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CFO Awards 2017 Nominees: An Innovative Way to Save Money and Improve the Bottom Line

For over a decade, developers and builders have been working hard to make buildings more energy efficient. Business owners who think “green” care about these changes. But others not as environmentally conscious, find they must also focus on costs savings. Southern California business owners are no different. Many are realizing that installing solar water heating is the missing component they’ve been overlooking. Due to increased availability of solar water heating systems, along with a robust rebate program provided by the California Solar Initiative and utilities like SoCalGas, solar water heating is becoming a smart choice for many businesses throughout Southern California.

This was supported in the Johnson Controls, Inc. published white paper, “Solar Thermal Energy: The Time Has Come” where it was shown that “solar heating is the most cost-effective on-site renewable energy resource.” Commercial users who require a lot of hot water such as hotels, restaurants, and property management companies, along with many others, are able to cut heating water costs. As a business grows and its need for hot water does too, solar water heating can be the ideal solution to offset some of these larger expenses.


California offers impressive incentives to encourage businesses to switch to solar water heating. Rebates can be up to $800,000 for eligible commercial and multi-family properties. Of course, the real rebate rate depends on how much energy the business displaces each year. But businesses in a state where the sun shines year-round, are finding that a solar water heating system could provide up to 80% of the hot water they will use in a year.

Many businesses are already using solar water heating with positive results. UCLA, one of the largest universities in the state, was looking for ways to cut its hot water bill and decided to commit to solar water heating. Today, their system helps power 5,000 showers and accounts for hot water used in 7,000 meals per day. UCLA is saving more than $3,600 per year in a single residence hall.

Another satisfied customer, Krystal Dry, General Manager for Jones & Jones Management Group, Inc. reports on her business positive results. “We own and manage about 3,000 units in the Greater Los Angeles area, many of which have solar water heating systems in place. The new systems are projected to pay for themselves in about two years*. So, we’re going to save money, and we’re also helping the environment.”


Solar water heating has been around commercially since the 1950’s, when a gentleman in Israel, Levi Yissar, developed it to help with energy shortages throughout the country. Soon after, it was introduced in the U.S. Still many people today do not understand exactly how it works. A set of thermal collectors is fastened to the roof or property to absorb the sun’s solar energy. A pump circulates heat transfer liquid to the roof where the sun’s thermal energy heats the transfer liquid. The transfer liquid then enters into a heat exchanger, warming the tank. That’s when the hot water flows from the storage tank to the existing water heater for businesses to use.

With significant technological advancements in solar water heating systems, the state’s rebate incentives, and a 30% federal tax credit, now could be the best time to get solar water heating for Southern California businesses. Plus, a solar water system can last about 20 years, which means it’s a worthwhile investment. A white paper on EPA.gov, “The Role of Energy Performance Contracting in Deployment of Nonresidential Solar Water Heating System” found that “commercial buildings use one-fifth of the United States’ energy.” That’s a lot of energy and a lot of expenses for businesses they could be saving on instead of spending. The same white paper states that, “In 2003, commercial buildings in the United States consumed over 500 trillion Btu of energy for water heating.” If a majority of businesses were to use solar water heating, that would surely put a dent in this area of high-energy use.

Solar water heating helps to reduce energy use, can lower your natural gas bill and allows businesses to be greener. With so many benefits, solar is the way to go when you have a business in Southern California.

For more information and a directory of local contractors who can help you start heating water with the sun, visit: socalgas.com/solar

*Actual Saving May Vary.

Program funded by California utility customers and administered by SoCalGas® under auspices of the Public Utilities Commission.

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