To view a PDF of the complete feature as it appeared in NZ Hardware Journal magazine, click the download button at the bottom of this page.
An article on Stuff.co.nz last week described the demand for products that cool you down in New Zealand as “Fandemonium” as major retailers throughout the country struggled to meet demand as a heatwave settled in.
This of course isn’t the first time this has happened. Fandemonium is a sequel, if you will, to 2016’s “Fanageddon” as reported in these pages last year...
I asked Julian Liew-Young, Marketing Manager at Glen Dimplex, how he’s dealing with this sudden spike in demand.
“If we had a crystal ball we’d be okay with demand every year, but some years you have extra stock and some you don’t,” he says.
“The benefit for us is that we also have an Australian operation and between the two of us there’s a bit more flexibility to move stuff around. The tricky thing this summer is that Australia is burning hot and we’re pretty hot ourselves, so we’re both needing each other’s stock.”
And while hot punters may take any fan they can to counter sleepless nights, when there is more choice available how do the Dimplex brands stand out from the crowd?
Julian Liew-Young says cooling is an industry that “can be stagnant ‘if you want it to be’” but that it can be also be an innovative space if a company is willing to really get an understanding of consumer needs.
To that end, Glen Dimplex has done well to place itself in the “accessible premium position” with a range of fans that include quieter “whisper” models, smart “Intellifans” that sense the temperature and location of people in the room or air circulators that help to shift their air from room to room.
Looks are also a factor. “We are also providing a bit more design in our products so that people are happy to showcase them and leave them out in their home rather than hide them away when people come over them,” he says.
BE SMART, STAY COOL
Air con may not face the same pressure on stock as fans in a heatwave but Panasonic’s Darren Hayward has also seen big demand for units this summer.
December was a “huge month” for the company, particularly with small chassis units for second rooms, a typical trend for summer purchases, he says.
Stock issues haven’t been a real concern for Panasonic though and Darren Hayward admits that the increased demand was very welcome after a very “average” winter.
“This winter was pretty warm and a lot of suppliers actually were sitting on a fair amount of inventory. So I think a strong summer will put some strain on some brands but it will probably help clear out a lot of the inventory that is sitting in the market anyway,” he says.
Hopefully, increased stockturn may see a further progression toward the more efficient R32 refrigerant gas in New Zealand homes.
Darren Hayward explains while the trend is leaning toward R32, most manufacturers are still carrying both R32 and its less efficient and environmentally friendly precursor, R410A.
He goes on to say that, while R32 is generally just used in high wall units and floor consoles, Panasonic has plans to release larger units, ducted systems and more, all using R32.
Indeed, SmartVent Market Manager, Kim Williams, reckons a move by Panasonic into more efficient ducted systems would be well received in the current market.
2017 continued the trend of the last seven years of continued double-digit growth from sales in both existing home refits and new builds, says SmartVent’s Williams, attributing this increase to increased market awareness of the SmartVent brand along with greater knowledge of the benefits of monitoring internal air quality.
She notes that SmartVent ventilation systems are often specified in homes close to major roads and near airports, zones that are often designated by councils as high background noise areas that require specialist ventilation.
“Also the biggest shift we’ve noticed is a growing awareness that the answer (for a healthy home) isn’t just to measure temperature of the air in the spaces but moisture control, indoor air quality and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) will certainly become more talked about in the market in the future,” she says.
Kim Williams is concerned however that the design of many new homes and buildings lack sufficient space for homeowners to add ventilation systems at a later date with post-build installation either expensive or impossible.
I ask if she feels that the Healthy Homes initiatives taken by the Government in recent years along with the just passed Healthy Homes Guarantee Act had contributed positively to the growth of ventilated systems.
“There’s a growing awareness about ventilation being part of a solution for healthy homes but I think there’s definitely more scope for the government to do more in the ventilation space because, while they are talking about it, they’re still not legislating it,” she says.
FEELING HOT, HOT, HOT
Flipping the switch to hot now, Harris Home Fires’ National Sales Manager, Steven King, has welcomed legislative changes to the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NES) and enforced by Environment Canterbury (ECAN) last year that required many Cantabrians to replace wood burners over 15 years old or that were non-compliant to more efficient Low Emission Burners or the even more efficient Ultra Low Emission Burners (ULEBs) like the company’s Ferva Saturn flagship product.
“It was a very busy season for us,” King says. “The Saturn was probably the most popular ULEB on the market and demand for it was even more than we anticipated. And that wasn’t just in Canterbury, but around the country as people were impressed with the way it looked, the features it had and its point of difference from other models.”
Steven King anticipates more demand in the coming year with another change coming into effect in 1 January 2019 that requires all new fires put in to be ULEBs rather than just low emission models.
“We do expect this season there’ll be a lot of people looking to replace their 13-14 year-old burners for a current low emission model before they are forced to buy a ULEB in 2019 because they are definitely more expensive and that’s a little off-putting for some.”
For the future, Harris Home Fires will be releasing new feature-rich low emission burners where they are still applicable and also plans to create another ULEB at a more mid-range price point than the premium Ferva Saturn.
The company also sees getting diesel burners returning to its Woodsman range following a huge increase in demand for its imported diesel burners from the rural sector. The benefits for farmers who already have their own diesel supply are obvious but Steven King stresses that, as diesel is already an ultra-low emission product, provides a more even heat than wood burners and is readily available it has excellent potential for those in inner city environments.
Another player currently unaffected by the new rules around emissions but which has more than one eye on the future is Rinnai National Marketing Manager Sarah Moore.
“We’re very aware of the change of Government and the talk about zero carbon emissions and it doesn’t have any immediate implications for us, but we’re actively considering more and more sustainable solutions and one of the things we’re thinking about is solar power and battery packs,” she says.
For now, Sarah Moore is enjoying the success of the past year with continued growth in the company’s gas fires and central heating products. By the way these products could be getting a major upgrade in terms of connectivity for remote access via a fireplace app.
Sarah Moore has no time frame around this but we will of course keep you updated.
Business is certainly good for Rinnai and most players in this category and, while they all do their best to get stock in-store, Sarah Moore for one has a word of warning to those looking to upgrade their heating solutions this year.
“There’s a shortage of plumbers and gas fitters in New Zealand so it’s advisable for people to actually start thinking about their heating solutions in the non-peak period before winter actually hits so that they can kind of beat the rush and avoid disappointment!”
SmartVent Lite protects your investment
Starting in March, SmartVent will offer a new system called Smart Vent Lite, allowing landlords remote operation ensuring they can protect their investment at all times from moisture, mould and mildew while providing a healthy environment for their tenants.
The user-friendly, low-noise system uses economical, positive pressure ventilation, taking fresh air from the roof cavity to rooms with dust and pollens filtered out to help asthma and allergy sufferers. Temperature and fan speed is easily changed with a simple touch screen controller. Suitable for homes up to 400m2, Smart Vent Lite comes in a range of expandable systems.
Beat winter blues with micathermic
Glen Dimplex has a new range of micathermic heaters, said to be the only products in the New Zealand market with heat direction selection allowing users to place the heater tight against walls and furniture without the risk of overheating. The Dimplex 2.4kW Black Micathermic features a 2.4kw output, 24 hour timer, electronic climate control, integrated cord storage, silent operation and 30% more efficiency than comparable oil column models.