News

Palo Alto takes aim at water heaters to curb carbon emissions

City looks for 1,000 utilities customers to install electric water heaters by end of next year

Palo Alto is looking to install 1,000 heat pump water heaters at local homes by the end of 2023. Courtesy of city of Palo Alto.

After years of stalled progress on aggressive climate change goals, Palo Alto's newest sustainability program is finally giving local climate advocates something to get pumped about.

If things go as planned, by the end of next year the city will convince 1,000 utility customers to say goodbye to their gas-powered water heaters and adopt heat pump water heaters, efficient electric devices that move air from one area to another. The program will be by far the most ambitious sustainability effort that the council has embarked on since it adopted in 2016 a goal of cutting carbon emissions by 80% from 2030, with 1990 as baseline.

The city's journey toward that goal has been tortuous. Though it has succeeded in dropping its carbon emissions from a little under 800 megatons in 1990 to under 400 megatons today, that decrease could be largely attributed to the city's switch to a carbon-neutral electricity portfolio in 2013 and the impacts of the pandemic. Public Works staff estimate that the city can cut about 50.6% of its emissions, or 42%, if COVID-19 is taken out of consideration.

The new water heater program, which the City Council discussed Tuesday evening, aims to narrow the gap. In a few months, Palo Alto residents will be able to contact the city and get an approved contractor to visit their home to install the new device. They would have the option of paying an upfront cost of $2,700 or paying $1,500 upfront and paying the rest over the next five years through a $20 monthly fee on their utility bills. Customers who want to manage their own installation can do so and then receive a $2,300 rebate from the city.

Jonathan Abendschein, assistant director of the Utilities Department and one of the chief architects of the new program, said the goal is to make it both easy and economically advantageous for residents to get heat pump water heaters. Calling a plumber to install a new gas heater already costs more than $2,000 in many cases. And because heat pump water heaters are more efficient than their gas counterparts, homeowners are expected to save between $5 and $20 each month, according to staff estimates.

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Once the pilot program is complete, city staff hope to scale it up to homes throughout the city.

"We're really optimistic that the combination of program features that we're offering here will spur participation in this program to levels that we hadn't seen before in prior programs. And we're hoping to see it jumpstart electrification in Palo Alto," Abendschein said.

The program is the first of many that the city is preparing to launch in the coming months to meet its 80x30 goal. The city is also preparing to update its building code to mandate that any home remodel that involves replacing a gas water heater be required to go electric.

"We recognize the need to start transforming from high-use gas appliances to heat pump technology in existing homes," Chief Building Official George Hoyt told the council Tuesday.

Palo Alto's new "reach code," which the council will consider later this year, would also require all newly constructed buildings, including accessory dwelling units, to feature heat pump technology for water and space heating. As such, it will build on the policy that the council adopted in 2019 that requires low-rise residential projects to be all-electric but that exempts accessory dwelling units from this requirement.

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The city is also preparing to institute requirements for new buildings to accommodate electric vehicles. Multi-family developments would need to provide one electric vehicle parking space per dwelling unit, Hoyt said. New non-residential projects that have between 10 and 20 parking spaces would have to have charging equipment at 20% of their spaces and provide electric vehicle supply equipment to another 20% so that they could be "EV-ready" in the future. Those with more than 20 spaces, at least 15% of spaces would need to be "EV-ready" immediately and another 15% would need to be equipped with supply equipment. New hotels would need electric vehicle infrastructure for at least 35% of their spaces.

These programs are part of the city's newly updated Sustainability/Climate Action Plan, a document that serves as a roadmap for reaching the 80x30 goal. The council discussed and generally supported the new plan at its Tuesday meeting but it deferred formal action on the plan and the new heat pump water heater program until next Monday.

The heat pump water heater pilot program and associated code changes are expected to reduce the city's emissions by between 1.3% and 1.8%. Once the programs are expanded throughout the city, they would result in a reduction of up to 5%, according to staff.

Not moving quickly enough?

