Efficiency Tips

Visit our Save Energy and Water webpage for information on free services, rebates, and resources to help you improve energy and water use efficiency at your home, business, school, or other facility. 

Cool weather tips for energy and water conservation:

  • Adjust the settings on your thermostat so it is in sync with the schedule that you and your family lead. During winter months, program the temperature to 68°F for the hours that you are home and awake. Lower the temperature at least 10 degrees for the hours you are sleeping or out of the house.
  • Check your irrigation system and turn system off or reduce watering schedule.
  • Weatherstrip and caulk the seals around your doors and windows.
  • Open curtains during the day to let the sunshine in.
  • Close curtains at night to keep the cold out and consider thermal curtains or blinds.
  • Upgrade your attic insulation.
  • Replace your furnace filter.
  • Have your heating system professionally serviced every few years.
  • Check the condition and age of your water heater. Replace it with a heat pump water heater and get a rebate from Palo Alto Utilities.
  • Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and replace batteries if needed.
  • Upgrade all your lighting to LEDs, including holiday lights.
  • Unless you are having a fire in your fireplace, keep the damper closed. Consider a chimney pillow/balloon if you never use your fireplace.
  • Use smart power strips for home entertainment and home office equipment.
  • Contact the Home Efficiency Genie for free over the phone efficiency advice for saving energy, water and keeping your home comfortable all year around.


Warm weather tips to conserve energy and stay cool:

  • Set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, if health permits.
  • Cool your home to below normal levels in the morning and reduce your air conditioning during the afternoon hours.
  • Use a fan instead of air conditioning.
  • Close blinds and drapes.
  • Defer use of major appliances.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights.
  • Unplug unused electrical devices.
  • Limit time the refrigerator door is open.


During high temperatures, the state may call for a FlexAlert, which is a request for voluntary energy conservation. Consumers can take steps to prepare for a Flex Alert by doing the following before 3 pm:

  • “Pre-cool” homes or lower air conditioning thermostats to 72 degrees.
  • Charge electric vehicles.
  • Charge mobile devices and laptops.
  • Run dishwashers, washing machines and other major appliances.
  • Set pool pumps to run in the early morning or late at night.


Working from Home

Working from home may be our new normal at the moment, but that doesn’t mean your energy usage needs to exceed a normal range. Here are a few tips to help you improve efficiency while you manage a healthy & safe work-life balance:

  • Turn off computers and other office equipment when not in use for an extended period of time. If powering down every time isn’t ideal, make sure your computers are set to switch to “sleep mode.”
  • Use an advanced power strip. When working at home, you may be using a printer/copier, scanner, fax, phone or charger, and perhaps other electronics. It’s more important than ever to use advanced power strips to ensure these devices aren't drawing power when they're not in use.
  • Use lighting wisely. A desk lamp is usually more efficient than whole room lighting; avoid using both at the same time. If you’re still using incandescent light bulbs it’s time to replace them with light emitting diodes (LEDs).
  • Take advantage of natural light. Especially during the day, it’s easy to forget to turn off lights in rooms not in use. Open drapes or blinds in your home office, even if it doesn't get direct sunlight. If using a laptop, move to where the natural light is strongest, so you won't have to use overhead lights or desk lamps. Natural light is known to boost mood and productivity.
  • Contact the Home Efficiency Genie for an analysis of your utility bill and usage. The Genie may be able to provide customized advice for your home to help you begin saving energy and water right away. Contact the Genie at (650) 713-3411 or advisor@efficiencygenie.com


Save Energy and Stay Cool Around the Home

Home energy usage will increase with more time at home. Here are some quick around-the-home energy efficiency tips to control usage and costs. 

  • Change or clean the filter for different home appliances, including AC and heating systems, gas furnaces, dehumidifiers, air purifiers and heat pump water heaters. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder, using more energy. Some filters can be cleaned and reused while others need to be replaced. Periodic cleaning or replacements of air filters will improve the efficiency of the appliance.
  • Spring is in full bloom, which means warm weather is ahead! If your home has air conditioning and you are only using one or two rooms at a time, consider adjusting the thermostat and using a ceiling fan to maintain comfort. Make sure your ceiling fan is set to rotate counterclockwise in the summer to push down the cold air. You can reverse its direction to clockwise in winter, which pushes warm air down.


Indoor Water Efficiency and Savings

Staying at home means more dishes, laundry, and handwashing, which can lead to higher water usage. Here are a few tips to help you lower your water usage while staying safe during shelter-in-place:

  • Turning off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving can save up to 10 gallons per person per day!
  • Shower for only 5 minutes to save up to 12.5 gallons of water per shower. You can save even more if you have an efficient showerhead.
  • Need a bath to relax? Filling the bathtub halfway or less can save you up to 12 gallons per bath. When laundry day comes around, washing full loads can save 15-45 gallons per load.
  • When laundry day comes around, washing full loads can save 15-45 gallons per load.
  • Check for possible leaks, fixing them can save you up to 110 gallons each month. Refer to Valley Water's survey for tutorials to check for possible leaks in your home.


Dishwasher Tips

  • Run Full Loads - Load it up. Dishwashers use about the same energy and water regardless of the number of dishes inside.
  • Scrape, Don't Rinse - Rinsing dishes can use up to 20 gallons of water before the dishes are even loaded. Save yourself the rinsing and scrape food off dishes.
  • Setting Air-Dry Option - Use the air-dry option. Avoid using the heat-dry, rinse-hold and pre-rinse features.
  • Set Water Temperature - Check the manual that came with your dishwasher for the recommended water temperature. It may have an internal heating element that allows you to set the water heater in your home to a lower temperature.


Water Efficiency for Landscape 

The State Department of Water Resources requires cities and counties in California to enforce a Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance or local ordinance that is at least as effective as the State's model ordinance for achieving water savings. The City of Palo Alto integrated its outdoor water use efficiency guidelines into the adoption of the State Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen)

New construction and renovation projects that include landscaping must comply with State and City requirements for landscape water efficiency. Please refer to the City of Palo Alto's Development Services Division for the most current requirements of the Model Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance.  

Consider these few tips to keep your landscape healthy while lowering your water usage: 

  • Did you know that setting your mower blades to 3” not only encourages deeper root growth, but also save you 16-50 gallons of water per day?
  • Switch the hose for a broom when cleaning outdoor areas. This can save you 8-18 gallons per minute.
  • Adjust the sprinkler heads and check for leaks. This can save you 12-15 gallons each sprinkling cycle. A leak as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month!


Rebates and Workshops

The City of Palo Alto Utilities Department offers workshops and rebates to help residents and businesses improve energy and water efficiency.