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  • Simply put, energy efficiency is the biggest concern driving innovation in this category. Suppliers are convinced consumers want the best bang for their buck and are incorporating relevant features to meet this demand.
  • Learn the difference between different heating technology — gas, electric, oil, micathermic — and then match the advantages to the customer.
  • Heaters designed to look like fireplaces offer consumers an old fashioned style of heating and often come at a much higher price point.

Heating appliances consume an enormous amount of energy over the winter months, meaning consumers are more and more wary of ongoing costs. This is providing an opportunity to savvy retailers to sell heaters that have higher selling prices because savings can be made later on.

Helen Finlayson, category marketing manager at De’Longhi, said the Italian brand had an extensive range of heaters available to suit different consumer needs this winter and, as a result, she said the company expects to “hit the winter season running”.

“Our products are designed and engineered in Italy, delivering on quality, performance, and energy efficiency — factors we recognise as paramount in consumers’ purchasing decision for heaters,” she said.

Last year, De’Longhi introduced its new oil column heater range, the Dragon 4 series, which Finlayson said was well accepted in the market.

“The Dragon 4 delivers faster heat up times, thanks to the 25 per cent larger radiant surface area and our exclusive chimney design, which encourages greater air flow emissions.”

One feature that Finlayson is especially proud of its De’Longhi’s exclusive Eco Plus function, which allows the user to select and maintain the room temperature.

“Power levels are automatically adjusted, eliminating costly power surges and uncomfortable temperature fluctuations.”

Eco Plus features in Dragon 4 (TRD42400ET and TRD41500ET), panel heater (HCX9124E) models, as well as all ceramic heaters in the De’Longhi range.

Another feature of note is Hi-Fi Technology, which is a double fan system to provide faster heat distribution throughout the room. This is featured on all models in De’Longhi’s panel heater range.

“The sleek, elegant design aesthetic of our panel heaters was recognised with our HCX1924E model attaining a Good Design Award in 2014, acknowledging our philosophy of delivering design and function.”

Finlayson confirmed that this winter, all De’Longhi oil column and panel heaters will have a 7-year warranty, which she described as “a testament of the quality and reliability of the product range”.

On the shop floor, where the heating battle is expected to be won and lost this winter, De’Longhi has a strong program in the works.

“We will support our extensive range with strong marketing activity, including a redesign of our point-of-sale for greater in-store presence and a Facebook promotion with consumer giveaways,” outlined Finlayson. “Our informative, engaging and fun infographic video was a big hit in-store with retailers and consumers, and will again form part of our communication strategy, further highlighting our message that the De’Longhi range features a heater for every need.

“The key message to retailers this year is that De’Longhi heaters do more than just blow hot air — innovation is key to our products —offering consumers not only a technological advantage, but safe and efficient heating every time.”

One of the main heating focuses for Australian brand Kambrook this winter will be micathermic technology.

“Many consumers are unaware of the benefits of using micathermic heating appliances,” a spokesperson said. “As one of the most energy efficient portable heater styles on the market, micathermic heating elements are able to heat up quickly and evenly, reaching full power output in just minutes. Offering instant warmth, the heater requires less time and energy to bring the room up to temperature. A variable thermostat control offers users effortless control over usage.”

Kambrook said that operating without a fan offers three advantages: less moisture loss, no recirculation of dust or allergens in the air and quiet operation. He said the Kambrook Micathermic KMH100 (RRP $119) is light and has a thin profile which makes it a good choice for wall-mounting.

Also expected to be popular in 2015 is ceramic heating, which is coming off a strong 2014, thanks to its technology, safety and energy efficiency. Kambrook’s latest 2000-watt ceramic tower fan heaters (KCE240, RRP $109 and KCE340, RRP $119) include a digital display panel, two heat settings, a fan only setting, a remote control and an 8-hour timer.

“As the number one national brand in heating, we anticipate consumers will be eager to seek out Kambrook when it comes to reliable, value-packed home heating solutions,” he said. “With a wide selection of electric heaters to suit all budgets and needs, Kambrook is the smarter choice for winter heating.”