Though they didn't take any votes Tuesday, council members indicated that they will strongly support the heat pump program. Council member Eric Filseth said that the "turnkey" program, which makes it easy for residents to make the switch, is "how you get across the chasm from the early adopters to the mainstream." Council member Tom DuBois said the program will allow participants to "do the right thing for the environment and do what's in their own best interests, which is very exciting."

"One of the primary challenges in climate change is the inability of governments to move quickly," DuBois said. "Let's break that cliché and really get moving on these programs."

Some residents and local activists suggested that the city move more quickly, particularly in the realm of transportation. The city's sustainability plan calls for reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 65%, to get at least 40% of work commuters to walk, bike or take transit (up from 19% currently) and to reduce total vehicle miles traveled by 12% between 2019 and 2030.

Robert Neff, a longtime bike advocate, said he supports the heat pump program but criticized current plans for relying too much on buying new equipment.

"The habit of just buying and consuming more stuff and consuming more energy is the fundamental source of this problem," he said.

By contrast, focusing more on mobility and improving bike and pedestrian connections between homes and shopping centers would "make a positive transformation to living in Palo Alto," Neff said.

Several members of the Palo Alto Youth Climate Coalition said they strongly support the city's new sustainability efforts. Katie Rueff, a member of the group, said she was excited about the plan.

"I know it's not the end-all and be-all and that we have a lot more work to do, but it's exciting to see us stepping into the door and turn the wheels for a lot of progress that will need to be made soon," Rueff said.

The Tuesday meeting followed more than a year of work by the council's Sustainability/Climate Action Plan Committee, which worked with staff and community members to develop the new programs. The committee, which consists of Mayor Pat Burt and council members Tom DuBois and Alison Cormack, is also proposing that the council adopt a policy of being carbon neutral by 2035, a goal that the council will consider at its meeting next Monday.

Cormack was one of several council members to call the sustainability effort the council's most important work.

"It's taking longer than most of us wanted. It's also more complex than many people realize. That's the balance we're trying to strike here," Cormack said.

While the city's slow progress on 80x30 has frustrated some local advocates, Burt pointed at one promising trend: the decreasing cost of renewable energy, including wind and solar, that will make the city's electrification effort more cost effective. New electricity, he said, will cost the city less than existing power.

And while Palo Alto's emission reductions won't by themselves move the needle on climate change, Burt argued that the city can serve as a model for others to follow. He cited his experience at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which convinced him that many cities are looking for models from those further ahead on sustainability.

"This is how we have the impact," Burt said. "It's not the amount of carbon we directly remove, it's how we and others are able to move this course of action forward," Burt said.

Council member Greer Stone said that the city's slow progress has made it seem unlikely the city would meet its 80x30 goal. However, the newly developed plans now make it seem plausible.

"I think these strong actions are going to be able to, if not get us there, at least get us within the ballpark. That's exciting and that's a worthy endeavor," he said.

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Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Palo Alto takes aim at water heaters to curb carbon emissions

City looks for 1,000 utilities customers to install electric water heaters by end of next year

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Sep 28, 2022, 1:40 pm

After years of stalled progress on aggressive climate change goals, Palo Alto's newest sustainability program is finally giving local climate advocates something to get pumped about.

If things go as planned, by the end of next year the city will convince 1,000 utility customers to say goodbye to their gas-powered water heaters and adopt heat pump water heaters, efficient electric devices that move air from one area to another. The program will be by far the most ambitious sustainability effort that the council has embarked on since it adopted in 2016 a goal of cutting carbon emissions by 80% from 2030, with 1990 as baseline.

The city's journey toward that goal has been tortuous. Though it has succeeded in dropping its carbon emissions from a little under 800 megatons in 1990 to under 400 megatons today, that decrease could be largely attributed to the city's switch to a carbon-neutral electricity portfolio in 2013 and the impacts of the pandemic. Public Works staff estimate that the city can cut about 50.6% of its emissions, or 42%, if COVID-19 is taken out of consideration.

