Efficiency Tips

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Here we have complied a broad selection of energy and water efficiency tips and resources. These tips can help you stay comfortable and use your utilities wisely year-round.

If you have any additional question about these tips or are looking for other ways to make your home more efficient, our Home Efficiency Genie provides free advice for our residents to help you save energy and water. Contact the Genie at (650) 713-3411 or advisor@efficiencygenie.com

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. Below are tips to help you improve efficiency while you manage a healthy and 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

Tips to conserve energy and stay cool

  • Program your thermostat to turn on only when you are home and need to cool off.
  • If you have a gas powered water heater, you can save by taking shorter showers, using a high-efficiency shower head, and running full loads of dishes and clothes.
  • Weather-strip and caulk the seals around your doors and windows.
  • Close curtains during the day to keep the sun out.
  • Open windows overnight or in the morning to let the cool air in.
  • Upgrade your attic insulation.
  • Replace your furnace filter.
  • Have your heating/cooling 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 of up to $1,500.
  • Upgrade all your lighting to LEDs.
  • 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.
  • It is always a good idea to test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and replace their batteries if needed.
  • Contact the Home Efficiency Genie for free over the phone efficiency advice for saving energy, water and keeping your home comfortable all year around.

Indoor water efficiency

Have you ever wondered how many gallons of water each person in your home uses per day? Calculate your home's water, energy and climate footprint and discover ways you can reduce your impact.

Identifying and Fixing Leaks

  • Check for possible leaks, fixing them can save you up to 110 gallons each month. Take a Valley Water's survey for tutorials to check for possible leaks in your home.
  • When you hear a toilet running or a faucet dripping, fix it as soon as possible. Leaks can waste hundreds of gallons of day, especially the silent toilet leaks that can go unnoticed. To be sure your toilet isn't leaking, use toilet dye tablets once a month to check for flapper leaks.

Laundry Tips 

  • When laundry day comes around, washing full loads can save 15-45 gallons per load.
  • Replace your old front loading clothes washer with a new high-efficiency model that saves 40% on water use and 50-60% on energy use per cycle. 
  • Only wash full loads of laundry and dishes

Bathroom Tips

  • Replace your old water guzzling toilet with a new high-efficiency toilet (HET) that uses 70% less water. HETs either use 1.28 gallons per flush or less or may also be dual flush toilets. For rebate information and qualifying models, visit the save our water rebates website
  • Replace your old showerheads and faucet aerators with more efficient models. These are available for free  by contacting us or better yet, let us install them for you with a free Water-Wise House Call.
  • Know where water shut off valves are located for your fixtures. In case you need to repair a toilet or sink you can shut the water supply off to just that fixture. Most modern homes have a shut off valve beneath a sink or a toilet, behind the washing machine or at the pipe leading to the water heater. Don't let the water run while brushing your teeth, shaving or washing your face. By just turning off the water while you brush your teeth you can save over 5 gallons a day.
  • Take shorter showers. Try to limit your time in the shower to 5 to 7 minutes. 
  • Do a monthly leak check on your house. Start by checking your water meter. Turn off all water using fixtures in the home and don't run any water for about 20 minutes. Check the water meter, which is usually located in the front of your house by the sidewalk. If the triangular dial is spinning, you have water running somewhere in the home.
  • 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.

 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.

Outdoor water efficiency

California's Department of Water Resources requires cities and counties 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.  

  • Check your irrigation controller once a month, and adjust as necessary. Most plants require only one-third as much water in winter as they do in summer.  
  • Fix leaking sprinklers, valves, and pipes. One broken spray sprinkler can waste 10 gallons per minute, or 100 gallons in a typical 10 minute watering cycle.
  • Move lawn away from sidewalks and pavement. Instead plant shrubs or ground cover next to the pavement, and water with low-flow drip or bubbler system to eliminate runoff from turf sprinklers.  You will avoid watering sidewalks and streets--they don't grow, no matter how much water you apply!
  • Check the soil moisture level before watering. You can reduce your water use 20 to 50% by regularly checking the soil before watering.  Another tip--do not water during rain storms.
  • Water high water-use plants separately from low water-use plants. Low water-use plants can grow with one-half the water needed by high water-use plants, and can be easily damaged from over watering.
  • Apply as little fertilizer as possible. If you use fertilizer, make sure it stays on the landscape.  After applying it, carefully water to make sure the fertilizer soaks on, so there is NO runoff.  Use less toxic products.  More info is available at the our water our world website
  • Replace turf with groundcover, trees, and drought tolerant or native shrubs. If you have areas where no one uses the grass, patches that do not grow well, or a turf area too small to water without runoff, consider replacing the turf with water-efficient landscaping. Rebates are available!
  • Dig-up patches of weeds and undesirable grasses from turf areas. Use water to grow the plants you want, not weeds you don’t want! Once you have eliminated what you don’t want, add sod or over-seed to repair the bare areas.
  • If you irrigate, choose a water-efficient system.  Change spray sprinklers to low-flow bubbler or drip systems. Shrubs and trees are ideal candidates for this type of irrigation because the water is applied directly to the root zones.
  • Adjust the water pressure of your irrigation system. Spray sprinklers work best at 30 pounds per square inch (psi), and gear and impact rotor sprinklers at 40 to 60 psi.