Your next income-producing asset? Water heaters.

Industry News , Portland ,

Now there’s a way to tap into extra cash flow in your multifamily units — and it’s right in your water heaters.

Earlier this year, PGE launched a connected water heater program that offers a cash incentive to property owners. The idea is simple: Your tenants have hot water when they need it, but PGE will defer the heating of your water to a time of day or night when energy costs are lower, instead of on demand when costs may be higher. This enables PGE to use more clean and cost-effective energy sources, so it’s also an environmentally-friendly move. Property owners earn $20 per participating water heater each year. 

Amelia GrosJacques, property manager at Silverplace Apartments, said the program has added value as a selling point for tenants. “We’re trying to be as green as possible,” she said. “Our residents appreciate us doing that. It’s not a very common thing for a lot of properties.” Silverplace Apartments is a 14-building property in Silverton, Ore., with 93 units and about 180 tenants. Ninety percent of the property’s units are participating in the program today.

The process involves installing a small switch on the electric water heaters and a communication module nearby. This enables PGE to defer water heating to a time when energy costs are lower, while making sure there is enough hot water in the tank when tenants need it most.

In May, a team from PGE installed control switches on the water heaters at Silverplace Apartments over the course of three days. GrosJacques said the process was relatively easy, and that most of the work was limited to letting the team in and out of each unit. “They made it pretty quick and were very friendly and easy to work with,” she said.

Before the installation, GrosJacques prepared notices to let residents know what was happening. She said that PGE provided language for her to copy and paste into her notices, as well as door hangers that offered a phone number residents could call if they had questions.

Successful Feedback

Tenants responded well to the program, especially once they learned they would receive Chinook Book coupons as a reward. And so far, no one has noticed a difference in how hot water is supplied. “I haven’t had a single person tell me they don’t have hot water,” GrosJacques said. “Everything has been completely normal, as if the device had never been installed.”

Throughout the process, GrosJacques said that her PGE contact was very helpful, giving her as much information as he could about the program. “He went above and beyond, which I really appreciated.” She also said she would recommend the program to other property owners and managers. “It’s unique and residents are drawn to it. They think it’s a really good thing.”

To learn more about the program, property owners and managers can contact a PGE sales rep or visit portlandgeneral.com/waterheaters. You can also catch PGE at Multifamily NW’s annual conference and tradeshow, Spectrum, on Sept. 20 at the Oregon Convention Center.