The new water heater program, which the City Council discussed Tuesday evening, aims to narrow the gap. In a few months, Palo Alto residents will be able to contact the city and get an approved contractor to visit their home to install the new device. They would have the option of paying an upfront cost of $2,700 or paying $1,500 upfront and paying the rest over the next five years through a $20 monthly fee on their utility bills. Customers who want to manage their own installation can do so and then receive a $2,300 rebate from the city.

Jonathan Abendschein, assistant director of the Utilities Department and one of the chief architects of the new program, said the goal is to make it both easy and economically advantageous for residents to get heat pump water heaters. Calling a plumber to install a new gas heater already costs more than $2,000 in many cases. And because heat pump water heaters are more efficient than their gas counterparts, homeowners are expected to save between $5 and $20 each month, according to staff estimates.

Once the pilot program is complete, city staff hope to scale it up to homes throughout the city.

"We're really optimistic that the combination of program features that we're offering here will spur participation in this program to levels that we hadn't seen before in prior programs. And we're hoping to see it jumpstart electrification in Palo Alto," Abendschein said.

The program is the first of many that the city is preparing to launch in the coming months to meet its 80x30 goal. The city is also preparing to update its building code to mandate that any home remodel that involves replacing a gas water heater be required to go electric.

"We recognize the need to start transforming from high-use gas appliances to heat pump technology in existing homes," Chief Building Official George Hoyt told the council Tuesday.

Palo Alto's new "reach code," which the council will consider later this year, would also require all newly constructed buildings, including accessory dwelling units, to feature heat pump technology for water and space heating. As such, it will build on the policy that the council adopted in 2019 that requires low-rise residential projects to be all-electric but that exempts accessory dwelling units from this requirement.

The city is also preparing to institute requirements for new buildings to accommodate electric vehicles. Multi-family developments would need to provide one electric vehicle parking space per dwelling unit, Hoyt said. New non-residential projects that have between 10 and 20 parking spaces would have to have charging equipment at 20% of their spaces and provide electric vehicle supply equipment to another 20% so that they could be "EV-ready" in the future. Those with more than 20 spaces, at least 15% of spaces would need to be "EV-ready" immediately and another 15% would need to be equipped with supply equipment. New hotels would need electric vehicle infrastructure for at least 35% of their spaces.

These programs are part of the city's newly updated Sustainability/Climate Action Plan, a document that serves as a roadmap for reaching the 80x30 goal. The council discussed and generally supported the new plan at its Tuesday meeting but it deferred formal action on the plan and the new heat pump water heater program until next Monday.

The heat pump water heater pilot program and associated code changes are expected to reduce the city's emissions by between 1.3% and 1.8%. Once the programs are expanded throughout the city, they would result in a reduction of up to 5%, according to staff.

Not moving quickly enough?

Though they didn't take any votes Tuesday, council members indicated that they will strongly support the heat pump program. Council member Eric Filseth said that the "turnkey" program, which makes it easy for residents to make the switch, is "how you get across the chasm from the early adopters to the mainstream." Council member Tom DuBois said the program will allow participants to "do the right thing for the environment and do what's in their own best interests, which is very exciting."

"One of the primary challenges in climate change is the inability of governments to move quickly," DuBois said. "Let's break that cliché and really get moving on these programs."

Some residents and local activists suggested that the city move more quickly, particularly in the realm of transportation. The city's sustainability plan calls for reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 65%, to get at least 40% of work commuters to walk, bike or take transit (up from 19% currently) and to reduce total vehicle miles traveled by 12% between 2019 and 2030.

Robert Neff, a longtime bike advocate, said he supports the heat pump program but criticized current plans for relying too much on buying new equipment.

"The habit of just buying and consuming more stuff and consuming more energy is the fundamental source of this problem," he said.

By contrast, focusing more on mobility and improving bike and pedestrian connections between homes and shopping centers would "make a positive transformation to living in Palo Alto," Neff said.

Several members of the Palo Alto Youth Climate Coalition said they strongly support the city's new sustainability efforts. Katie Rueff, a member of the group, said she was excited about the plan.

"I know it's not the end-all and be-all and that we have a lot more work to do, but it's exciting to see us stepping into the door and turn the wheels for a lot of progress that will need to be made soon," Rueff said.