New from Dyson is the next unit in its air multiplier range, the Hot + Cool Jet Focus (RRP $699). Combining the cooling technology first incorporated in its game-changing Air Multipliers with an element to provide heating, Dyson has created a bladeless year-round seasonal solution. Feature updates on the new Hot + Cool include a choice of focused or diffused heat, meaning whether heating for an individual or for a group, the Hot + Cool can be customised for optimal output; and automatic switching between heating and cooling functions (on previous models a user had to toggle down from high temperatures to the fan settings).

Since we last visited with Fujitsu General to discuss seasonal appliances, Marc Cheah has left the company and Dave Smith is now overseeing marketing in his role as general manager. He said that the cost of energy remains a high priority for consumers and predicted an increase in the price of gas this year. For that reason, he thinks consumers should be directed towards a reverse cycle air conditioner, which also had the benefit of being usable in summer.

“The need to educate consumers about the benefits of features and technologies in reverse cycle air conditioners continues,” he said. “For instance, many consumers may not be aware that reverse cycle air conditioning is an energy efficient and versatile way of providing heating and cooling comfort all year round.”

Smith said the star ratings on reverse cycle air conditioners is a great starting point for a discussion on the energy efficiency of various heating solutions. Once engaged with the consumer, Smith recommends mentioning Fujitsu General’s new after-sale service platform, which can be a powerful conversion tool in a complex category like air conditioning.

Smith explains: “Fujitsu General recently introduced Fujitsu Assist, a new service program to help streamline the maintenance and support divisions of the business. The Fujitsu Assist program is designed to provide a more efficient after-sales experience for retailers, dealers, commercial contractors and consumers.”

Fujitsu General’s latest wall-mounted air conditioners include the KM range and the refreshed Designer (KU) series. The flagship models (ASTG09KUCA, RRP $1,509 and ASTG09KMCA, RRP $1,439) boast a full 5-star Energy Rating thanks to inverter technology, Human Sensor Control and high efficiency compressors.

The Human Sensor Control feature is a handy tool: it automatically switches to energy saving mode if nobody is detected in the room for 20 minutes. When activity resumes, the air conditioning system returns to the previously selected operating mode.

One thing you can always be sure of with Fujitsu General is that the Japanese company will be supporting the trade with above the line marketing. Former Australian cricket captain and current Channel Nine commentator Mark Taylor is going around again for another five years promoting the brand and its “Australia’s Favourite Air” slogan, as well as sponsorships of the Essendon Football Club and the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the reigning NRL premiers.

“Both AFL and NRL have strong appeal with a broad market and a balanced demographic aligned with Fujitsu General’s audience,” Smith said. “Entering a sponsorship with both clubs has presented great opportunities for Fujitsu General to extend its footprint in the Victorian and New South Wales markets.”

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners Australia (MHIAA) is another brand promoting an air conditioner as a year-round solution. National sales and planning manager Adrian Brown said MHIAA is committed to keeping the running costs of its models as low as possible.

“As always, customers are concerned about the cost of running an air conditioner versus cheaper products on the market,” he said. “It’s important that we keep developing more efficient units to keep up with the demands for lower running costs and a more environmentally-friendly product.”

Brown encourages the purchasing of DRED-enabled units, which in some states and territories attract a rebate from the government. DRED stands for Demand Response Enabling Device and it means the energy provider has the power to automatically and remotely adjust the unit’s power consumption, especially during peak periods, so a lighter burden is placed on supply.

“All the new MHIAA split system range units are DRED enabled so customers are already able to take advantage of programs being offered,” Brown said. “We are also going to start selling our ducted range with a DRED option in 2015.”

