Ask the Expert: What elements can make a bathroom more green?

| by Teena Hammond
Ask the Expert: What elements can make a bathroom more green?

Ready to make your bathroom a little more green? Or a lot more green?

ProudGreenHome's Approved Contributing Experts (ACE's) ring in with their suggestions on how to achieve a more energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly bathroom. Everything from low-flow faucets and showerheads to daylightings are options to consider.


ProudGreenHome: What elements can I add to make a bathroom more green?

Lois Vitt Sale, chief sustainability officer at Wight & Co.

Water, water, water! Think water conservation first when considering how to green your bathroom. Before the days of the ultra-low flow fixtures, toilets were responsible for nearly 30 percent of the water usage in a typical home. With the growing interest in sustainability, plumbing fixture manufacturers have developed a suite of new products from which to choose. So choose a dual flush toilet with a short 0.8 gallons per flush (gpf) and long flush at 1.6 gpf. (See my blog on the dual flush retrofit kit that can turn most toilets into dual flush.)

Next, retrofit or choose a showerhead with a flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute. My shower-loving teenage boys have given me the thumbs up on a low-flow showerhead by Niagra and they are my choosiest customers.

I retrofitted my sinks with flow restrictors to cut back on the amount of water running down the sinks as well. Again, with modest investments you can begin to reduce your water footprint right away.

Finally, I installed tankless water heaters in my house. One unit serves two bathrooms and our laundry. While this doesn't save water, it does reduce the energy you use to heat water because traditional water heaters run 24/7 to maintain a supply of heated water for anytime you need it. With a tankless or "on demand" unit, you only use energy to heat water when you need it. And you can save nearly 45 percent of the energy use to heat water by switching to a tankless unit. And as a side benefit (if greening your home is your primary motivation), you will never run out of hot water. So goodbye to those complaints, "Who bogged all the hot water?"

Tom Smith, director of marketing at Anua

To make a bathroom more green you can reuse rainwater or treated wastewater in your toilets and collect, treat and reuse water from wash basins and showers. Approximately one quarter of all water entering homes is used to flush toilets. We would immediately reduce our water bill, and the use of potable water, by 25 percent if everyone used reused water in their toilets. Fifty percent of water is used for irrigation. We could save a tremendous amount of potable water by irrigating with treated wastewater — even at the household level.

Heather Ferrier, marketing manager for Ferrier Custom Homes

One of my favorite design features to incorporate into bathrooms is daylighting. It is one of the great benefits of passive solar design — letting the sun work for us to provide light, while reducing our electric loads (and bills). While still maintaining privacy, we like to add high windows or wall sections of glass blocks to allow natural light in, preventing the use of artificial lighting.

Another product that helps us achieve daylighting in bathrooms is a sun tunnel, which is installed in the roof and acts as a skylight. Sun tunnels are also great in closets, hallways and pantries. Flooding your bathroom with natural light creates a beautiful, relaxing environment, and comes in close to the experience of an outdoor shower.

For more information, see our Going Green at Home research center.

Topics: Bathroom, Going Green, Lighting

Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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