We’re working with organizations like the Gas Technology Institute and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. Together, we’re catalyzing change in markets, encouraging innovation in products and creating demand for cutting-edge approaches.
Micro combined heat and power (micro-CHP or mCHP) systems are small generators potentially suitable to the residential and light commercial markets.
They can provide space heating and/or water heating along with backup electricity.
Because these systems are capturing and using the waste heat while generating electricity, they operate at much higher efficiencies and with lower emissions than is provided by the electric grid.
A hybrid natural gas-solar domestic hot water system utilizes solar energy to pre-heat water. A traditional gas storage or tankless system steps in to heat water in excess of the solar capacity and to ensure consistent hot water delivery. The primary components of the system include a solar thermal collector, piping, hot water storage, a natural gas heating element and system controller. Typical solar-assisted solutions installed in residential homes can offset 40% of the natural gas load required to generate hot water.12
A residential natural gas heat pump water heater is currently under development and is expected to become commercially available within the next few years.
This new technology would bring the efficiency up to 130—140%, cutting gas bills and emissions in half.
A field test is underway for a gas-fired high-efficiency water heater for commercial buildings. The field deployment will test manufacturer claims of 50% energy savings over existing boilers. This new category of natural gas equipment for commercial buildings could double the efficiency of commercial water heating compared to current technologies.
The test unit is providing space and water heating for Capital Manor, a 170-bed continuing care retirement community in Salem. It has replaced both a 600,000 Btu/hour domestic hot water boiler and a 1.9M Btu/hour boiler. It also offers near-zero emissions controls equivalent to fuel cells.
The Zero-Net Energy standard requires the building to produce as much energy over a year as it uses. Working with the Gas Technology Institute, we have developed a standard for zero-net energy homes using natural gas. The next steps will be to work with local contractors in supporting the design and construction of zero-net energy homes.
District energy systems consist of a network of underground pipes that pump hot or cold water to multiple buildings in a district, neighborhood or city. Some systems just connect a few buildings, while others connect thousands of buildings and homes across a city.
Modern district energy systems combine district heating and/or cooling with combined heat and power (CHP). They are increasingly climate resilient and low carbon, applying technologies to coordinate the production and supply of heating, cooling and domestic hot water and power to optimize energy efficiency and local resource use.
Rooftop heating and cooling units, or “gas packs,” are the most prolific type of unit used to heat and cool small- to medium-size commercial buildings.
New high-efficiency condensing gas packs operate at efficiencies above 90% and have the potential to save significant energy, especially in applications requiring 100% outside air for ventilation.1
However, these units are not yet widely available or affordable from top-tier manufacturers. NW Natural is working with Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance on field trials with the goal of increasing market adoption of these new high-efficiency units.