlled based on individual room temperature.
In the U.S., these systems have traditionally been reserved for commercial installations, either in motel/hotels or offices without central air. The ability to shut off individual units when a room is not in use makes them particularly attractive for the hospitality industry. In Japan and Asia, split units find use for smaller apartments and homes with smaller room sizes (compared to the U.S.).
As energy awareness and concerns continue to increase in the U.S., these more efficient systems are gaining ground over central air and Daikin products have a good reputation. Buildings can be retrofitted with cassettes and zoned without regard or even the need for duct work. When units are installed that act as heat pumps, providing warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer, ducts become unnecessary altogether.
An example of the technology is the Ururu Sarara3, a split system heat pump that goes up to 17,500 BTU/h cooling and 20,000 BTU/h in heating mode. It features an option to mount on an outside wall to obtain fresh air, dehumidification and air purifying. Like all split systems, each cassette is individually controlled and refrigerant flow is monitored and maintained at the compressor. Inverter styles convert supply voltage (AC) to DC. This allows energy savings and a smoother operation with variable fan startup and precise speeds. Units also feature self diagnostics on an LED read out.
Daikin also makes a high-volume, low noise air purifier for residential use. Called the Flash Streamer, it runs at a very quiet 16 decibels and moves 420 cubic meters of air an hour with suction through all four edges of a flat unit. Filters are provided for seven years of normal use and the unit is portable so that it can be moved from room to room (coverage is one 20ft by 20ft room).
One other innovation, not yet available in U.S. markets but popular in Europe, is the Althera system which acts as a heat pump, not only for air conditioning and heating, but also as a water heater. This is an excellent way to “dump” heat from an air conditioning system into another use, converting what would be waste heat into a useful commodity. These systems generate additional savings in the summer when water would otherwise be heated by natural gas or electrical systems3.
Commercial split systems retain the advantages of residential types but add in more cost savings for long term operation. Additionally, their patented Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) system offers the ability to run longer tubing at higher pressures and allows simultaneous heating and cooling to different units in the same network. They claim a heat pump efficiency down to an outside temperature of -25 Deg. C4.
In 2008, Daikin introduced a CO2 based VRV system. Using CO2 instead of traditional refrigerants gives a lower environmental impact whenever there is a release. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) for CO2 in this application is 1, the lowest of any refrigerant on the market. This is expected to gain market share for the company as regulations tighten and new construction is targeted at more environmentally friendly goals.
One difference between Daikin and other types of commercial systems is the way maintenance is handled. Instead of a strong warranty that kicks in for repairs, Daikin provides customers with remote monitoring that sends information about the system and maintenance requirements. This system serves to pinpoint potential problems with the intent of getting the maximum service life from all major components5.
Should Daikin continue to meet current environmental trends and market demands for innovation, they are likely to dominate globally while making inroads into the U.S. and Canadian markets.
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