The Tuesday meeting followed more than a year of work by the council's Sustainability/Climate Action Plan Committee, which worked with staff and community members to develop the new programs. The committee, which consists of Mayor Pat Burt and council members Tom DuBois and Alison Cormack, is also proposing that the council adopt a policy of being carbon neutral by 2035, a goal that the council will consider at its meeting next Monday.

Cormack was one of several council members to call the sustainability effort the council's most important work.

"It's taking longer than most of us wanted. It's also more complex than many people realize. That's the balance we're trying to strike here," Cormack said.

While the city's slow progress on 80x30 has frustrated some local advocates, Burt pointed at one promising trend: the decreasing cost of renewable energy, including wind and solar, that will make the city's electrification effort more cost effective. New electricity, he said, will cost the city less than existing power.

And while Palo Alto's emission reductions won't by themselves move the needle on climate change, Burt argued that the city can serve as a model for others to follow. He cited his experience at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which convinced him that many cities are looking for models from those further ahead on sustainability.

"This is how we have the impact," Burt said. "It's not the amount of carbon we directly remove, it's how we and others are able to move this course of action forward," Burt said.

Council member Greer Stone said that the city's slow progress has made it seem unlikely the city would meet its 80x30 goal. However, the newly developed plans now make it seem plausible.

"I think these strong actions are going to be able to, if not get us there, at least get us within the ballpark. That's exciting and that's a worthy endeavor," he said.

Comments

Miriam Palm
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2022 at 4:11 pm
Miriam Palm, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2022 at 4:11 pm

Not going to happen in our house. Please maintain citizen choices in such matters. I hear that heat pumps are not efficient in all types and sizes of houses. This sounds like an "improvement" for its own sake.


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Sep 28, 2022 at 5:37 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2022 at 5:37 pm

I agree with Miriam, but I don't believe in saying "please". I believe in preemptively controlling our home's energy options and to make sure that we upgrade our NG furnace, water heater, and gas stove. All with legal building permits and inspections to grandfather them for many years before new installations are banned. [Portion removed.]


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 28, 2022 at 5:54 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2022 at 5:54 pm

I'm very tired of all PA's "new ambitious programs" when it can't manage its current ones or -- as Diana Diamond wrote this week -provide status reports and updates on whether CPAU is "ready" for increased electrical demand. She had a whole list of NON-answers to her questions she got from CPAU!

How much is this going to cost? How much will homeowners get?

I remember my plumber trying to apply for a my new water heater and it took him HOURS to get me $25 because the system was such a mess. Has anyone in City Hall have a clue what plumbes charge per hour??


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Sep 28, 2022 at 6:47 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2022 at 6:47 pm

@Online Check out Sherry Listgarten's comprehensive blog post. On the good side, this pilot program is intended to set up a turnkey option, where a pre-approved contractor will charge the flat price to install the system. That will hopefully greatly reduce the permitting/filing obstacles you mention, and perhaps could later be extended to e.g. solar panel installation.

On the bad side, the flat rate only applies if your house already has the electrical supply and wiring, suitable space and air access needed for the HPWH. If not, you're on the hook for paying for the modifications yourself. Our older house would likely need tens of thousands of dollars (!) of modifications to qualify.

The city has also decided for now not to pursue having multifamily, commercial or business buildings convert to electrical water heating. It's hard to escape the thought that this is another political consideration to help businesses avoid paying their fair share for Palo Alto's policies.


Sherry Listgarten
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Sep 28, 2022 at 7:57 pm
Sherry Listgarten, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2022 at 7:57 pm

Just to clarify one thing, the HPWH installation does include venting, running a drain line, setting up a circuit and running conduit from the electrical panel if needed. So that is pretty comprehensive. Moving walls and fixing panels is not included. Unsafe electrical panels and wiring can be an obstacle, but I think a bigger one may be tankless water heaters because they have a pretty different form factor and placement. If an electric panel is safe, there are HPWH options that do not require upgrading it. But we'll see how it goes. This is imo an important experiment/analysis to see how residential electrification works in practice, not just in theory.

