Tokyo Gas engages in all kinds of activities to ensure that customers can be confident of the safety of gas equipment and appliances, both from a hardware aspect and from the services we provide. These efforts include performing periodic safety inspections of gas equipment in accordance with the Gas Business Act, as well as providing information and raising awareness among our customers and appliance manufacturers regarding the safe use of gas.
The revised Consumer Product Safety Act came into effect in May 2007. In response, the Voluntary Action Plan of Tokyo Gas Concerning Product Safety was developed to help us fulfill our responsibilities as a company that sells, repairs, and installs home gas appliances by ensuring product safety, while also developing a culture of product safety.
In line with this Action Plan, the Group is working to ensure and enhance safety in order to meet the demands and expectations of society. In conjunction with these efforts, we publish important announcements concerning home gas appliances on our website. Our aim is to create a culture of safety regarding gas appliances by, for example, promptly providing accurate information to customers on the correct use of their gas appliances and on product recalls and defects to ensure that they can use home gas appliances safely and with confidence.
The Group will continue to take swift and appropriate steps to further enhance the safety and quality of gas appliances in keeping with our core values of "Safety, Security, and Reliability."
Tokyo Gas defines the following Voluntary Action Plans to not only ensure product safety but also to establish a culture of product safety, thereby strengthening our group values of "Safety, Security, and Reliability," and supporting our role as a company that sells, repairs, and installs home gas appliances.
■Improving gas appliance quality
We established a dedicated unit to address quality issues in order to quickly identify and address the causes of faults and accidents involving gas appliances nationwide, and we stepped up action on quality by setting up a new response unit in April 2011.
If we judge that the technical cause of a fault needs to be determined, we immediately provide feedback to gas appliance manufacturers so that we can work together on identifying the cause and, where necessary, modifying specifications to deal with the issue.
If an accident involving a gas appliance occurs, we work with gas manufacturers to swiftly analyze the cause and formulate countermeasures in order to assuage customer concerns.
We also share the knowledge gained from investigations of the causes of faults and analyses of data on past repairs with other gas utilities and appliance manufacturers so that the information can be used to prevent new products from being affected and to raise quality levels. As an example of the ongoing action we are taking to raise safety levels, all balanced-flue bath boilers sold since April 1, 2011, have incorporated functionality to prevent erroneous ignition and users from forgetting to turn off the boiler as standard equipment. Some models also have added functionality to alert the user (either by a control lamp that lights up or an error message displayed on the remote control) when an appliance has exceeded its design life and needs to undergo periodic inspection.
■All cooking stove burners fitted with sensors
The gas industry (gas energy suppliers, gas appliance manufacturers, and distributors) has voluntarily made it a standard requirement that all burners on all home gas cooking stoves (except single-burner tabletop stoves) made since April 2008 should be fitted with safety sensors to prevent overheating of cooking oil, safety devices to detect flame failure, and self-extinguishing functionality in order to make them even safer. Stoves of this kind have been dubbed "Si" sensor-equipped cooking stoves in order to help raise awareness of gas cooking stove safety.
The Gas Business Act was subsequently revised some months later in October 2008 to require that stoves also be fitted with sensors to prevent overheating of cooking oil and to detect flame failures.
In March 2008, even before the law was amended and the industry had adopted the above voluntary standard, we began fitting all our gas cooking stoves (except single-burner tabletop stoves) with "Si" sensors. We had sold a total of around 1.67 million such appliances by the end of March 2017.*1
We recently added further safety functions to our high-end models, including a pan detection function that automatically lowers the flame when a pan is removed from the burner in order to reduce the risk of a user accidentally setting his or her clothing alight.
*1 Excluding single-burner tabletop cooking stoves.
■Development of more advanced alarms
To ensure that customers can use gas safely and securely, we are developing combined home fire, gas, and carbon monoxide alarms and home fire alarms.
We developed an alarm that combines the ability to detect fires, gas leaks, and carbon monoxide resulting from incomplete combustion in the one unit. When the device is triggered, it emits an alarm sound and voice alert. This unit went on sale in 1999.
