Reduce spending on gas

Strengthen Your Building's Anatomy With More Efficient Products

By Peter Biermayer

Heating – whether it's an entire building, a single room or one appliance – represents one of the most basic and important considerations for small and medium-sized business owners.

In fact, heating can be thought of as a commercial building's spinal system. As such, upgrading to more energy efficient heating systems and products is imperative for business owners who want to ensure that their operation has a strong core from which to work.

The benefits of improving gas heating efficiency

Many businesses rely on gas-consuming products to meet their heating needs, from central furnaces and boilers to hot water heaters and beyond. By retrofitting existing gas-consuming systems and products, or installing newer, more energy efficient heating systems and products, business owners can realize many positive benefits. Among those benefits are lower monthly utility bills, more dependable heating operations and fewer instances of necessary maintenance.

Reduce spending on gas: Retrofit central gas furnaces with built-in variable speed motors

A central gas furnace serves as the backbone of a building's heating system. Central furnaces, because they heat an entire building, also present business owners with one of their most effective options for increasing energy efficiency and lowering utility bills.

Some small and medium-sized businesses, including restaurants and retail stores, use central gas furnaces. Upgrading these systems with built-in variable speed motors (VSMs) is relatively easy and cost-effective.

Furnace thermal efficiency is measured by Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). Businesses that use central gas furnaces with AFUE ratings of 95 or higher (business owners can find out their furnace's rating by referencing the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute's website1) are eligible to receive rebates from Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to improve the efficiency of their central gas furnaces.2

Improved energy efficiency for commercial central gas furnaces has also been mandated by the federal government, with new standards coming into effect in November 2015.3 These new requirements state that central gas furnaces must operate at an AFUE rating of at least 80%. Upgrading or replacing existing central gas furnaces to meet this new standard isn't simply an issue of compliance, it's an easy way to streamline business operations and reduce monthly expenses.

Reduce spending on gas: Upgrade to a high-efficiency condensing boiler

Businesses that don't use central furnaces usually rely on boilers to meet their heating needs, with those boilers serving as a sort of alternative backbone. High-efficiency boilers that are built with condensing heat exchangers are the latest in energy efficient boiler technology. These energy efficient heating systems boast combustion efficiency as high as 90%, as opposed to older models that come in at 75-80%.4

That 10-15% improvement translates into major savings on a monthly basis. Rebate programs, including those from PG&E, can significantly reduce the upfront costs of installing high-efficiency boilers.

Along with reduced costs, high-efficiency boilers also provide more comfort and manageability than older boilers. These boilers are made with better materials than their less efficient predecessors, and their improved combustion controls allow them to transfer more of the heat that they generate from burning gas to the water or steam that is used to heat the facility.

Reduce spending on gas: Switch to a high-efficiency gas storage water heater

If furnaces and boilers are the backbone of a business's heating system, then water heaters are the ribs. Installing an ENERGY STAR-rated high-efficiency gas storage water heater can lead to big savings for business owners. Depending on the size of the business, those savings can climb to thousands of dollars annually. Smaller bars and restaurants can reduce their natural gas costs by approximately $150 a year, while supermarkets, full-service restaurants and work cafeterias can save around $1,500 a year.5

High-efficiency gas storage water heaters, because they are newer and made with more advanced technology and material, also require less maintenance. Many business owners have experienced the aggravation that comes with regular water heating problems and maintenance. By switching to a high-efficiency gas storage water heater, much of that burden can be removed or greatly reduced.

Reduce spending on gas: Install energy efficient convection ovens and fryers in food service businesses

The food service business has many unique gas heating needs, with several regularly used appliances requiring gas to operate. Fryers and convection ovens are two readily apparent examples, and each can be thought of as offshoots of the central heating spinal system.

Standard gas convection ovens offer a meager 30% cooking energy efficiency rate. By comparison, ENERGY STAR-certified convection ovens operate with at least a 44% cooking energy efficiency rate and idle at a much lower rate as well.6 California businesses can reduce the financial burden by receiving a rebate from PG&E for qualifying commercial gas ovens for up to $500.

ENERGY STAR-certified fryers provide shorter cooking times and faster temperature recovery times. PG&E also offers rebates for commercial fryers of up to $749. These high-efficiency fryers also have advanced burner and heat exchanger designs, which lead to better production rates.7

To learn more about energy efficiency for commercial buildings, download the "Insider's Guide to Financing Energy Efficiency Projects" from PG&E. This guide will provide business owners with financing options to successfully plan any energy efficiency project.


  1. Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute
  2. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  3. U.S. Department of Energy

Learn how to reduce gas costs and become fiscally responsible by upgrading your building's heating system.
  • SMB Blog Author
    Peter Biermayer
    Senior Product Manager at PG&E for commercial HVAC and refrigeration. Peter has a Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering and has over thirty years of experience in the energy efficiency field, including work at a research development and testing laboratory, a national laboratory performing analysis for energy regulations, a resource efficiency manager at a military base and now at PG&E.

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