Also, my understanding is they are happy to offer this to anyone with a residential-style water heater, which is the case for some multi-family housing for example. The problem is that there aren't currently great replacements for large/commercial water heaters. So they are starting with these.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Sep 28, 2022 at 9:08 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2022 at 9:08 pm

Running conduit and wiring for a new circuit halfway across a house can be quite expensive on older homes. If that's really included in the flat price, that's a very good thing. I suppose the devil is in the details, but thanks very much for posting this info, Sherry! It will help very much if the City can publish a set of prerequisite specs on what's included and what's not included in the flat price.


Matt Schlegel
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2022 at 12:18 am
Matt Schlegel , Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 12:18 am

I appreciate the City of Palo Alto's staff and council members efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions. We must stop burning fossil fuels.


Donald
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2022 at 6:52 am
Donald, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 6:52 am

Do you get to choose which brand and model of water heater you install with this program or does the contractor make the choice for you?


Hal Yount
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 29, 2022 at 7:27 am
Hal Yount, Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 7:27 am

Saving a measly $5.00 on a monthly utility bill is trivial and just how much impact will a 1.3% reduction of carbon emissions in Palo Alto have on the rest of the world?

While $2700.00 is a drop in the bucket to most Palo Altans, a complete amortization of the costs will involve decades.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2022 at 9:06 am
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 9:06 am

All I know is the electric water boilers at my complex suck. It’s the equivalent of a “warm” water flat and we can’t hang out our washing for solar heated sanitation purposes . Even when our under linens are crisp and clean.


peppered
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:50 am
peppered, Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:50 am

Saving the planet is not easy, comfortable or cheap.
There is no planet B.


Left of Boom
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:54 am
Left of Boom, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:54 am

If Palo Alto were serious about their "sustainability" goals, it would contract out its planning department to another town because it is surely obstructing progress toward those goals. With the additional steps and delayed inspections, water heaters are the least of our problems.


Observer
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:08 am
Observer, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:08 am

@Sherry - what about Eichlers with their underground pipes? We removed the massive gas boiler and water heater and installed a wall-mounted tankless that does both hot water and radiant heat. Was that not a good environmental choice? We spent a lot as part of a remodel and aren't going back. I'm wondering how the talk about going all electric will impact Eichler houses which almost all have gas heating systems.


Citizen
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:11 am
Citizen, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:11 am

I appreciate the effort. We will do this in a heartbeat if the whole amount is spread out. A lot of us don’t have that kind of cash lying around.

We installed solar PV a month ago only because a much longer loan made it possible. For some reason the city still has not just scheduled the final inspection so we can produce the power and the contractor can get paid. This included the heat wave when the City would have benefited from our power. We got an earful from contractors who wouldn’t do solar in Palo Alto and when neighbors saw our system go up, they asked for recommendations because they’d had such difficulty, they gave up.

So, the devil is in the (installation) details. The City needs to first put some effort into ensuring whatever logistical hurdles are discouraging solar installation here are solved.

That will also help encourage people to have confidence in the City’s installation for heat pump water heaters. I’m thrilled to see the City come up with a program. But I’d like to see two improvements: addressing the logistical hurdles for solar installation (do we need more personnel? What is the problem?) and making the water heater program accessible to people for whom the help will make the difference between installation and not, not just rich people who could pay for it anyway.

Our gas water heater is nearing the end if it’s life. If we have to replace, it’s going to be whatever we replace it with for a long time. Hoping the City makes electric possible for people like us. (And please come inspect our solar PV so we can start generating!)


Allan
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:32 am
Allan, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:32 am

For true comparison, can someone tell us the real cost to heat a 50 gal water heater in btu (gas) vs kwh (electric) at current PA utility rates, when considering normal heat losses due to each type of system. Surely, this has already been done as part of the city's cost analysis. Thanks!


BobH
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:37 am
BobH, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:37 am

Sounds interesting, but lots of details missing. For example:

What size of a water heater is this? Does it include adding a new circuit to the heater, and any electrical panel or service upgrades?

