New natural gas heat pump technology could double efficiency

A new category of natural gas equipment for commercial buildings could double the efficiency of water heating compared to current natural gas technologies.

“We see the potential for significant energy savings from this system for our customers,” said Gary Heikkinen, PE, NW Natural senior engineer. “With standard equipment efficiencies in the 80 to 90 percent range, coupled with low gas prices, the marginal savings from newer equipment isn’t always enough to convince consumers to upgrade. One of the goals of the collaborative has been to find and test opportunities like this through partnerships with manufacturers.”

Field tests begin for commercial building water heater

This month, a group of Northwest utilities and energy efficiency organizations will begin field-testing Tecogen’s Ilios, a gas-fired high-efficiency water heater for commercial buildings. The region’s first Ilios unit will be installed at a retirement community in Salem, Oregon, served by NW Natural.

The Ilios will provide space and water heating for the 170-bed assisted living community, replacing both a 600,000 Btu/hour domestic hot water boiler and a 1.9M Btu/hour boiler.

The goal of this pilot project is to evaluate Tecogen’s claims of 50-percent energy savings in a real world application. The project will also attempt to identify key considerations for installation and use, to better inform potential buyers.

Adding ICE to Heat Pumps


ILIOS cropped front 3Q with graphics

Heat pumps have been widely adopted as a means to achieving higher energy efficiency. Until recently these were used primarily in electrical applications. A new class of heat pumps driven by internal combustion engines shows potential for natural gas-fueled applications, such as commercial hot water production and space heating.

Advances in internal combustion engine technology by the automobile industry have led to significant improvements in both engine reliability and efficiency. New emissions control technology can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants.

The Ilios system uses a natural gas internal combustion engine, or ICE, to drive a heat pump that pulls heat both from outdoors and waste heat from the engine itself. This is designed to deliver hot water significantly more efficiently than standard technologies such as boilers, reducing fuel needs, energy costs and associated carbon emissions.

The Ilios heat pump is also fitted with Tecogen’s patented Ultera® ultra-low emissions control technology, which reduces emissions of criteria pollutants including carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and hydrocarbons down to nearly zero, on par with fuel cells.

The heat pump’s compact design can be configured in a flexible split-system arrangement, making it an easy fit for mechanical rooms in commercial spaces such as hotels, retailers, and restaurants.

New Efficiencies for Natural Gas

Natural gas heat pumps are part of a portfolio of natural gas products that the region is investigating as part of a five-year regional plan to increase consumer choices for efficient natural gas use in the Northwest. Partners in this regional effort are Avista Utilities, Cascade Natural Gas Corporation, Energy Trust of Oregon, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, NW Natural and Puget Sound Energy.

“We are excited to work with NEEA and NW Natural on this project.  We’re hopeful this project will demonstrate both the expected energy efficiency potential and high owner satisfaction for this technology,” said Mike Bailey PE, Engineering Manager, Energy Trust of Oregon.  “Energy Trust is always looking for promising new technologies that have the potential to provide cost-effective energy savings for the utility customers we serve.”

The pilot will run from February through late winter 2017, with some initial results of the pilot to be published in mid-2017.

Tecogen designs, manufactures, sells, installs and maintains high efficiency, ultra-clean products including natural gas engine-driven combined heat and power, air conditioning systems, and high-efficiency water heaters for residential, commercial, recreational and industrial use.

The company is known for cost-efficient, environmentally friendly and reliable products for energy production that, through patented technology, nearly eliminate criteria pollutants and significantly reduce a customer’s carbon footprint.