•Learn about green building, and how you can incorporate it into your bathroom.
•Get tips on how to cut costs by being earth-friendly.
Green building is not only great for the environment, it can be easy on your wallet as well. What used to be considered an expensive building option reserved for homeowners willing to sacrifice comfort and aesthetic appeal is now becoming a logical and economical choice for any lifestyle.
"Green building doesn't have to be more expensive than standard building, especially if we're discussing renovations," says Hannah Purdy, architect and designer with Walsh & Purdy Architects. "There are more and more products coming on the market all the time, from pressed paper countertops to denim insulation."
A green-built bathroom can save money by cutting water, energy and product replacement costs. Here are some tips on how to make your bathroom friendly to the environment, as well as to your bank account.
Water saving fixtures: Install low-flow showerheads, faucets or faucet aerators, and toilets that use less water. "Also, more and more bathrooms are getting urinals, which I think is a fabulous solution to waste water," says Purdy.
- Floors: Natural linoleum, made from a blend of resins, oils, chalk and cork, is both water-resistant and eco-friendly. If you want wood flooring, bamboo and cork look great and are rapidly renewable.
- Countertops and tiles: Consider using recycled materials like glass, rubber, paper and linoleum. Durable materials like concrete are another great option for countertops--treat them right, and odds are you'll never need to replace them.
- Windows: Heaters and air conditioners use a lot of energy. Strategically placed windows can help reduce costs by letting the sun in or increasing air flow. Purdy suggests using multi-layered curtains to retain heat in winter and block the sun's heat in the summer.
- Paint: Use low- or no-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints to maintain indoor air quality.
- Lighting: Buy CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) or LED bulbs. Both use less energy and last much longer than incandescent bulbs.
Sustainability: Use durable materials to save product replacement costs and reduce waste. Materials like concrete and slate are extremely durable and versatile. If you're remodeling, try to reuse as many materials as possible.
- Water heater: According to Purdy, an instant hot water heater is the best choice, because it limits the amount of energy being used to keep water hot. Gas water heaters save more energy than electric, and can be engineered to heat both the building and the water. If your water heater is warm to the touch, it could use insulation. Pre-cut jackets or blankets are relatively cheap, and can save up to 9% in water heating costs.
- Maintenance: Clean your bathroom often, with natural cleaners. Vinegar, salt, and baking soda help fight grime and deodorize, and are not nearly as harmful when flushed down the drain as typical household cleaners.
While building green can save money in the short term, living green is what really makes a difference. The most important change we can make as consumers is to our habits. Don't leave your faucet running, recycle as much as possible, and only flush the toilet when necessary.
Get easy, water-saving tips for the bathroom.
See green building in action in this San Francisco green home.
Learn more about water-saving products.