Econation Centre to play central role in this strategic business move
Total energy solutions will involve retrofitters and other supply partners
By Stephen Ng
A green lifestyle does not have to be inconvenient or uncomfortable. With advancements in modern technology, it is possible to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle while still being energy efficient. Instead of compromising on quality in their lifestyles, “greenies” need only decide on the most energy-efficient household appliances when making purchases, or when retrofitting their homes.
This is what Panasonic Malaysia, the country’s largest player in the electronics industry, with a turnover of RM2 billion (US$670,000 million) per year, is saying as it transcends its image as a consumer-based company selling audio-visual equipment and home appliances.
“Taking on the role as consultants providing total energy solutions for households, we are committed to provide energy-efficient solutions,” says Panasonic Malaysia department head of eco solutions Tan Chee Hon while briefing Green Prospects Asia on the Econation Centre prior to its launch in April 2012.
Tan Chee Hon, department head of eco solutions at Panasonic Malaysia, briefing university students on a visit (photo credit: Panasonic Malaysia)
In fact, the entire concept of the centre is to showcase how energy-efficient home appliances can be integrated into green living. This, he says, will ultimately lead to the concept of the Home Energy Management System (HEMS), where it is possible to control, automate and monitor all energy usage by using eco-meters.
“This is why we set up the Econation Centre,” Tan explains. “Before any serious renovation work begins, we like to showcase to our associates in the retrofitting industry to discuss how and what we are capable of providing to the consumers who seek to enhance the green lifestyle.
“People need to see, feel and experience how comfortable life can get when they make the right choices to buy energy-efficient appliances.”
The Econation Centre is both posh and green, designed for luxurious living, and will ultimately feature a zero-carbon footprint. “This is still in the works, but achievable,” he says. “The main focus is on energy consumption.”
Panasonic Malaysia department head of eco solutions Tan Chee Hon (photo credit: Panasonic Malaysia)
As it is now, the centre’s electricity bills show an average savings of about 30% compared to that of previous tenants of the rented premise in Petaling Jaya, some 10 km from Kuala Lumpur.
“Whereas the previous tenants paid around RM2,000 in electricity bills a month, we are paying about RM1,200,” Tan says. “This is despite a higher electricity tariff introduced in recent months and our Econation Centre having more electrical appliances. However, a lot more data has to be collected and analysis done in order to ensure more convincing results.”
For any home, the biggest energy guzzlers are the air-conditioning and the refrigerators. “These must be tackled first,” Tan explains. “This is why we introduced our EcoNavi air-conditioners, which are capable of sensing the presence of people in a room. Our refrigerators are also energy-efficient, with a saving of up to 30% compared to an ordinary refrigerator.”
In Stage 2, the emphasis is on the lighting. “The use of LED lighting helps to reduce energy consumption for the entire house,” says Tan. “We have also designed the house to take advantage of natural sunlight and use materials that reflect light.”
Instead of the usual plaster boards, the ceilings, for example, are fitted with Intrino ceiling membranes which are locally manufactured by Alwayz Sdn Bhd using German technology. “Although this is not a Panasonic product, the reflective nature of Intrino complements the illumination of our LED lighting,” he says. “It also does not attract dust.”
In the laundry room, the washing machine and the dryer are all EcoNavi, which are not only saving energy but also smart. “We will be adding more EcoNavi products in the line-up for the Malaysian market,” he says. “They are built with sensors to detect utilisation habits or patterns, and eventually, these products can be integrated into the Home Energy Management System, which can be web-controlled from any part of the world. This concept has just started in Japan.”
Stage 3 is to be able to offset the carbon footprint by installing Panasonic’s photovoltaic (PV) panels to harness solar energy. “We will initially be fitting a 24 kW solar PV system at the Econation Centre. By comparison, a 4 kW system is usually sufficient for a typical home,” he says.
For most homes, the solar panels can be mounted on the roofs. “However, here, because we would like to minimise any tampering of the original premises, the solar panels are mounted on the double roof structure to avoid damage to the roof when we dismantle the panels later."
The double roof structure provides space to mount up to 200 solar panels and helps to shield the entire building from heating up. “We also plan to harvest rainwater with this structure,” Tan says.
The direct current generated from the PV panels will be converted to alternating current using Panasonic’s inverter, before being fed into the home circuit. “The excitement, however, is about what’s in the pipeline with the new Panasonic Solar Factory in Kulim Hi-Tech Park, Kedah as a new solar manufacturing base in Malaysia,” says Tan. “This will revolutionise the industry. We are pre-selling the idea of solar panels for every Asian home.”
A bedroom with starry light effects to tickle the imagination (photo credit: Panasonic Malaysia)
To build dream homes for greenies, Panasonic’s Econation Centre works with partners. For example, the total kitchen system, which consists of space-saving components and appliances from Panasonic, also features locally-customised and environment-friendly materials by Federal Furniture Industries Sdn Bhd. The right mix of imported and local products within the system strikes a good balance between quality and affordability for homeowners.
Top: EcoNavi products are a prominent feature in the Econation Centre. Above: The kitchen in the Econation Centre is fabricated by Federal Furniture Industries, while most of the electrical appliances are from Panasonic (photo credit: Panasonic Malaysia
The Econation Centre is not just a showroom, but a place where consultants can meet to discuss new ideas. For retrofitters, Tan promises exciting changeovers in the range of electrical appliances on display.
“We will continue to bring in new and exciting household appliances from Japan, especially the EcoNavi products,” he says. “This is going to be exciting as new ideas from Panasonic will be showcased for people to experience the green lifestyle, based on Panasonic’s four pillars, namely Create, Store, Save and Manage Energy.”
Correction: When originally published, this story misstated the job title of Panasonic Malaysia's Tan Chee Hon. Tan Chee Hon is the department head of eco solutions and not the marketing director.