It seems everywhere you go these days, you hear about people “going green,” in everything from the food they eat to the cars they drive. Being eco-friendly is more than just a passing trend. Homeowners all over the country are looking toward the future, making choices in home materials and the building processes to minimize the long-term impact on the environment while also conserving resources and saving money.
When you’re considering a bathroom remodeling project, it’s not difficult to incorporate green materials and make the room more eco-friendly. During the planning process, consider some of these common eco-friendly alternatives to traditional materials:
Water saving fixtures. When low-flow toilets were first introduced, many people found that they were less efficient than standard units were. It often took several flushes to do what an older model did in just one. Efficient toilets have come a long way though, and you can even choose among higher tech versions. For example, some toilets have a dual flush system; one flush uses less water than the other, creating significant water savings over time. Explore other water saving devices for your bathroom remodel as well. Look for faucets and showerheads with a WaterSense rating. WaterSense is the equivalent to EnergyStar in rating water usage, and faucets and showerheads with that designation use less water without sacrificing water pressure.
Recycled materials. Re-using old materials is a growing trend in home design and decorating today. Instead of purchasing new flooring, look for recycled tiles to install in your remodeled bathroom. If the bathroom style allows, look for reclaimed antique pieces to add character and style to the space. For example, install a refurbished antique tub, or repurpose an antique furniture piece into a vanity.
Eco-friendly countertops. If you’re adding countertops to the vanity sinks, consider eco-friendly alternatives. Newer laminate options are surprisingly eco-friendly, not to mention attractive. Many incorporate organic materials, low VOC-compounds and use water-based adhesives. Another option is fly ash concrete. Made from a waste product called fly-ash, counters and floors made from this type of concrete are more durable than Portland cement products and are manufactured using fewer resources.
Reduce power usage. By now, you’ve probably switched to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL’s), but you can further reduce your electricity usage in your new bathroom with other tricks. If possible, incorporate natural light into the room to reduce the need for lighting. It may not be possible to install a skylight, but you can still talk to your contractor about day lighting. Day lighting brings natural light into the space using reflective tubing, an exterior sunlight collector and a diffusing lense.
Switch lights. You can also reduce the electricity in your new bathroom by installing motion-activated lights that turn off automatically when no one is in the room. Add a power strip that monitors the electricity usage of the appliances in the room; when an appliance goes into stand by or sleep mode, the outlet turns off, preventing the phantom power usage that can drive up your monthly bill.
Reduce the need for chemicals. By their very nature, bathrooms are breeding grounds for mold and mildew. Americans spend thousands of dollars every year on harsh cleaning products designed to eradicate these unsightly and unhealthy substances – chemicals that pollute the water and might be even more harmful than the substances they are trying to clean.
Instead of dealing with mold and mildew after they become a problem, remodel your bathroom to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Incorporate adequate ventilation, in the form of windows and a well-designed HVAC system, and use materials that inhibit growth. Recycled glass and ceramic tiles are excellent for preventing mold, and the new low-VOC paints also include mold and mildew inhibiting properties in addition to being better for the air quality overall.
Remodeling a bathroom to be more eco-friendly requires some amount of considerable research and planning. It may be worth calling in some professional help to determine the best options for you and your family. However, the time and expense of the project will not only increase your home’s value in the long run and make your home more sustainable in the future.
Ryan Tupper has been a plumber, contractor, and DIY consultant for over ten years. And when undertaking any new project he always turns to DecorPlanet.com.