This article was originally published in the July/August 1993 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.
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Home Energy Magazine Online July/August 1993
TRENDS IN ENERGY
Trends in Energy is a bulletin of residential energy conservation issues. It covers items ranging from the latest policy issues to the newest energy technologies. If you have items that would be of interest, please send them to: Trends Department, Home Energy, 2124 Kittredge St., No. 95, Berkeley, CA 94704.
From Japan, Warm Buns on A Cold Day
What could be cozier on a cold winter's day than a warm, toasty toilet seat? At least that's what Panasonic's Home and Buildings Product division assumed last year when they introduced the IntiMist Personal Hygiene System into the United States. More than just a rump warmer, this total system replaces the regular toilet seat and provides multiple functions including a basic family rinse, bidet rinse (for the ladies), and a warm air dryer to finish off the job.
Before you throw away your toilet seat and paper, however, know that by the manufacturer's own estimates the system will use 1.6 gallons of water and 1.4-1.6 kWh per day in winter--the bulk of the energy used to heat the seat. (That figure assumes 12 total daily trips to the throne for a family of four--two of whom are women--with the seat heated to its highest setting all the time. Your mileage may vary.)
Why an electric bidet? Why the U.S. market? Why now, when most Americans still haven't gotten used to hot air hand dryers and automatic faucets with electric eyes? Roy Kobayakawa of Panasonic explains: In the past three or four years the Japanese market has reached saturation point for bidets.
With 1.3 million systems sold each year in Japan and 15% of Japanese homes already paperless, bidet sales there have maxed out. To Panasonic, the U.S. market looks fertile. But marketing the system here where bidet isn't exactly a household word may prove tricky. One of the reasons for the IntiMist's runaway success in Japan is the fact that, unlike here, most Japanese bathrooms aren't heated, making the IntiMist's heated seat the only warm interlude on a Japanese winter's morning.
Mr. Kobayakawa won't say how many of these systems they have sold so far in the United States, but he is undaunted by the obstacles. Once people have used this three times they can't do without it! he promises. That being the case, maybe Panasonic should install IntiMist systems in bathrooms around the country so the rest of us can give it a test drive.
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