Note, I continue to think that the city's focus on gas heating is misguided. Transportation accounts for a lot more emissions than gas heating. The city should focus on make the city more EV friendly, like a lot more public chargers, subsidizing chargers in multi-family buildings, and rebates on EVs. That would reduce emissions a lot more than converting gas to electric.

Has the city switched the city owned vehicles to electric? Police cars?

As others have asked, what are they doing to upgrade the power distribution infrastructure?


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Sep 29, 2022 at 12:33 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Once upon a time I lived in a very sunny place where the setting sun faced directly at the little door on the patio where the water heater lived. I went on vacation during the summer but before leaving I turned the pilot off. When I got back, I went in to take a shower and had plenty of hot water. My mind wandered to ... "did I forget to turn off the water heater?" After dressing I went out and looked and sure enough, that water heater was turned off. I felt the tank, and it was as hot as it was when it was turned on. It was being heated by the sun. Long story short, why the emphasis on re-wiring a house when the placement of the water heater can give you hot water for free? Sure this means less hot water in winter or cloudy days. Still, a water heater stores much more water than I use in a day and trust me ... most everyone I knew during COVID lockdown wasn't showering or even changing clothes daily. Some of our basic needs can be met by adopting cave people methods without involving permits, contractors, etc. Shower when the weather provides you with enough hot water to do it with.

We are really spoiled as a society.


Marianne Mueller
Registered user
Professorville
on Sep 29, 2022 at 12:45 pm
Marianne Mueller, Professorville
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 12:45 pm

before anyone goes to the trouble and expense of putting in a heat pump for water heating, I recommend considering how big of a heat pump would be needed to support both water heating and home heating/cooling, since if you’re going to put in a heat pump why not replace the gas furnace at the same time? Note that a heat pump used for heating can simultaneously be used for home cooling, which is handy in these days of increased and hotter heat waves. A few years ago I had to replace my gas furnace, and chose to put in a heat pump with the theory that it would be more environmentally friendly long-term, and I did have to add a new circuit, and I put in a model the support to in-house units, one for the main part of the house and one for one of two bedrooms, in retrospect I wish I had put in a larger heat pump they would also have supported an indoor unit in the second bedroom, so I recommend people consider all the uses for which they may want to use the heat pump and put in one of the appropriate size. The overall project was expensive but that included adding the new circuit, and adding a new gas furnace is also not that cheap. has anyone checked into whether this program also qualifies for federal rebates? Especially with the recent so-called inflation reduction act and its rebates for heat pumps.


MyFeelz
Registered user
another community
on Sep 29, 2022 at 1:57 pm
MyFeelz, another community
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 1:57 pm

@MarianneMeuller I was just looking at LIHEAP (which is a federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) to see if any lower income households could get help with retrofitting or replacing their utility devices. It looks like it's possible but one has to apply for the assistance to find out if they qualify and for what type and how much they would contribute financially. The City should be finding out all of these things before proposing to demand consumers refit their homes to combat climate change. Not every Palo Altan is rich. In fact, there were options available during our recent heat wave that could have helped prevent outages. Web Link


Jim Hols.....
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 29, 2022 at 2:19 pm
Jim Hols....., Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 2:19 pm

Palo alto must change how they charge for electricity before expecting folks to make capital investments in heaters, furnaces etc.
Currently, electric rates are tiered to encourage less use of electricity. I'll consider a heat pump when the electric rates are flat or compensation is given for less gas used. Also, verify the grid can handle electric increases.
Maybe put more money into future energy rather than continue with an unneeded costly scheme to provide fiber Internet 20 years too late. Both AT&T and xFinity services work well.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Sep 29, 2022 at 7:06 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 7:06 pm

The city of "freedom." My kind of town!


Rose
Registered user
Mayfield
on Sep 29, 2022 at 7:12 pm
Rose, Mayfield
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 7:12 pm

I like that -- There is no Planet B. We need to invest in a healthy future on our planet, whatever it costs! Yes to Robert Neff's comments in the article: "Robert Neff, a longtime bike advocate, said he supports the heat pump program but criticized current plans for relying too much on buying new equipment. "The habit of just buying and consuming more stuff and consuming more energy is the fundamental source of this problem," he said. By contrast, focusing more on mobility and improving bike and pedestrian connections between homes and shopping centers would "make a positive transformation to living in Palo Alto," Neff said.