We continue to expand our lineup of alarms. In February 2010, we launched a battery-powered indoor fire alarm with a battery life of 10 years, and we have also launched a wireless networked fire alarm system that wirelessly activates the system's other alarms when the alarm at the site of a fire goes off.
Since 2006, we have been conducting R&D on power-saving gas sensors, resulting in the launch in October 2015 of a super low power battery-powered home gas and carbon monoxide alarm.
Combined home fire, gas, and carbon monoxide alarm
■Development of domestic ultrasonic gas meter and PHS communication terminal for Residential Monitoring
Domestic gas meters not only measure customers' gas consumption but also contribute to safety by monitoring gas usage. Hence they are known as "smart meters."*2
Working with Osaka Gas Co., Ltd., Toho Gas Co., Ltd., and appliance manufacturers, we have developed a new kind of "ultrasonic" gas smart meter for installation mainly in homes that uses an ultrasonic sensor to measure the flow of gas. As ultrasonic gas smart meters are extremely simple in construction and have no mechanical moving parts, they are much more compact than conventional diaphragm gas meters. In fact, they can pack the same functionality as a conventional diaphragm gas meter into a device that is around one third of the size and weighs half as much as a conventional meter, making them more visually attractive and also installable in a wider range of locations.
We have also developed a PHS device that will run for at least 10 years on three lithium batteries (2,400 mAh, 3 V) to function as a wireless terminal for our Residential Monitoring Services, which is a remote gas shutoff and monitoring service that we provide to residential customers. Use of a PHS communication terminal allows stable service to be provided to customers without relying on a landline connection.
We launched the first-generation ultrasonic gas meter equipped with communications functionality as well as conventional safety functions in July 2005, followed by a second-generation model boasting more advanced communications functionality at the end of 2010. A considerably more cost-effective third-generation model began to be rolled out on a pilot basis in the second half of fiscal 2016, and approximately 760,000 ultrasonic gas meters were in use as of the end of fiscal 2016. Installation of PHS communication terminals has also been underway since December 2012, and approximately 180,000 were in use as of the end of fiscal 2016. We are now developing the technologies needed to introduce new smart meters from fiscal 2018 with the aim of using these to provide various other services to go alongside our automatic meter-reading and Residential Monitoring Services.
*2 Gas meters equipped with embedded safety devices and microcontrollers.
Ultrasonic gas meter (top) and PHS communication terminal (bottom)
■Development of multistage radio relay transceiver
Working with Osaka Gas Co., Ltd., Toho Gas Co., Ltd., and appliance manufacturers, we are developing a multistage radio transceiver that relays residential gas meter readings and other data through multiple meters. Signals are sent and received between transceivers intermittently once every five seconds instead of continuously, which conserves power. Thus, despite being battery powered, the transceiver can run for as long as 10 years. The problem with conventional transceivers was that their communication range was limited to the reachable range of radio. It meant they could only be used in buildings of five stories or less where radio waves could reach meter readers standing on the ground. Long communication time was also an issue. However, as this new transceiver is capable of transmitting data by multistage relay, it allows meters to be read wirelessly in commercial buildings and housing complexes of six stories or more.
We initiated wireless reading of meters in our own Tokyo Gas employee housing on May 7, 2014. In April 2017, we also began using this wireless technology for our My Tsuho service for apartment owners. This makes it possible to reliably capture data on such things as gas meter readings at residences where PHS reception is poor, thereby allowing service provision to be extended to large apartment buildings.
A multistage radio relay transceiver
|Air supply & exhaust method||Target appliances||Number of units targeted for replacement at launch of initiative||Number of units at end of FY2016|
|Open-type gas appliances||Small water heaters||37,000||2,499|
|Wire mesh stove||4,200||444|
|Semi-closed-type gas appliances||Conventional flue type water heaters & bath water heaters /
forced exhaust type water heaters (with downdraft diverters)
|End Mar. 2007||No data|
|End Mar. 2008||24,000|
|End Mar. 2009||100,000|
|End Mar. 2010||142,500|
|End Mar. 2011||153,292|
|End Mar. 2012||157,977|
|End Mar. 2013||166,095|
|End Mar. 2014||171,623|
|End Mar. 2015||177,092|
|End Mar. 2016||180,406|
|End Mar. 2017||183,692|