Equipment Innovation

We are working with nonprofit organizations like the Gas Technology Institute, Low Carbon Resources Initiative, and Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance to encourage innovation through new products like gas heat pumps and other progressive technologies that use less energy.

Natural Gas Heat Pump Water Heater

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.

Gas Heat Pumps

Of all the available natural gas technologies, natural gas-powered heat pumps offer the single greatest opportunity to reduce natural gas consumption while maintaining equipment performance in cold weather, a challenge for electric heat pumps. A 2019 American Gas Foundation report prepared by Enovation Partners indicates that these new technologies have the potential to reduce energy use by 40% or more, while still serving customers’ energy needs. In late 2019, we co-founded the Gas Heat Pump Collaborative with local distribution companies, representing 31% of North American customers, to help reduce carbon through deployment of highly efficient space and water heating equipment.

High-Efficiency Water Heater

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.

Zero-Net Energy Homes

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

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.

High-Efficiency (condensing) Rooftop Units

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. Source: Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

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.

Micro Combined Heat and Power (mCHP)

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.