July 16, 2013

Kermit the Frog wasn’t joking when he declared it’s not easy being green. Easy or not, it makes sense to explore eco-friendly remodeling choices that are good for you, the environment, and even your wallet. One of the first steps to an eco friendly space is to design for longevity. Make material selections that will be long lasting so that you – or your home’s next owner – won’t want to replace them too soon. In addition to a design with staying power, here are some other ways to make your bath friendlier to the environment.

Conserve Water – To conserve water, low flow is the way to go for showers, sinks and toilets. According to the EPA, showering is one of the top uses of residential water in the United States, representing approximately 17 percent of indoor water use. Install low-flow shower heads that save on both water (gallons per minute) and energy (you spend less money to heat less water). Newer shower heads allow you to reduce water use without compromising the quality of your shower.

Low-flow faucets generally use approximately 30 percent less water than standard faucets, according to, by making use of aerators that allow air to mix in the water, creating more volume with less waste. These aerators can require clearing or replacing when clogged with particles in the water, but the expense compares favorably to the savings. In some cases, aerators can be installed on existing faucets.

Long time favorites in commercial applications, faucets with sensors can also conserve water, especially if your home is inhabited by small people who like to spend lots of time with the faucet on full blast.

Put in an ultra-low-flush toilet, or consider a dual-flush toilet, which allows you to choose the amount of water needed for each flush.

Breath Easy – Many air quality issues originate in the bath due to the amount of moisture. The easiest way to keep mold and mildew in check is to install an efficient exhaust fan. If you’re replacing a shower, make sure you or your contractor is using a moisture proof cement board that will not soak up water, along with other appropriate moisture barriers.

When purchasing cabinets, make sure they do not emit formaldehyde, a chemical regularly found in pressed wood products like plywood. On walls, use low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints and avoid vinyl wallpaper. It retains moisture and creates a perfect environment for mold.

Save Energy – Next time a bulb burns out, swap it for LED. On average an LED bulb consumes 80 percent less energy than its outdated predecessor, and it lasts 25 times longer. Even the big box stores are offering many “color” choices so that the light emitted is similar to what you’re used to. Another reason to go LED in the bath is that they don’t emit heat like incandescent bulbs.

Heated floors sound luxurious, but they’re actually an energy efficient way to heat the bathroom. Because the heat radiates from the floor, there isn’t heat loss from ducts, and you feel the warmth the moment you step onto the floor.

Consider replacing the water heater. Per Mid American Energy, water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home. It typically accounts for about 12% of your utility bill. There are four ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater, or buy a new, more efficient model. Installing a tankless or solar water heater can save a lot of energy. Be sure to insulate the pipes in and around the bathroom.

Use Sustainable Materials – Most natural materials can be sourced sustainably. For example, wood that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Use recycled glass tile on the floor or choose countertops made of recycled glass or paper. Consider ceramic tile made from recycled material or natural linoleum, which is hypo-allergenic and biodegradable. Look beyond the materials themselves to be truly eco friendly. For example, something produced or sourced locally is more eco friendly than something that is sourced from around the world.

Reusing materials are also a great idea. Use reclaimed lumber for cabinets and anywhere else wood is used. Reclaimed and repurposed materials are becoming more and more popular. See if you can find used lighting fixtures, antique claw-footed tubs, or old cabinets locally, which can add a vintage, unique element to your home.

Ben Trannel, owner of Red House Remodeling, is a Certified Green Professional through the National Association of Home Builders. Let us help you explore green options for your remodeling project. Click here to schedule an appointment.

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