When it comes to energy use in your home, only the kitchen rivals the bathroom. If your home has more than one bathroom, the energy use can increase even more. Large amounts of heat, water and lighting are used in the bathroom every day, by every member of the household.
Obviously, it would be a benefit to both the environment and every homeowner’s wallet if considerations were taken to improve the energy efficiency of the bathroom. The EPA has estimated that if just one in ten homes were to upgrade their bathrooms with energy efficient fixtures (sinks, toilets and showerheads) over 70 billion gallons of water and 1 ½ billion dollars’ worth of energy costs would be saved.
Below, we’ll discuss some basic things you can do to make your bathroom more energy efficient:
A no-brainer, really. Just by fixing leaky faucets, showers and tubs, you can save big. If it’s the hot water that is leaking, the energy loss is magnified. Don’t forget toilets, either. If your flush valve is allowing water to seep through, or you’ve encountered the dreaded “jiggle the handle” syndrome, it’s a good idea to replace some the those internal parts. Repair kits are readily available and easy to install. A constant loss of cold water can add up. If you use public water, your water bill can increase. If you have your own well, the pump turns on more often to keep up with the loss.
Enhance what you have
Even if your bathroom is in tip-top shape, there’s probably a lot you can still do to make it more efficient. Without tearing things apart and getting into major expenses, you can make small, simple changes to the things you already have. For example, install a low-flow showerhead or add flow restrictors to your faucets. A new efficient showerhead can reduce your water use from 2 ½ gallons per minute to 1 ½ gallons per minute.
For lighting, consider CFL bulbs or LED night lights. You can save even more energy by insulating your hot water heater and the lines running to your bathroom, kitchen, and laundry.
If it’s time for an upgrade, make yourself aware of the variety of energy efficient choices available. Look for products that bear the EPA’s WaterSense logo and you’ll be confident that you’re on the right track. Traditional toilets can use from 3 ½ to 7 gallons per flush versus newer efficient models that average 1.6 gallons per flush. Dual-flush toilets are another smart choice.
If you’re ready to install a hot water heater, consider a tankless option. A tankless, or on-demand water heater, will typically use 20% less energy than traditional models. Also, if possible, try to place your new heater as close to the kitchen and bathroom as possible to minimize heat loss in your supply lines. If you’re interested in “going green”, there have been a lot of advancements in solar water heating, too.
Old exhaust fans are not as efficient or as draft free as new ones. This can be a rather easy and fairly inexpensive project.
Finally, even the most efficient bathroom can be used inefficiently. To maximize your energy savings, consider showers over baths, turning off water while brushing teeth or shaving. Sometimes modifying habits can make a huge difference. Still, if you can’t get the kids in the habit of turning the light off when they’re finished, a motion detector switch will get the job done.