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Tokyo Gas Co Ltd and Panasonic Corp jointly developed a new model of the "Ene-Farm" home-use fuel-cell system for use in condominiums.

For the system, a fuel-cell unit, hot-water storage unit and heat source equipment for backup purposes are installed in the pipe shaft of a condominium. This is the world's first product to be used in such a way, Tokyo Gas said. The company plans to release the fuel-cell system April 1, 2014, expecting to receive orders for 500 units in fiscal 2014.

Multi-family buildings accounted for 37% of the residential buildings that started to be constructed in fiscal 2012 in Japan. But the percentage is 63% in Tokyo and 50% in Kanagawa Prefecture. Therefore, Tokyo Gas needed a fuel-cell system for condominiums in the aim of promoting the use of home-use fuel cells.

The fuel-cell system that was released in April 2013 for use in single-family houses was designed so that it can be used in multi-family buildings in the future. For example, it has external heat source equipment for backup purposes and slim fuel-cell unit. This time, some improvements were made to this system to realize a product that can be installed in the pipe shaft in the corridor of a condominium.

At a press conference, Tokyo Gas showed an example of the product installed in a pipe shaft measuring approximately 959 (W) x 1,600 (D) x 2,200mm (H).

For use in condominiums, Tokyo Gas and Panasonic (1) increased the strength of the mount of the fuel-cell system to meet quake-resistance standards, (2) made improvements to the air supply and exhaust system to reduce the influence of wind pressure so that the fuel-cell system can be installed on a high floor and (3) integrated outlets such as for exhaust air to use the system in a pipe shaft.

Because the main components of the new fuel-cell system are the same as those of the previous system, which is for single-family houses, their power generation properties are the same as well. Based on lower heating value standards, their rated power generation efficiency and rated heat recovery efficiency are 39% and 56%, respectively. Based on higher heating value standards, they are 35.2% and 50.6%.

In a Q&A session at the press conference, many questions were asked about the price of the new fuel-cell system. But the companies did not disclose it, saying that there is no manufacturer's suggested retail price. In a model case, the system can reduce utility costs by about ¥30,000 (approx US$306) to 40,000 per year, they said.