You care about the environment, but you also happen to have a bathroom in desperate need of remodeling. How do you get the job done with minimal impact on both our planet and your budget? According to Callen designers, the expansion of the green building movement has produced an array of eco-friendly products and resources that allow you to create the water-saving, healthy, energy-wise bathroom you want. Here’s how to can save energy and conserve resources on your bathroom remodeling project.
First, it’s all about the water. Thinking about an eco-friendly bathroom means considering how you use water in terms of consumption and energy. According to the American Water Works Association, toilets account for 27% of your home’s water consumption. A smart and successful approach is the dual-flush toilet like the Kohler® Wellworth dual-flush toilet that combines water savings with powerful flush performance. A dual-flush toilet can save 17,000 gallons of water a year – about $50 off your water bill. If you wish to keep your old toilet (a very green decision), you can always retrofit it with a dual flush mechanism, which costs about $70.
Showers use 16% to 20% of your home’s water and most of it is heated. The flow rate of a typical showerhead is 2.5 gallons per minute. Switching it out with a low-flow head of 1.5 to 2 gallons per minute like Kohler’s® Exhale multi-function showerhead still offers adequate cleansing power with a substantial savings in water usage.
In addition to conserving water, you’ll want to examine the way your water is heated. Second only to the kitchen, the bathroom is your home’s most intensive energy user, with most of that energy going towards hot showers and baths. Saving energy can be as simple as adding an insulating blanket to your tank-type heater (reducing energy use by 4% to 9%) and insulating all accessible hot water pipes. Also, most water heaters are set to 140 degrees, but you can easily turn down the water heater temperature to 120 degrees and save up to $60 per year on energy costs.
If your old water heater is nearing the end of its 15-year life cycle and you’re considering investing in a new one, you can achieve considerable energy savings. One smart option is a condensing storage water heater. Using technology similar to that of high-efficiency furnaces, the condensing heater puts nearly every possible BTU (British thermal unit) into the water instead of sending it up the flue.
Another option is a tankless water heater, which heats water only as needed, avoiding the heat loss that occurs with a conventional tank. Your annual energy savings will be $70 a year. However, keep in mind that these units take some getting used to; expect a shot of cold water before the hot water kicks in.
Next, you have to move that air. A bathroom remodel is an excellent time to consider installing a new exhaust ventilator fan to remove odors, moisture, and mold spores. Many bathroom fans only vent to the space between ceiling joists, creating an environment for mold and dampness that can damage walls and ceilings. Make sure your new fan vents completely to the outside of your house.
Unfortunately, even properly installed fans that push the moist air outdoors can carry away a lot of heated air as well. A clever solution to this problem is a heat-exchange ventilator that uses outgoing air to warm the cold incoming air. Whatever fan you choose, try to avoid an on-off switch; it’s too easy to forget to turn it off. Replace it with a timer switch or, better yet, buy a new fan unit with a motion- or humidity-sensing switch.
A eco-friendly bathroom remodel does not mean that you have to skimp on style. For instance, classic ceramic tile comes in endless colors and patterns, and is a green choice due to its low maintenance, durability, and low toxicological impact. Additionally, some tiles have high-recycled content and recycled glass tiles are a lovely way to make the right ecological decision.
Additionally, LED illumination now produces pleasing light quality in fixtures that use only 2 to 15 watts, emit little heat, and have a life span of 15 to 20 years. Though they cost about three times as much as conventional fixtures, they use so little electricity that you will notice the payback in about one year.
Also, some paint and vinyl coverings have VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that threaten indoor air quality. So, look for building materials certified through Green Seal, a non-profit, independent organization that certifies products claiming to be environmentally friendly.
Finally, waste not. Most of our landfills consist of construction debris. Any steps that reduce landfill waste potentially reduce the chance of ground water pollution, odor, and unsightliness at local landfills, and in some cases the high cost of shipping waste elsewhere. Much of the debris that comes from a remodeling tear-out is not salvageable; however, old toilets, sinks, light fixtures, medicine cabinets, and vanities can be donated to an organization like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.
If you are considering remodeling your bathroom, but you are also mindful of the environmental impact of doing so, an eco-friendly remodel is a viable option for you that offers many benefits.