September 15, 2011 12:32 am

Dyson heater seen as the key to tech refocus

After selling millions of bagless vacuum cleaners, towel-less dryers and bladeless fans, Sir James Dyson has moved into the electric heater business with a new device for warming rooms.

Sir James said he hoped the new product – which will retail at $400 – would be “faster and more efficient” than comparable products and achieve annual sales of at least $150m within the next three years.

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“This business [electric heaters] is at least as large as the vacuum cleaner sector and I hope we will do as well in this as we have done in floor cleaners,” said Sir James. He remains chief engineer and sole shareholder in Dyson, the company he founded in 1993, although he has given up the chairman’s role.

Last year Dyson had sales of $1.2bn with most of this coming from vacuum cleaners and the rest from other products including bladeless fans for cooling and towel-less hand dryers.

The company is best known for its distinctive and brightly coloured vacuum cleaners which compete in a global business with annual sales last year estimated at $8bn. It has moved all its production to Malaysia and Singapore on cost grounds but retains its engineering and administrative headquarters in Britain.

The new electric heater uses the same “air movement” technology which features in its bladeless fans, and uses ideas borrowed from jet engines and turbo-chargers. With the help of the fan, air is “blown” at 10-15 litres a second past a heating element, and passed through tiny apertures to heat a room particularly quickly and with little waste of energy, according to Sir James.

“One of the benefits of the new device is that it will heat all the air in the room to reduce the effect of hot and cold spots. Sensors measure the temperature of the surrounding air so that once the desired temperature is reached, the system cuts out, making the product much more efficient and useful than comparable heaters,” he said.

The machine is envisaged as being useful as a “spot heater” for rooms such as conservatories that need warming in short bursts. However, a network of the devices could form an alternative to central heating in some cases, Sir James said.

“Central heating is not particularly efficient and in some instances not as useful as many people think,” Sir James said.

He said the new heater was part of the company’s effort to turn itself into a “broad-line technology company” rather than being regarded as principally an appliance maker.

“I would not limit the company to particular areas of technology or markets. We are developing a range of technologies to improve both industrial and consumer products so that the people using them get a better experience than with the comparable items that currently exist.”

Neil Bumford, senior manager at Bumford Heating, a UK distributor of heating equipment, said: “This looks like it will be an aspirational product.

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