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Designing Warmth

Heater radiates a new type of warmth

In fiscal year 2023, HYBRID CERAMHEAT won the Good Design Award. This new household heater combines three important elements for choosing a heater: rapid heating, safety, and far infrared rays. Designer Marie Kabu writes about the behind-the-scenes details of several years of work in a development process to go beyond the simple heating of space.

Daikin Industries had first launched a heater called “Ceram Heat” that provided warmth using radiant heat. While based on the same concept of heating spaces using radiant heat, the new HYBRID CERAMHEAT far infrared heater draws air inside to cool off the unit and prevent the outer surface from getting hot. As the air passes through it, the heat generated from the heating element converts the air into warm air that is blown out from the underneath vent.

Balancing Heating Function and Safety

The most difficult aspect was deciding the shape of the front panel of the radiant heater. Because this part directly affects device performance, a decision could not be made solely on the designer’s concept. At first, we investigated using a glass panel with a high quality design, but because adopting it to the heater proved difficult due to performance and other issues, we were forced to abandon the idea of commercializing a heater with a glass panel.

Fundamentally, our goal was to allow heat to pass through the heater without the heater itself becoming hot to the touch. To accomplish this, a countless number of prototypes were made, and we repeatedly conducted design and performance tests for each one while working with the development staff to adjust the material, hole shape and size, thickness, and surface finish. Since balancing both warmth and safety did not proceed as planned, the release of the product suffered numerous setbacks.

Various materials were considered before we finally arrived at the current one of perforated metal. Adoption of this panel enables air to be drawn through the front panel while preventing the temperature of the panel from rising.

A Fireplace Motif That Is Both Old and New

The design of HYBRID CERAMHEAT far infrared heater is based on the concept of a fireplace. While maybe only a few people have actually used one, a fireplace seemed to us to arouse a primal sense of warmth that we can all appreciate. I thought it would be charming to have a heater that could conjure up the kind of scenes we see in old movies where families sit around the fireplace and chat.

In the past, combustion heaters, such as wood stoves and kerosene heaters, were the main source of heating. However, in recent years, many people have switched to electric heating from the perspective of environmental conservation. When you visit a home appliance store, you will see many electric heaters lined up looking very much like home appliances, but very few of them giving you a warm feeling inside like a wood stove or fireplace. One of the ideas put forward in development of the HYBRID CERAM HEAT was to create a product that not only provides physical warmth but also emotional warmth.

Conveying “Warmth” through Color and Texture

To evoke an emotional response, particular attention was paid to the surface finish of the product. We aimed to create a warm impression with a dark gray color and rough texture, similar to an iron tea kettle being heated in a Japanese hearth, and apply a color that would harmonize with any interior.

To convey that image, I borrowed a Nanbu iron tea kettle from my grandmother and handed it to the person in charge to see if an original ironware color could be made based on it. The resulting paint was applied to a prototype, and adjustments were made to make it slightly brighter to match a wide range of interiors and indoor spaces. We also added a process to create a grainy surface that brings it closer to the rough texture of ironware surfaces.

Infusing Concept down to Product Details

Through this experience, I realized once again the importance of always being aware of the concept, even the smallest of details. For example, the power switch of HYBRID CERAM HEAT is a rotary switch, rather than a push button, and it was modeled after a gas stove. The action of turning the ignition switch to light a fire is a familiar image of “heat” for everyone. In this way, I hope that our users will feel a sense of warmth and endearment when operating the product.

Consideration for the design of this product began in earnest in 2020, which was around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was a time of deep anxiety and uncertainty for the future in the world and life, and I think many people were searching for something tangible that they could experience at a time when they were only able to meet their friends and colleagues online.
Even after the ending of the corona restrictions, I feel that the need for us to spend time at home in comfort with our family continues to grow. I hope that the HYBRID CERAM HEAT far infrared heater will help users to experience even greater comfort for their family gatherings

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