Guide to Green Bathroom Remodeling
Table of Contents:
- Showers and Tubs
- Reducing Water Use & Water Heater Costs
- Additional Ways to Green Your Bathroom
People appreciate the luxury of owning toilets that operate off running water. Many residential homeowners fail to acknowledge that toilets account for nearly thirty-percent of indoor water consumption. This mainly stems from water leaks and inefficient flushing. Older homes have toilets that consume up to three and a half gallons of water a day. Newer homes manufactured after 1992 typically follow the Energy Policy Act, a piece of legislation that mandated the installation of water-efficient toilets. Homeowners should replace old, inefficient toilets with WaterSense labeled toilets. WaterSense toilets could save homeowners across the country nearly two billion gallons of water per day. According to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), a family of four can save roughly two thousand dollars in water bills over the lifetime of a high-efficiency toilet.
Residential owners can choose between a number of options, including dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets have two flush volumes, including one for a full flush for solidified bio-waste, and a reduced flush for liquids only. Homeowners can also install composting toilets for a green bathroom design. Composting toilets leave a bigger green footprint on the world. Contrary to popular opinion, composting toilets have advanced to the point of looking and feeling similar to their standard counterparts. Composting toilets require little to no water, which means they provide a solution to unsanitary, ecological problems.
- How Much Water Does Your Toilet Use? (PDF)
- Water Efficiency: Commercial Bathrooms (PDF)
- Water-Efficient Toilets: The Green Way to Flush (PDF)
- High Efficiency Toilets
- Low Flush Toilets and Kits to Convert Older Toilets
Residential households typically use more than one trillion gallons of water across the nation each year. Homeowners can switch over to WaterSense labeled water faucets and accessories in order to reduce a bathroom sink’s water consumption by more than thirty-percent without impacting its performance. According to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), if every household switched over to water-efficient faucets, then it could save the nation more than three hundred fifty million dollars in water utility bills. In addition, it would save more than sixty billion dollars of water annually. (Conserving water is important!) Homeowners can also replace the aerator on the faucet to increase water efficiency if they choose not to replace the faucet itself. Aerators are an inexpensive way to help cut down on the water consumption of an ordinary household. Remember to fix the leaks found in faucets and pipes to cut down on the water bill. Failing to perform routine home maintenance defeats the purpose of installing water-efficient devices for a sustainable bathroom.
- Conserving Water
- Bathroom Sink Faucets & Accessories
- Low-Flow Bathroom Faucets on the Rise
- WaterSense Program
- Don’t Let the Faucet Run Dry (PDF)
Showers and Tubs
In the United States, approximately 17 percent of all household water consumption stems from showering. In fact, residential homes use more than one and a half trillion gallons of water annually across the nation. In order to combat a future water crisis, homeowners can start to switch over their current showerheads to efficient shower fixtures with the WaterSense label. These fixtures usually only cost between ten to twenty bucks, which means the average residential home can save between twenty-five to sixty percent annually. Try to choose a showerhead that consumes less than two and a half gallons per minute for maximum results, usually called low-flow showerheads. Older showerheads had a water flow rate of five and a half gallons per minute. If you are remodeling a bathroom for an eco-friendly design, a new showerhead just might do the trick.
Another cost-effective method for greening up your bathroom is to refinish your tub or shower instead of replacing them. Refinishing them allows you to finish them with a greener material and keep you from throwing them out into a landfill, where they’ll add onto the total amount of waste in the environment. You also have the option to buy reclaimed tubs and showers, which are made from recycled materials and often vintage. However, these will need low-flow showerheads or faucets. If neither of these options are cost-effective in your budget, consider replacing parts the shower wall with glass or caulking areas in the shower and tub that could be leaking out water and increasing your bills.
- Saving Energy and Money with New Showerheads
- Water Efficiency and Conservation Tip
- Water Conservation and Water-Saving Devices
- What’s the Cost of Not Conserving?
- Water IQ: Water Saving Tips
Older homes have bathroom cabinetry manufactured from hardwood paneling, particle board, or fiberboard. Unfortunately, many of these cabinets contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), harmful chemicals that contribute to outdoor and indoor air pollution. Cabinetry may also contain finishes that have these substances within them. Homeowners should purchase cabinetry made with VOC-free adhesives and finishes to avoid contact with these harmful substances. Homeowners that are doing bath remodeling can purchase cabinetry made from natural, organic materials. Some of these cabinetry materials include recycled content like bamboo and certified woods. You can also buy cabinet materials or salvaged whole cabinets at reuse stores. Do not buy cabinets made of tropical woods.
