Some apartment residents are earning a $10 quarterly credit on their electric bills while helping to shift water heater energy usage to times when demand is lower through a new pilot program at Tucson Electric Power.

“Through our Smart Water Heater pilot program, we can better forecast and manage energy loads, which helps accelerates decarbonization by reducing energy demands during peak times,” said TEP Energy Efficiency Analyst John Phillip, who manages the program. “It also allows customers to take advantage of plentiful solar energy during the middle of the day.”

Through the program, smart devices are installed on participants’ electric water heaters to pre-warm water in the tanks when energy demand on the grid is lower, including during midday hours when solar energy is abundant. These devices learn to recognize the residents’ hot water usage habits so that water is heated and ready for use when needed.

“The chance of someone noticing a difference in their water temperature is very small. Customers see no difference in the amount of heated water available to them, unless they substantially increase their hot water usage,” Phillip said.

The devices also can detect a slow leak if data show the water heater is operating more than usual, which helps alert property managers so that they can make repairs.

The pilot program began in mid-October with the installation of 86 devices on water heaters at Westcourt Village Apartments on Grant Road, with another round in January. Phillip anticipates enrolling 350 residences in multifamily complexes over the three-year program to provide quality baseline data.

“Shifting more of our energy usage to off-peak times helps us use more clean, renewable energy and keep rates affordable for everyone,” Phillip said. “It also reduces the strain on our grid and helps us balance energy demand with supply.

Early data from the program is promising. If it’s successful, similar programs may be developed for adjusting the operating times of pool pumps, electric vehicle chargers and smart thermostats to off-peak hours, Philip said.

“This program advances our ongoing effort to provide our customers with tools to make smart energy choices,” he said.

Owners and property managers interested in having their residents participate in the program may email for more information.

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