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Commercial building owners and operators have a critical need for water heating systems that are reliable, energy efficient, responsive and the right size for the available space. Water heating can account for up to 25% of all energy use in some buildings. 

Fortunately, propane tankless water heating systems offer a reliable, energy-efficient, affordable solution.

Surprising statistics of commercial building water heating use

Water heating represents an average of about 7% of all energy use in commercial buildings. But some operations use much more hot water. For a hotel, for instance, water heating makes up about a quarter of all energy use. 

The six largest commercial hot water energy users are lodging, health care, mercantile, education, food service and office space. Together they represent about 85% of all commercial building water heating energy consumption.

Nearly 80% of water heating energy use occurs in buildings built before 2000. Newer water heating technology, especially tankless systems, can offer big improvements in terms of performance and savings. 

How high-efficiency tankless water heaters can help

Effective in new commercial projects and as replacements for existing storage tank systems, tankless water heaters offer a variety of benefits. These systems, sometimes referred to as on-demand water heaters, heat water only when it’s needed, eliminating the need for a storage tank while also eliminating the standby losses associated with maintaining a tank of hot water. Tankless units save valuable square footage in commercial buildings by offering a compact, space-saving design. Plus, their lifespan is longer than that of traditional storage tank water heaters. 

These systems can be powered by a variety of energy sources—one of which is propane. High-efficiency propane tankless water heaters offer an energy efficient, innovative solution in many commercial applications. Propane water heating is a viable option in buildings without natural gas access, compared with electric water heating or fuel oil systems. That is great news for resorts and lodging facilities off the natural gas grid.

One of the biggest benefits of this tankless technology in commercial applications is its flexibility to meet a wide range of load types. Individual tankless units can meet the demand of many small commercial building applications, and in high-demand commercial applications—such as hotels and restaurants where users need high flow rates, high temperatures or both—multiple units can be banked together in larger groups to provide a high-value design solution.

Propane has proven to be the best choice for facilities looking to reduce their carbon footprint, as they produce significantly lower carbon emissions than other models. In fact, according to data from the Propane Education and Research Council, propane tankless systems offer 50% fewer carbon emissions compared with electric storage tank systems, and 33% fewer carbon emissions compared with heating oil systems in the Northeast. These reductions can make significant contributions toward reaching LEED certification and can support corporate sustainability programs and emission reduction policies.

Plus, their benefits extend beyond sustainability, and into energy efficiency. Propane tankless systems achieve an efficiency rating of up to 98% and because they’re unaffected by standby losses, building owners aren’t paying to heat water that they aren’t using. Beyond very high efficiency ratings, propane tankless systems also have a lifecycle of 20 years, which strengthens their value proposition in commercial applications. Despite their higher initial capital cost, these systems offer attractive paybacks, better reliability and long-term energy savings.

When comparing propane tankless systems with commercial electric storage tanks, building owners should take electric demand charges into consideration. In addition to the electric rate a facility will pay per kilowatt-hour, most commercial utility tariffs also include a demand charge based on the peak demand draw by the facility. This charge reflects the load that the facility places on generation and transmission systems and adds up quick, sometimes resulting in several hundred dollars per month. Limiting demand from large electric equipment, including electric water heaters, is a key strategy in reducing the demand charge and lowering overall energy costs.

Water heating continues to be a major energy consumer in commercial buildings, and as building owners and operators look for the best solution, propane systems can be an answer, whether they are seeking increased energy efficiency, better performance or a more environmentally friendly water heater.


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