Greener Upgrade Ideas for Bathrooms
Although bathrooms are typically the smallest rooms in a home, they are big guzzlers of household energy. About 30 percent of all the water consumed in a home is used just to flush toilets, for example, and showers also use a tremendous amount of water. Meanwhile the energy needed to take hot baths can account for a large portion of annual utility bills. So if you are embarking on a bathroom remodeling project, be sure to incorporate basic energy conservation strategies into the plan.
- One good place to start is with faucets that help save water every time you turn on a tap. Low-flow faucets and showerheads, for instance, provide adequate flow while using as much as 60 percent less water.
- Shop for faucets that flow at a maximum rate of 1.5 gallons per minute and showerheads that deliver less than 2.5 gallons per minute. Toilets should use a maximum of 1.6 gallons to flush.
- While vintage faucets may look great, most of them are notoriously inefficient. But many can be retrofitted with aerators that help reduce the rate of flow. Using vintage sinks and tubs saves energy, however, because recycling these salvaged parts reduces manufacturing energy.
- Insulate water heaters and hot water plumbing pipes, and consider installing a tankless natural gas water heater for really profound energy savings. These will heat water on demand as needed, rather than keeping a whole tank of water hot at all times. They do cost more but the payoff is that they reduce energy consumption dramatically.
- Most conventional water heaters are set to heat water to 140 degrees, so another way to save energy without sacrificing comfort or cash is to manually lower the setting to 120 degrees. You'll get plenty of water that is sufficiently hot without the unnecessary waste of heat energy.
- Select tiles with high recycled content such as the gorgeous new styles made from recycled glass, and reduce electricity bills by installing high-tech LED light fixtures. They give off brilliant light, use drastically lower wattage, and will easily outlast conventional fixtures.
Bathroom remodels typically add more equity and resale value to a home than any other kind of upgrade, and if you do a smart green remodel then you'll also start saving on energy costs even before you sell.
Tips for Energy Efficient Kitchen Remodels
A remodeling project can be really exciting and rewarding, and one way to enhance the benefits of the remodel is to upgrade your kitchen's energy efficiency. Consider the green implications of the remodel ahead of time while keeping some of the following ingredients in mind and you'll have a surefire recipe for a more eco-friendly kitchen.
- Insulation is of the biggest and most economical energy saving solutions and it is possible to save a tremendous amount on utility bills by simply boosting a kitchen's insulation value.
- So if you are putting in any new walls or opening up walls to repair plumbing or electrical systems during your remodel, use the chance to add extra insulation inside the walls.
- Another inexpensive and easy way to improve insulation is to caulk anywhere that energy can escape. Pay attention to wall, floor, and ceiling gaps, and to electrical outlets and places where pipes or vents connect to the outdoors via openings that might wick away energy.
- When changing out old windows install energy efficient windows that have high-performance glazing, because those also insulate to save heating and cooling costs.
- Use Energy Star rated appliances and take advantage of the opportunity of a remodel to convert the kitchen from electricity to natural gas. Even if your home does not have gas lines it is usually possible to add them at a nominal cost.
- Choose paints and stains that have Green Seal certification and are low in VOCs, and avoid cabinets made from particleboard because many of those contain toxic formaldehyde.
- Design and install a recycling center into the kitchen counter for easy access and to simplify household recycling procedures. Meanwhile, choose durable, easy-to-clean countertops and backsplashes made from renewable materials such as bamboo or decorative concrete.
Once the kitchen is redone, the way it is used and how you operate the appliances will have a serious impact on energy demands. So adjust appliances to energy saving settings. Also use the dishwasher only when you have a full load, for example, and don't keep the water running in the sink or the oven turned on any longer than absolutely necessary. Recycle any old cabinetry and other useful and salvageable items to Habitat for Humanity. That way they can be reused in the construction of an affordable home for a deserving family.
Remodel Your Kitchen the Green WayThe kitchen is your home's energy hog, what with heating the room, the stove, and the water, lighting all the surfaces, and running all the appliances. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the kitchen's tasks account for 41.5 percent of a home's energy expenditure. So get aggressive if you remodel this room-take a sharp knife to your energy wastefulness.
Since the kitchen is a heavy water-use area, installing low-flow aerators on your kitchen faucets should be a priority project. Better yet, getting a pull-out sprayer faucet allows you to better moderate how much water you really need.
Since kitchen users rely on hot water to clean up their dishes, switching to an energy-efficient water heater can make the room a lot greener. Gas-powered heaters are the most efficient, as are tankless heaters that only supply as much water as you need on demand.
Speaking of gas heating, nothing beats a gas stove-they're better for cooking and more energy-efficient than electric stoves. Professional cooks generally prefer gas, which is also widely considered the greener option.
Other appliances also use a lot of energy, so seek out green versions of refrigerators, dishwashers, and vent fans. Look for the ENERGY STAR label, which indicates that the appliance complies with the requirements of the energy-savings program designed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Another way of reducing energy use on appliances is to make sure yours are the right size for your needs. Those with small kitchens or modest needs might think about installing a smaller stove, such as one with a 20" cook top, or mini refrigerator. If your appliances are too big, they use energy to heat or cool space that doesn't need such high-intensity treatment.
While most kitchen-remodelers might not put exterior-wall insulation high on their to-do lists, making sure there the kitchen is well insulated is one of the most important things you can do to improve energy efficiency. This will likely involve blowing fiberglass or natural materials like cellulose and mineral wool into the walls and floor. To make sure you get enough insulation, turn to handy online tools that help you calculate how much you need.
While the kitchen offers many other greening opportunities-a home recycling center or eco-friendly flooring-those listed here are some of the most energy-saving improvements you can make to this most-important room.