If you care about the environment, and also have a bathroom that needs some sprucing up, here is how to do some updating with minimal impact to the planet, as well as your budget. The recent rise in "green" awareness has given rise to numerous eco-responsible products and resources that allow you to build the water conserving, energy-smart bath you've been longing for... without going totally over budget. Here are the details.
Water is priority one!
Making your bathroom green means thinking about how you use water in respect to both consumption and energy. The American Water Works Association says your toilets are the thirstiest machines in your house and use about 27% of water consumption. "Low flow toilets" were the initial solution but sometimes they do not flush all that needs flushing.
A very succesful invention has been the dual-flush toilet. This features two flush buttons, one for lighter work, and another for heavier. These toilets have been around much longer in Europe, and are now available in the U.S. for about $250-$400, which is in-line with many good quality conventional toilets. One of these toilets can save as many as 17,000 gallons of water per year. This amounts to about $50 bucks of your water bill. If you want to keep your old toilet, you can also retro-fit it to feature a dual-flush mechanism for about $70.
Another way to conserve water is through your shower. They use about 16%-20% of your home's water, majority of it heated. On average, showerheads have a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute. A "low-flow head" will use about 1.5 to 2 gallons per minute while still giving a decent cleansing power. Note: If you are like the cast of Seinfeld and need serious water pressure for your morning shower, consider a full power shower head but shut it off while you lather.
Aside from water conservation, an important aspect should be the energy consumption to heat your water. Avoiding wasted energy is the best place to start. Simply adding an insulated blanket to your water heater reduces energy 4-9%. You also want to insulate all accessible water pipes. Lastly, water heaters are typically set to 140 degrees. Setting it to 120 degrees can save $60/year and still allow you to have a hot shower.
If you need to replace a water heater, you can acheive some solid energy savings by investing in a condensing water heater (which puts nearly every BTU into the water instead of sending it up the flue), or a tankless water heater (which only heats water as needed and can save about $70/year on your energy bill). These alternatives to a normal tank cost a little more money (over $1,000 more) but are somewhat offset by great tax-credits (approx. $300) currently being offered and savings on your bills.
Pick the right green materials!
You don't need to sacrifice style when remodeling your green bathroom. Classic ceramic tiles have many style options to choose from and are a great choise due to their low maintenance, durability, and low toxicological impact. Some even have a high recycled content. Try recycled glass tiles. The most green thing to do is simply refinish your existing sink or tub. Prices are approximately $500 for a tub, and $300 for a sink. You'll save this much on installation costs.
LED illumination now produce great quality lights that sip merely 2-15 watts. Their lifespan is approximately 15-20 years. While they cost about 3X as much as conventional light fixtures, they save so much electricity you are likely to make your money back in one year.
About 22-40% of our landfill comes from construction debris. Much of this stuff is not salvageable, but some is. Old toilets, sinks, light fixtures, medicine cabinets, and vanities should be donated to oganizations like Habitat for Humanity's ReStore.
Click here for a recent post on how to save money by getting a free energy assessment from Mass Save!
Click here for a recent post about the scoop on home-improvement tax credits!
Interested in discussing more about green building techniques, or green homes for sale? Contact me!