I would add that the City should improve and maintain the road conditions on all our major East/West and North/South bikeways as well as the bike routes to schools. Riding East across Churchill at Alma -- the bike lane is in terrible condition. We must keep our young people safe.

Thank you S/CAP and City Council for focusing on these existential problems.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2022 at 7:14 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 7:14 pm

Tell me. Why does a CC meet in closed session to discuss heat pump water heaters? More of taking straw to make hay. Pay as you go schemes just @don’t pencil out” CC!! Plus “it’s not in line with the character of the neighborhood” lol Just quit already. Raise taxes on R1Zone homeowners and truly watch the magic happen and really the City will flourish. You’ll be okay. Really.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Sep 29, 2022 at 7:28 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 7:28 pm

They seem to be giving a contract to the installer without having to make a bid. Interesting.


Old PA Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2022 at 9:59 pm
Old PA Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 9:59 pm

Can I just throw out there that we have lots of sun and lots of backyards in Palo Alto. How about giving out laundry lines and clothespins? I virtually never use my (energy star) dryer. I have several drying racks, enough to dry king sized sheets. I really love the smell and feel of crisp clean clothes & linens, dried by the sun.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:05 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:05 pm
Esther
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:29 pm
Esther, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:29 pm

The San Francisco Chronicle says, "The Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden this year provides rebates for heat pumps. It offers a 30% tax credit up to $2,000 to anyone who installs a heat pump, as well as rebates up to $8,000 depending on income level. California offers a $3,000 rebate for heat pump installation in single-family homes through the Tech Clean California initiative, with more available depending on where you live. On top of that, local governments and utilities often offer their own incentives."
California will ban the sale of natural-gas heaters by 2030. This technology could replace them. Web Link
As always, consult your tax adviser.


Louise_Hansard
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2022 at 1:09 am
Louise_Hansard, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 30, 2022 at 1:09 am

Thanks for the article!


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Sep 30, 2022 at 1:14 am
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Sep 30, 2022 at 1:14 am

I'm curious if in 2030, as now with 1.6gpf toilets, we could just drive over to Nevada to get a nice efficient gas heater.


Walter Sobchak
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Sep 30, 2022 at 10:50 am
Walter Sobchak, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Sep 30, 2022 at 10:50 am


Many of the initiatives being pushing by the “Save the Planet” climate activists remind me of Don’s Siegel’s classic 1956 film “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” in which a terrified population forced everyone to comply and undergo the process of becoming a “pod person.”


staying home
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 3, 2022 at 8:56 am
staying home, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 3, 2022 at 8:56 am

did my research, and will be moving to a HPWH when my current one needs replacement. Many of these environmental initiatives need a kick start to get the process going (recycling programs, car charging, solar panels for home). In full support.


N
Registered user
Ventura
on Oct 3, 2022 at 12:47 pm
N, Ventura
Registered user
on Oct 3, 2022 at 12:47 pm

Just got two quotes for adding an EV charger, and both contractors (highly rated, licensed, etc) complained about Palo Alto permitting:

Contractor #1's quote has a $700 line item for permitting.

Contractor #2 said "Palo Alto is the worst city to work with, we won't do permits there ... Adding an EV with permits in Palo Alto is harder than building a house."

I looked into it to verify and indeed, our process is byzantine complex. In this day of supply chain shortages, they don't accept UL listing and amps for permitting, but insist on having the spec sheet of the exact model you plan to install. Oh, and you must have a full load calculation, and they threaten $10k liability to the city if the utilities aren't up to it.

All the city needs to know is the amps, UL listing status, and that a licensed contractor did the work. This is absolutely crazy.

PS. I'd love to electrify whenever possible, but Palo Alto permitting is adding 50% to the cost of the work (on top of super high local labor prices). This is insane.


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