HOW TO SIGN UP
LaFayette-area residents who are interested in getting a free natural gas water heater to replace their electric or propane heaters should call LaFayette's gas department at 639-1511. For more information about the Great Water Heater Roundup, go to www.greatwaterheaterroundup.com.
Until recently, a banner on the side of the LaFayette, Ga., City Hall showed a cowboy lassoing an old water heater to celebrate the "great water heater roundup."
Under the program, the city covers the cost of residents switching out their electric or propane water heaters for natural gas heaters.
"We had about five or six that took advantage of [the program] this past year," said Rod Robertson, the city's gas, codes and engineering superintendent. "We'd like to have more."
It's a good deal for residents, Robertson said, because natural gas is less expensive than electricity for heating water.
"Gas -- at least for now -- is very affordable," he said.
When the city foots the bill for a natural gas water heater, "we get reimbursed for a certain amount [from] gas companies and pipeline companies. In essence, we get the money back," Robertson said.
The program benefits the city, which is extending its natural gas delivery lines on Foster Mill and East Broomtown roads, because it would get more customers if people make the switch from propane.
While the cowboy banner came down, the gas water heater switch-out goes on all year.
"We do it year-round. It's just emphasized during September and October," Robertson said.
Great Water Heater Roundup information available from the city touts the benefits of natural gas water heaters, saying they provide hot water faster and less expensively.
Brandi Hill is the director of Better Built, Chattanooga's green home rating system.
"I wouldn't make the blanket statement that gas is more efficient than electric power all the time," Hill said.
Tankless, or instantaneous, hot water heaters, in which water is heated immediately, are efficient and tend to be gas, she said.
"Instantaneous hot water heaters are nice, because you're not storing a large quantity of water all the time," she said.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.