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Go Electric With Commercial HVAC and Water Heating Systems

As commercial building operators look toward greater sustainability and reduced emissions, they can find excellent solutions with electric commercial HVAC and water heating equipment that can significantly reduce your carbon footprint, create healthier indoor environments and stay ahead of legislative actions. Innovative, high-efficiency electric equipment, often incorporating heat pump technology, is available to help facilities reach these goals.

Advantages of Electrifying HVAC and Water Heating

Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Commercial buildings that switch away from HVAC and water heating systems that use natural gas, fuel oil and propane can greatly reduce or even eliminate their on-site emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and methane, greenhouse gases that are driving climate change. Individual facilities can enhance their sustainability, contribute to U.S. state and city governments in their drive to meet decarbonization goals and achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Create Healthier Indoor Environments

Transitioning from gas to electric HVAC and water heating equipment prevents contamination of indoor air with harmful combustion byproducts such as NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), CO (carbon monoxide), formaldehyde and particulates. These contaminants can increase the severity of respiratory conditions, such as asthma and allergies. U.S. state and city leaders are already moving toward health-related legislation that is likely to favor all-electric HVAC and water heating equipment for indoor applications.

Address Current, Pending and Potential Legislative Actions

By choosing electric HVAC and water heating now, business owners can proactively plan and budget for compliance with emerging regulations. In less than two years in Missouri, 40+ cities and counties, including the City of St. Louis, have passed local building electrification policies and building efficiency standards.

Help Buildings Meet Requirements for the LEED Green Building Program

Buildings that use electric equipment can more easily attain the benefits of LEED certification. LEED is widely recognized as the most important green building standard in the industry. LEED certification indicates that facility owners and managers have been intentional about lowering the carbon footprint of new or renovated structures. Buildings with LEED certification can qualify for tax breaks, government grants and, in some cases, expedited permitting.

Large Potential CO2 Emissions Reductions

A study conducted by the WEC Energy Group used a model of a 100,000-square-foot commercial building using two different heating technologies: 1) 61% electric / 39% natural gas, and 2) 100% electric. The study took into account the projected changes in utility electricity generating sources, including combustion technologies and renewable technologies by 2030. It concluded that all-electric technology would reduce the CO2 emissions by more than double of the electric/natural gas mix.

Potential Projected Total CO2 Emissions Reductions by 2030

Hybrid Electric/Gas 174 mTons
All Electric 384 mTons

Water Heating Offers Commercial Operations More Ways to Reduce CO2 Emissions

Of the many approaches to water heating, from pure renewables to traditional combustion technologies, only solar thermal water heating offers a lower carbon footprint than electrically powered ground source and air source heat pumps. These heat pump technologies, particularly ground source heat pumps, are practical and effective solutions for the climate in Missouri.

Table outlining the footprint range of each generation source with Solar Thermal being the lowest and Oil Boiler being the top

What Kinds of Businesses and Buildings Can Benefit From Electric HVAC and Water Heating?

Virtually any commercial building, large or small, can benefit from electric technologies because almost all require heating, cooling and hot water. The most practical applications today are those in which business owners understand and can capitalize on the value of greener, more sustainable energy technologies:

  • Businesses with aggressive carbon reduction goals
  • Buildings sited in areas where energy efficiency rules and carbon reduction legislation have stronger influences on building design and operation
  • Businesses that can benefit from LEED certification of their building
  • Businesses that can support long-term payback
  • Large building projects where the total cost of upgrading energy systems has less impact on the overall project budget
  • Buildings using electric resistance heating

Incentives and Tax Credits Can Help

Commercial building operators can often receive financial assistance for upgrading the energy efficiency of their HVAC and water heating systems.

Through its ENERGY STAR® program, the U.S. federal government offers tax credits for commercial buildings that upgrade their energy efficiency. To learn about tax credits for some of the equipment discussed in this article, visit: https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/save_energy_commercial_buildings/finance_projects/find_rebates.

Many electric utility companies, including Ameen Missouri, offer efficiency incentives to their business customers for upgrading the energy efficiency of their equipment, including HVAC and water heating products.

What Kinds of Commercial Electric HVAC and Water Heating Equipment Are Available?

Electric HVAC Systems

Rooftop Heat Pump

Employs an air source heat pump to extract heat from ambient air

  • Substantial efficiency gains over electrical resistance heat or gas forced air
  • Best suited for smaller systems; auxiliary heat source may be required during extreme cold

Zoned Rooftop System

Similar to a rooftop heat pump, but allows independent control over building zones

  • Substantial efficiency gains over electrical resistance heat or gas forced air
  • Auxiliary heat source may be required during extreme cold

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) System

A large-scale system that uses an outside variable-speed compressor system that moves refrigerant through tubing to compact indoor units that can provide both heating and cooling

  • Can heat and cool multiple zones simultaneously
  • Compact, no ducting required
  • Large-scale, high-capacity performance
  • Auxiliary heat source may be required during extreme cold

Commercial Chiller

  • Air handling Units (AHUs)
  • Used to cool the air in commercial HVAC
  • Independent zone cooling


An outside unit with both a compressor and an evaporator that supplies either chilled or heated refrigerant through tubing to compact indoor units that can provide both heating and cooling

  • Inexpensive, ideal for heating or cooling small or remote spaces
  • Commonly used in apartments, hotels and residential spaces
  • Outside condenser, inside air handler

Ground Source Heat Pump

Uses underground tubing to capture energy from groundwater, which is then extracted by a heat pump for space heating or water heating

  • Most energy-efficient technology for HVAC and water heating
  • Lowest operating cost
  • Higher initial cost, requires green space

Air to Water Heat Pump

Uses an outside air source heat pump to cool or heat water that is pumped to interior systems for building cooling or heating

  • 140-230 tons of cooling capacity
  • Up to 2500 MbH (2.5 million BTU/hr) heating
  • No boiler
  • Improves indoor air quality
  • No direct carbon emissions

Electric Water Heating Systems

Air Source Heat Pump Hot Water

Employs an air source heat pump to extract heat from ambient air

  • Energy efficient: can reduce energy use by up to 50%
  • Can be used to cool and dehumidify environments like kitchens
  • No on-site CO2, NOx, CO or formaldehyde emissions

Ground Source Heat Pump

Uses underground tubing to capture energy from groundwater, which is then extracted by a heat pump for space heating or water heating

  • Most efficient water heating technology
  • Can be two to three times more efficient than electric resistance water heaters
  • Saves roughly 55% on energy cost
  • No on-site CO2, NOx, CO or formaldehyde emissions
  • Consistent year-round performance regardless of weather

On Demand Electric Hot Water (Tankless Hot Water)

Uses electric heating elements to heat water very quickly as it passes through the unit, eliminating the need for a hot water storage tank

  • No recovery time: continuous supply of hot water
  • Can reduce energy use by up to one third
  • Compact for installation flexibility
  • Avoids heat loss in long piping runs
  • No on-site CO2, NOx, CO or formaldehyde emissions

Discover additional resources from Ameren Missouri to learn how upgrading your HVAC and water heating systems can increase your building’s sustainability, save you money and give you a head start on the electric future.

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