MHIAA has the SRK-ZMA-S inverter wall split (SRK-ZMA-S) which comes in 2.0-, 2.5-, 3.3- and 5.0-kilowatt capacities. This range features the Allergen Clear System that removes and breaks down pollen, lice and other airborne allergens that can cause irritation. The units also feature a high power mode to reach the desired temperature quickly, programmable timer to automatically start/stop the unit at a specified time of the day and a wireless remote with glow-in-the-dark function for ease of use in low-lighting conditions.

Although a mild winter resulted in a tough 2014 heating season, Dimplex was able to hold steady market share despite reduced heating demand, explained marketing manager Douglas Yapp.

“While the overall market decreased, electric fires proved to be a growth category for Dimplex, with aesthetical furniture pieces surpassing the reduced need for heating,” Yapp said. “Responding to this growth, Dimplex is releasing four new electric fire mantles for the 2015 season: Winston, Marana, Beasley and Bayne.”

Yapp said the panel heater market is slowing due to a lack of innovation, a position he hopes Dimplex will reverse with its new Q-RAD Smart Electric Radiators.

“This intuitive heater utilises adaptive room temperature control and a draft sensor to optimise efficiency. The adaptive room temperature control allows the user to set a target temperature at a desired time where the unit will automatically adapt to the required setting. These heaters come in 1.5-kilowatt (RRP $599) and 2-kilowatt varieties (RRP $649).

Yapp confirmed that Dimplex will continue to carry an extensive range of column heaters, panel heaters, ceramic heaters and electric fires.

Elisa Oliver is the Vornado brand manager at Milner’s, based in Perth, Western Australia. She had some very interesting commentary about the state of the heating market:

“With Australia experiencing energy price increases each year, consumers are becoming more environmentally aware and investing time researching the amount of energy used by appliances before making a purchase.

“The heater market in Australia is expected to continue to be impacted by two main factors, electricity prices and milder winters.

“Choosing whether to heat a certain space or the whole house will have a major influence on the greenhouse impact of your home. In a house with ducted heating, the greenhouse emissions and running costs are usually higher than utilising an efficient fan heater. A ducted air conditioning system can heat a whole house whether rooms are occupied or not. Fan heaters usually only heat the room or area where the heater is placed. For an energy efficient house, use a fan heater only in rooms that are occupied and require heating or use zoned central heater to reduce running costs.

“Since there is such a great variety to choose from, it is important to educate consumers to enable them to make the right buying decisions with no regrets.”

Vornado’s hero product is the TVH 500 Charcoal (RRP $349).Oliver said this heater has been designed not just for robust heating and energy efficiency, but also safety, which is a major concern for many families. “Safety features include a tip-over switch, a cool-touch cabinet and grill, and automatic heat shut off heat if the airflow is blocked,” she said.

Sampford IXL is the designer and manufacturer of Cannon Gas Log Heaters, which are hand-built in Geelong specifically to meet the needs of Australian consumers. Brand manager Libby Strong said the focus when creating these powerful heating appliances is shared between energy efficiency, high heat output, safety, style and reliability.

Cannon Gas Log Heaters effectively replicate the look and feel of an actual fire, but with the added flexibility of electronic ignition and controls and a variety of heating and fan speed settings. These heaters do still have to be flued outside, though Strong said IXL offers flexible ‘chimney’ options to suit a consumer’s requirement.

“Cannon heaters suit large living spaces and provide fast room heating while being highly energy efficient, safe and economical to run,” Strong said.

Larry Johns, national retail sales manager at Seeley International, said retailers should take the time to sell consumers a heater that will last, rather than just processing the cheap and easy sale to move boxes.

“Too many portable heaters on the market seem to be made to last only one or two seasons!” he said. “Whilst some retailers cherish this fact, in the hope of returned customers to their doors to buy new units to replace the non-working ones, the question could be asked if, in the long term, the retailer might be better off by being remembered for the quality product that is still in use!

“The better quality product generally leads to more substantial selling prices, and therefore increased sales and profitability.”

Johns recommends the Convair Luxury Fireplace Ceramic Fan Heater (CFH01), which has an innovative and stylish design with a log flame effect.