Cities find success with water heater programs

April 5, 2022

Howard and Volga offer Marathons at discounted price

When a water heater fails, the purchase of a new one typically happens quickly. Not a lot of time is available to research the best model if you want to avoid cold showers.

Some public power communities are making the decision of which heater to buy a little easier, and the purchase more convenient. The cities of Volga and Howard, SD offer Rheem Marathon water heaters for sale at the local utility.

Marathons feature 2.5” of polyurethane insulation, reducing heat loss for greater energy efficiency. They also feature a seamless, blow-molded plastic inner tank, so they won’t rust or corrode. Multiple layers of filament wound fiberglass give the tank unmatched strength and advanced circuitry ensures the heating elements only turn on when surrounded by water, prolonging their life.

They also offer a lifetime warranty, making it the last water heater a homeowner will have to buy. The purchaser simply has to register the heater on the Rheem website to qualify.

Rebates available

water heater

Heartland began offering rebates to residential and commercial customers in 2015 for installing electric water heaters with a lifetime warranty. Marathon water heaters are the most popular brand fitting that description.

The program was developed because it was seen as a win-win: the customer had an efficient water heater with a lifetime warranty and the utility saw an increased electric load. They are also a great fit for a load management system.

Currently, Heartland offers a $200 rebate for the purchase of a water heater 50 to 79 gallons. For water heaters 80 gallons and larger, a $400 rebate is available.

Since Heartland began offering rebates on water heaters, customers in both Volga and Howard have qualified for a proportionately large number of rebates.

Heartland provided rebates for the installation of 291 water heaters from 2015 through 2021. Of those heaters installed, 89 were in Howard and 76 in Volga. The installations in those communities represent 56% of total installations, with 30% in Howard and 26% in Volga.

drone shot of Volga, South Dakota
Courtesy City of Volga website


The city of Volga has been selling Marathon water heaters as far back as 2010.

The city offers both 50- and 85-gallon models, offering discounts to the customer on both. Fifty-gallon water heaters are offered at a price of $768.50, a discount of $368.50 from the city’s cost to purchase. With the $200 rebate from Heartland, the customer pays $568.50. The 85-gallon water heaters are sold for $1,165.50, which includes a discount of $365.50. After the rebate, the final cost to the customer is $765.50.

The city attributes the success of the program mostly to word-of-mouth. While the information is available on the city’s website, they don’t actively promote it.

“The developers in town are aware of the program and they usually tell the homeowners,” Deputy Finance Officer Brooke Johnson said. “The local plumbers also promote it and tell customers to come to the city when they need a new water heater.”

To make it as convenient as possible, the city will deliver the water heater at no extra cost.

To get the discounted pricing, the customer must have the water heater hooked up to the city’s load management system. This helps keep the city’s peak demand down, which keeps the city’s costs down.

City Electric Superintendent Chad Collins says the program is worth continuing because minimal time is taken by city staff to run it. The city orders water heaters as needed, more when they know a new development is in the works. Because the tanks are so efficient, they don’t get complaints about them being controlled through load management.

“The majority of people in town get them because it’s convenient as we can deliver them the same day,” Collins said. “With the rebate and city’s discount, they are cheaper than buying one in the store, and they will most likely never run out of hot water with a Marathon.”

Exterior of a municipal building and library in howard south dakota


Howard has also been selling Marathon water heaters for over ten years. The city originally started the program with the idea that it was a good customer service – since customers purchase both water and electricity from the city, efficient water heaters seemed like a good product to sell at a discount.

Like Volga, the city of Howard doesn’t advertise the Marathon program. Word-of-mouth is the main advertising tool. Local plumbers are aware of the program so when they get a call from someone needing a new water heater, they refer them to the city.

“We stock both 50- and 85-gallon heaters at the city shop,” said City Administrator Tyler Genzlinger. “The 50-gallon models are more popular. Once our stock gets low, we just put in another order.”

Typically, the installing plumber picks the water heater up. The convenience of having them available for same-day delivery is a big selling point, as well as the price.

Including the rebates offered by Heartland, Howard sells the water heaters for about half price. A 50-gallon heater costs the purchaser $487.77 after rebate while an 85-gallon model costs $576.

In order to qualify for the discounted pricing, the water heater must be hooked up to the city’s load management system.

“There’s not a lot of work on the city’s part,” Genzlinger added. “The main thing is ordering them and having a place to store them. It’s a great customer service to offer.”

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