- A Guide for Water Efficiency in Florida (PDF)
- Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) List
- What are VOCs?
- Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)
- Indoor Environment Quality: VOCs
Homeowners should purchase countertops made from recycled content materials. This is one of the easiest ways to remodel an eco-friendly bathroom. Recycled countertops can appear like stone, glass, or granite but actually be made from biological composites like recovered newspaper and soy flour. Salvaged countertops can also be found at local building material reuse stores and sometimes at any major home building material shops that sell stone, glass, and other attractive surfaces. Other options include purchasing salvaged countertops at local building material stores.
- Build It Green: Countertops (PDF)
- “Green” Countertops
- Green Kitchen Countertops
- Stone Countertops
- Green Building Material and Professional Databases
Efficient lighting in the bathroom vanity or over your head as you shower means installing LED lights. They’re Energy Star certified and consume a quarter of what normal light bulbs do. You’ll see instant savings on your electricity bills by installing these bulbs, and they’re even designed these days to be shaped like regular light bulbs rather than just like the spindly shape they’ve been in the past. They come in different watts and can fit in different sockets. They shine as brightly, if not brighter, than fluorescent lights without giving that harsh beam.
- Updating the Bathroom Light Fixture
- DIY Bathroom LED Lighting Makeover
- LED bulbs move in and mix up home lighting
Homeowners can convert their flooring to a number of green alternatives for their bathroom without sacrificing style. Alternative flooring may include sustainable materials, reclaimed materials, recycled content, and toxic-free materials. Sustainable flooring includes cork, fast-growing bamboo, and certified hardwoods. Reclaimed lumber is a good option as well. Recycled content like recycled ceramic tiles, rubber, or stone will also hold well in bathroom and look good, too. Toxic-free materials to consider might be vinyl flooring for the bathroom. Many manufacturers may make green claims; however, they may not have a completely green production process. As a result, homeowners should consider several factors to avoid getting duped, such as checking for a flooring product’s certification, shipping distance, maintenance issues, and whether or not the so-called green flooring contains VOC-based adhesives and finishes.
- Making Green-Safe Floors
- Green Products Guide: Flooring
- Green Flooring Information
- Green Building Materials (PDF)
- The Benefits of Green Flooring (PDF)
Reducing Water Use & Water Heater Costs
Homeowners should make changes in their habits to combat water consumption. They can do this by adopting a few bathroom maintenance strategies and household practices to reduce water consumption. As a result, it will lead to significant savings in the amount of water consumed. It will also lead to bigger savings in the bank. Some of these changes include fixing existing leaks, shutting off the faucet when not in use, taking shorter showers, reusing water, and monitoring monthly water consumption.
In terms of reducing water heater costs, consider reducing your energy bills by insulting the water heater. You can put a blanket around it or put good insulation in the room where it’s kept. Non-toxic insulation like soybean or cotton are good options, as well as stone wool that’s resistant to mold and mildew. Another option is to decrease the temperature on the water heater to below 125 degrees. If your water heater reaches the 15-year mark and you need to replace it, you can get a tankless water heater, which does it better energy-wise. In addition, installing a a hot water recirculation pump or drainwater heat recovery system will help you recycle the hot water you use, thereby decreasing your water and electricity bills.
- Water Saving Tips in the Bathroom
- Water Conservation Tips and Facts
- Water Conservation Tips
- Water Conservation Toolbox: Tips and Resources
- Water Conservation Tips for Residential Homes
Additional Ways to Green Your Bathroom
- Making Your Bathroom Healthy, Efficient, and Comfortable: The U.S. Building Council outlines ways to make the bathroom efficient without compromising its look and feel.
- Choose Rugs Crafted with Sustainable Practices: HowStuffWorks shares an idea about choosing rugs crafted with sustainable practices to increase the “green” effect in the bathroom.
- Green Cleaning Products (PDF): A comprehensive list of certifiably “green” cleaning products.
- Choosing Green Products (PDF): A guide that tells consumers what to look for when selecting green products.
- Cleaning Products: GreenAmerica provides resources for those interested in purchasing green products for their bathroom.
- Green Building: Bathroom: The Environmental Protection Agency provides an area-by-area system for greening up the bathroom.
- Green Bathroom Remodeling Info: This bathroom remodeling guide by SFGate Homes focuses on the walls and fixtures that helps to keep a bathroom greens on its exterior rather than interior.
Curious what an average bathroom remodel costs in your city? See our cost guides and find local pros below