Japanese HVAC&R manufacturer Panasonic has announced the launch of its propane (R290)-based heat pump chiller for light-commercial applications, marking its entry into the commercial HVAC market, according to Andrea Cetrone, Managing Director of Panasonic Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning Italy, France and Tecnair.
Panasonic’s move into the commercial HVAC market comes after the company acquired Swedish manufacturer Systemair’s commercial air-conditioning business, which consists of chillers, heat pumps, air conditioners and fan coil units.
The new ECOi-W R290 heat pump chiller – which was showcased at the ISH 2023 trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, March 13–17 – has been welcomed by Panasonic’s customers, noted Cetrone.
“Reaction to the new R290 commercial heat pump has been positive,” he said. “Firstly, because we are entering into a new market, and secondly, because we are staying true to our word. What we’ve been telling our customers for years is becoming true, step by step.”
Currently offering heating and cooling capacities of up to 35kW (10TR) with a SCOP of 3.54, Panasonic will be expanding the heat pump range by the end of 2023 to include models that cover up to 80kW (22.7TR), he explained.
“We have a full R&D team working on these new solutions and this team will be strengthened further this year,” he said. “Panasonic wants to cover the different needs of residential and light-commercial market, and for that we need a full range of solutions.”
“Panasonic wants to cover the different needs of residential and light-commercial market, and for that we need a full range of solutions.”Andrea Cetrone, Panasonic
R290 heat pumps for domestic retrofits
Panasonic’s R290-based Aquarea L Series domestic air-to-water R290 heat pump was also on display at ISH 2023. Announced in October 2022, the Aquarea range of residential heat pumps will be available to the European market from the spring of 2023.
The Aquarea L Series provides water outlet temperatures of -10–75°C (14–167°F) with a SCOP of 5, making it “ideal for retrofit applications, when renovating a home with existing radiators, where high water outlet temperature is needed,” said the manufacturer.
The new construction of the L Series heat pumps “ensures a reduced noise level and increased safety for the use of R290,” it added.
Initially offering models that provide 5–9kW (1.4–2.6TR) in heating capacity, Panasonic will be launching larger models said Cetrone. Future units would offer larger heating capacities.
Increased production capacity
Panasonic’s long-term goal is to “significantly enhance” its production capacity, said Cetrone.
Ultimately, the company will have the ability to manufacture up to one million heat pumps per year, he added, noting that Panasonic is facing some challenges to meeting this target, namely material scarcity.
Through the recent acquisition of Systemair’s air-conditioning business, Panasonic has taken over two of its production facilities – one in Tillières, France, and the second in Barlassina, Italy.
According to Cetrone, this addition allows Panasonic to “fulfil its European strategy of being a global player in HVAC.”
Sustainability as a core principle
According to Cetrone, offering customers sustainable options is one of Panasonic’s main principles.
“Using refrigerants that are in line with future regulations is important for Panasonic, not only to follow the next set of rules but also to contribute to net zero,” he said. “For Panasonic, R290 is part of this choice and we are sending a clear signal with our growing lineup of R290 heat pumps for both residential and commercial use with hydronic connections.”
“For Panasonic, R290 is part of this choice and we are sending a clear signal with our growing lineup of R290 heat pumps for both residential and commercial use with hydronic connections.”Andrea Cetrone, Panasonic
“Transitioning to R290 was a clear strategy of diminishing the impact of our air-to-water heat pumps, not just a reaction to the [EU F-gas Regulation],” he added.
As a pillar of the global brand, Panasonic Heating and Cooling Solutions has been working to spread awareness of the importance of natural refrigerants across the company.
“Consensus started in Europe and spread to the top management of the company,” Cetrone said. “And now, the opportunity is clearly understood.”