(Phys.org)—This month, Panasonic and Tokyo Gas announced the launch of their newest Ene-Farm home fuel cell, a product that residents can use to generate energy right from their homes. This is a smaller, cheaper, and efficient successor to the Ene-Farm products of the past; the new product can operate 20 percent longer than the previous model, for 60,000 hours. The developers, Tokyo Gas and Panasonic, said that this Ene-Farm home fuel cell achieves overall efficiency of 95 percent LHV, as the world's most efficient fuel cell.
LHV is short for Lower Heating Value. This is the value obtained by subtracting the heat of vaporization of the water vapor from the total heat generated when the gas fuel is fully combusted.
With the new Ene-Farm's smaller sized equipment, the required installation depth was decreased from 900 mm to 750 mm and the backup heat source was separated from the hot water unit; the product announcement explained how that means the home fuel cell can be easily installed in a wider variety of places, an important advantage for residents in houses with limited space such as those in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Another key promotion point is price. The new Ene-Farm costs about 760,000 yen less than the recommended retail price of the Ene-Farm model currently on the market. The new design marks the first time that the recommended retail price of an Ene-Farm product in Japan is less than 2 million yen.
The cost cut is attributed to the fact that the new entrant has less components. The price will be 1,995,000 yen with the standard backup heat source; including tax; excluding installation fee.
Another "first" being promoted as part of the Ene-Farm announcement is that the new Ene-Farm marks the first time the product will include a remote control with color display. The screen size is larger and the text and graphics, they said, are easier to see. For those homes with a solar system installed, an Ene-Farm addition would work, in that the remote control can display information on electrical generation for the entire home including power from the dwelling's solar panels.
Panasonic is the manufacturer of the fuel cell unit, and the company supplies it to Tokyo Gas, in combination with a hot water unit and backup heat source by Gastar, a subsidiary of Tokyo Gas. The new product will be available to the general public in three models, starting in April.
The world's first 'Ene-Farm' products were put on general sale in May 2009. Panasonic, in efforts to strengthen its position as a leader among green companies, is keen on advancing the development of fuel cell efficiencies. According to the company, "Panasonic is now promoting fuel cells as one of the most important business categories of the Panasonic group in line with its vision, namely to become the No.1 Green Innovation Company in the electronics Industry in 2018, the 100th anniversary of our founding."
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