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Smart Water Heater Controller Study

One easy way you can help build a clean energy future for our community

You can help regional utilities learn about the energy savings and satisfaction of smart water heater controllers by participating in our two-year study. 

Smart Water Heater Controller Study 2Smart water heater controllers provide hot water when you need it and save energy when you don’t. As an added bonus, the controllers may help you identify hot water leaks or problems with your water heaterFindings from the research will help accelerate beneficial clean energy programs in our community and you’ll receive $80. It’s easy.  

To take part in the study, you need to:

  • Own your home. 
  • Have a standard electric water heater. 
  • Fill out an application.
  • Take brief surveys during the study. 

A professional will safely install the smart controller on your water heater for free at your convenience. You’ll receive $40 after the installation and $40 at the end of the study. 

Sign up to take part in the study

We want to hear your questions!  Call 253-502-8363 or send us an email at


What do I need to do to participate in the study?

You only need to have a standard electric water heater and own your home to participateAfter signing up and having our contractor install the controller, you don’t need to change your habits – use your hot water normally.

Who pays for the smart water heater controller? 

Tacoma Public Utilities will pay for the smart water heater controller and installation.

How does the smart water heater controller work?

A controller allows your tank to operate as a battery. It shifts the time your tank uses clean energy to heat your water (when it’s more abundant and less expensive) then stores it for use later. 

The controller observes how much power goes into your water heater and which element heats the water. An algorithm uses the observations to learn your hot water needs and builds a schedule that keeps enough hot water in the tank for when you need it, and delays reheating by switching power off for brief periods of time to delay reheating until cheaper clean energy is available. If you change your behaviors don’t worry. The controller can detect those changes and will maintain your regular water temperature until it figures out your new normal. If it appears you are on track to run out of hot water, your water heater will return to normal operation.

How will you ensure I have the hot water I need when I need it during the study? 

The smart controller uses an algorithm to learn your behaviors, keeping enough hot water in the tank for when you need it without any additional effort on your part. If you change your behaviors don’t worry. The controller can detect changes in your hot water use and will maintain your regular water heater temperature until it figures out your new normal. Additionally, if the controller detects colder than comfortable temperatures, it will return to normal operation to ensure hot water is available.

Are there other benefits to installing the smart water heater controller?

The controller can also look for patterns in your hot water use, detect hot water leaks, and provide information about the health of your water heater.

Will the smart controller damage my water heater? 

The controller will not damage your water heater. It simply shuts off power to your water heater’s elements the way your thermostat would. If for some reason the controller fails your water heater will return to normal operation. We’re happy to provide you with further details.

How will the utility ensure the privacy of  the information sent from the smart water heater controller? 

All water heaters are identified by a unit number on the smart controller. The utility is the only entity aware of your smart water heater’s unit number. All information in the cloud is encrypted. We also do not share your information and identifiable information about you is not stored in the cloud.

What am I responsible for during the study? 

You are responsible for: 

  • Scheduling your installation time with the contractor who contacts you
  • Maintaining your hot water heater
  • Keeping your contact information on your utility account current
  • Participating in brief seasonal surveys throughout the study
What happens to the controller after the study is done? 

The controller becomes your property after the study ends. We will also remotely disconnect the smart water heater controller from transmitting information, analyzing your energy use, or doing anything to your water heater. You may leave the controller installed, remove it yourself, or hire a professional to remove it.

If I leave the study early, will I still receive $80? 

You will receive $40 after the installation of your smart water heater controller. If you move to a different residence or choose to leave the study after installation, you will not receive the second $40.