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LPEA to offer free, energy-efficient equipment to income-qualified customers

Some may be able to upgrade to air-source heat pump water heaters
La Plata Electric Association plans to provide free energy efficient water heaters to Animas View Mobile Home Park residents starting in February 2022. (Courtesy of La Plata Electric Association)

La Plata Electric Association has received a grant from the Beneficial Electrification League to help income-qualified members adopt the latest electric water heating technology beginning in February 2022.

According to LPEA, select homes in the Animas View Mobile Home Park are now qualified to receive free installation of an air-source heat pump water heater.

“Installation and equipment will be absolutely free to those who qualify,” said LPEA spokesperson Hillary Knox. “That’s what the grants are for.”

Air-source heat pump water heaters, sometimes referred to as a hybrid water heater, are similar to a conventional water heater but with the addition of a heat pump assembly on top of the tank. Air is moved through a coil assembly in the heat pump, where a refrigerant is heated and compressed, before passing that heat into the water in the storage tank.

The units operate three to four times more efficiently than conventional electric water heaters. Compared to propane and natural gas heaters, air-source heat pump water heaters are zero emission units.

Other energy efficiency measures, including LED lighting, low-flow faucets and shower heads, and window and door weather-stripping will also be available to qualified Animas View residents.

“This innovative project will allow LPEA to test the viability of grid-integrated technologies to manage our local power demand,” said LPEA CEO Jessica Matlock.

New air-source heat pump water heaters will run on a schedule set to avoid expensive peak power consumption. In rare events, LPEA will be able to remotely manage the water heaters during times of peak demand.

“Beyond being a direct benefit to certain members in the pilot project, it will help LPEA avoid the purchase of expensive power, thereby keeping rates lower for all LPEA members,” Matlock said.

Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency is partnering with LPEA on the project, and will help with the organization and implementation of improvements.

Income qualifications will be handled by 4CORE and will be similar to the Colorado Affordable Residential Energy program, which uses an area median income model to qualify potential participants. Priority for participation in the LPEA install project will be given to applicants in the lower AMI brackets.

The initial grant received by LPEA was for $25,000, but the organization is currently applying for matching grants for further funding potential.

“The initial grant was for $25,000, but that won’t allow us to do too many homes in the area. So we’re reaching out to a variety of organizations to see if we can get some matching funds,” Knox said.

Participation is voluntary, and the total number of homes included will depend on the matching funds LPEA is able to secure from its partners


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