Residential Electrification

A collage of electrical home upgrades

Palo Alto has long been a leader in sustainability, making impressive progress towards reducing its carbon impacts, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and resource consumption. The City Council has set “Climate Change- Protection and Adaptation” as a Council priority for 2022 and through rebates, programs and revised permitting processes, we are offering streamlined tools to electrify your space. These resources are available to help you make better choices when thinking about home upgrades, electrification, and reducing GHG emissions.  

Palo Alto is making it easier for the community to act locally with a global impact and this new web portal provides tools for homeowners looking to make residential improvements such as: 

  • Installing solar and managing the extra electricity through battery power  

  • Installing an electric vehicle charger 

  • Replacing your gas water heater with a heat pump water heater

  • Replacing your gas heating and cooling units with an air source heat pump

Palo Alto Utilities provides electricity, gas, and water to the community and this means lower utilities costs; it also means that the City has unique utility requirements as part of the permitting process.

Why Electrification is Important 

Climate change is causing sea level rise, extreme weather events, climbing temperatures, and changing rainfall patterns which affects people’s lives. Burning gasoline and natural gas releases greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming, which drives climate change. The City has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 42% compared to 1990 levels, primarily by shifting its electricity supply to carbon free sources. To learn more, visit Carbon Neutrality FAQ. Most of the community’s remaining emissions come from cars and buildings. Reducing emissions further requires more cars and buildings running on Palo Alto’s green electricity instead of gasoline or natural gas. 

In addition to helping the climate, an all-electric lifestyle is cleaner and healthier than using carbon-based fuels and can also be more affordable. The City encourages customers to consider electrification, a shift from carbon-based fuels to electricity for space and water heating, transportation, and cooking. Advancements in electric space heating, water heating, and other devices have made switching to high-efficiency electric appliances more compelling than ever. 

What's New

Solar App+ Launched as Pilot Program: Working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to implement a streamlined permitting process for qualifying photovoltaic projects, the City announced earlier this spring a new program called SolarApp+. This is an electronic interface that allows licensed contractors to apply for and receive a permit without interacting with the City's staff. If you are interested in streamlined permitting, consider selecting a contractor who is enrolled in the Solar App+ Program.

Proposed 2022 Green Building and Local Reach Code Update: Reach codes are building codes that are more advanced than those required by the state. Palo Alto staff have begun the process of updating the City’s green building regulations and energy reach code with a target effective date of January 1, 2023. Learn More about the Proposed 2022 Green Building and Local Energy Code Update here.

Residential Electrification Tools

Click on the green bars below to learn more and find resources about what you need to know as you consider electrification.

Upgrade to a Heat Pump Water Heater

The standard gas tank water heater is a significant contributor of carbon for the average home. Water heaters typically last about 12 years. For your next water heater, consider switching to an electric heat pump water heater (HPWH) which looks like a standard gas water heater, but uses Palo Alto’s carbon neutral electricity. 

Start your Permit Application

Upgrade to an Electric Heat Pump Heating and Cooling System

The average life expectancy of a gas furnace, boiler and air conditioner is 10-20 years. For your next heating or cooling system, consider an air source heat pump (ASHP) which provides both. ASHP’s have been embraced for decades throughout the world as an efficient, clean and quiet device for space conditioning. The most common types of electric heating systems are ducted or ductless air-source heat pumps and hydronic radiant heating systems. The current permitting guidelines are being updated. 

Start your Permit Application 

Install an Electric Vehicle Charger

Ready to join the EV Revolution? There are several options when installing a home electric vehicle charger.

Level 1 Charger: Uses a standard 120-volt power outlet and provides 3-5 miles of driving range /hour. 

Level 2 Charger: Manage electricity usage with a low-power level 2 EVCS charger. Level 2 Chargers require a 240-volt outlet, however the amount of current supported by Level 2 ranges from 12 to 80 amps. The low-power chargers (≈ 20-amps, 3kW) can offer ≈10 miles of driving range/hour which can be more than sufficient for most drivers. For those in a hurry, a high-power level 2 charger (≈ 60-amps, 11kW) can provide up to 60 miles of driving range/hour.  

Residential EV Charger Permit Guidelines(PDF, 1MB)

Install a Solar System

Installing rooftop solar at your home lowers the electricity portion of your utility bill. Your City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU), provides electricity from the grid when your solar panels do not produce enough to meet your needs and compensates you for excess electricity that you export to the grid when your system generates more than you are using. 

Residential PV Permit Guidelines(PDF, 2MB)

Install a Battery Storage System

Battery storage allows for storing excess energy for use at a later time, such as during the evening hours when residents tend to use the most electricity, or provide resiliency during a power outage. 

Residential ESS Permit Guidelines(PDF, 1MB)

               


Additional Resources

Throughout the year, the City of Palo Alto offers a variety of events and workshops focused on resource sustainability, emergency preparedness, community resilience, and more. Learn how to reduce waste, conserve water, save energy, prevent pollution, and electrify your home at an upcoming event.

Attend a Free Workshop