3 Tips for Environmentally Friendly Bathroom Remodeling
By Fran Donegan
More than any other room in the house, bathrooms are resource hogs. Standard bathroom fixtures use about half of the water consumed inside the typical home—and don't forget that a lot of that water has to be heated. Add to that the electricity needed for lighting and ventilation fans, and there is only one conclusion: Bathroom are responsible for a tremendous amount of water and energy use. In most homes, much of that water and energy are wasted, but a remodeling project is the perfect time to make your bathroom more resource efficient. Here are three ways to get started.
- Cut Water Use
You can save a great deal of water by replacing standard showerheads, toilets and vanity sinks with fixtures that use less water. Start by looking for fixtures that carry the WaterSense label. This is a voluntary Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program that rates fixtures that use water. Products that are labeled use at least 20 percent less water than standard fixtures. WaterSense products not only use less water, but they must also meet criteria on how they operate and how effective they are. For example, showerheads must not only use less water, but they must also provide satisfactory water flow to qualify.
- Showerheads. Showering accounts for about 17 percent of indoor water use. One reason is because the typical showerhead uses about 2.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm). Some newer models can cut water use to as low as 1.6 gpm. To qualify for the WaterSense label, showerheads can't use more than 2.0 gpm.
- Toilets. It was not so long ago that the average toilet used five or six gallons of water every time it was flushed. Today’s federal minimum standards specify 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf). Despite that improvement, toilets still use more indoor water than any other fixture. Reduce water consumption by looking for WaterSense products. Single-flush toilets will use 1.28 gpf or less. Another option is to look for an efficient dual-flush toilet. These products have two flush modes: a low-volume flush for liquid waste and a higher-volume flush for solids. You might see them advertised as "Dual-flush toilet: 1.0 gpf/1.6 gpf."
- Sinks and Aerators. Go from using about 2.2 gpm when you wash your face or brush your teeth with a standard faucet and aerator to using 1.5 gpm or less, a 30 percent reduction, with a WaterSense model. That’s a savings of about 700 gallons per year.
Keep in mind that WaterSense is a voluntary program, so there may be products out there that are just as efficient but do not carry the WaterSense label—and some WaterSense products will be more efficient than others. If resource management is your goal, be sure to compare all products before making a decision.
- Reduce Lighting Costs
To use the least amount of electricity, equip light fixtures with LED bulbs. LED bulbs use a fraction of the power that traditional incandescent bulbs require. For example, to get the same amount of light that a 60-watt bulb provides, an LED uses about nine watts. Plus, the life expectancy of LEDs is measured in years rather than hours. As with incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs are available in a range of light types, such as cool white and warm white.
LED stands for light emitting diode. The diodes can be assembled in a number of different ways—everything from bulbs that cast light in all directions to thin strips that cast light in one direction. The strip application can be used in a variety of decorative lighting designs, such as mounted behind molding to produce a soft glow. You could also install strip lighting along the bottom of the vanity to give it a floating appearance that looks great and doubles as a nightlight.
If you plan on recessed lighting, use those labeled ICAT, which stands for insulation contact airtight. Recessed or "can" lights not designated as airtight are prime escape routes for heated air. Not all LED bulbs are designed for enclosed lighting fixtures, so be sure the bulbs you buy will work in your lighting fixtures.
- Install Ventilation Fans
Bathroom ventilation fans remove moisture and stale air from the room. These fans should be vented to the outdoors, not into the attic where the excess moisture can cause damage. Fans should be able to handle the volume of the air in the room and be quiet when operating. Fans that carry the Energy Star label use less electricity than other fans. As with WaterSense, Energy Star is a program of the EPA that rates products for energy efficiency. Combination fans and lighting fixtures that have the Energy Star label use 70 percent less electricity than standard models.
Remodeling a bathroom not only upgrades the look and style of your home, but it is also an opportunity to make an environmental impact by reducing water and energy consumption.
As a DIY expert, Fran Donegan, has written several home improvement books and is currently writing for The Home Depot. Fran provides great advice on how to complete a sustainable and green bathroom remodeling project by using water-reducing fixtures, eco-friendly materials and energy-saving LED lighting.
Companies: The Home Depot