Call it the Therminator - Panasonic's new bathwater heater employs an infrared sensor to - get ready for this - detect a human entering the bathroom. Chilling, isn't it?
The Panasonic HE-KU37CQS is actually a family of 16 different models that collectively fall under the name of... no, not Skynet; "Eco-Cute". How's that for warm & fuzzy? Panasonic Electric Works Co Ltd didn't provide details on all 16 models but they all share one common, disturbing attribute: they can "sense" an approaching human - and react accordingly. And so it begins...
OK, so it's a long leap from a humble hot water heater to a sophisticated robot sent back through time to change the future but I've got these Terminator references and by gawd, I'm gonna use 'em! For the moment though, let's look at what the HE-KU37CQS series does and why it does it.
First and foremost, you must understand the Japanese concept of the home bath. Once the bathtub is filled, it is typically used by several people in succession.
Hold on, it's not icky - washing & rinsing are done in a separate area near the tub; one enters the tub squeaky-clean and leaves it the same way. Trouble is, even though Japanese tubs have heat-retaining insulated covers, the next person to enter the bath may find the water unpleasantly lukewarm.
An earlier generation of Japanese bathwater heaters worked using a timer that reheated the water every 15 minutes.
People don't run their lives on such a punctual basis, however, and these systems used a lot of electricity when it wasn't really needed. The HE-KU37CQS series of electric heaters solves these problems with a one-two punch.
First, the bathwater temperature learning function notes the rate of heat loss from the tub's optimum temperature. Different tubs and different seasons mean every hot bathtub cools at different rates, so it might not be necessary to run the heater every 15 minutes - thus saving energy.
Next is the freaky part: the human detection function or human presence detector... there's really no nice way to say it. From the time of detection it takes the heater about 2 minutes to warm up the bath, and there's really nothing like slipping into one of those deep Japanese bathtubs up to your neck in perfectly heated water. Watch a short video from Panasonic here, to see what I'm taking about.
This kind of home luxury comes at a price: ¥819,000 (approx US$8,211) for an HE-KU37CQS with a 370-liter tank capacity and 280kPa hot water supply pressure.
Big bucks for sure, but you'll be saving green every time HAL 9000's Japanese cousin notes your arrival. "Open the bathroom door, Hal"... (via Tech-On and Kaden Watch)
For those of us with smaller pocketbooks or in the U.S., we'll have to sticks with a simple water bucket water heater.