Almost everyone has at least one bathroom that could use a little sprucing up.
Why not install some eco-friendly fixtures or materials? These will improve the appearance, save money and help out the environment all at the same time! If you own your home, some of these cost effective upgrades will even increase the value.
Let’s start with the easy stuff…
Re-Paint – It’s no secret that paint is the most cost effective home improvement you can make. Stay away from wallpaper in the bathroom. Painting your bathroom with an environmentally friendly paint will leave it looking fresh and clean. Ask your paint supplier for eco-friendly, low-VOC paint choices.
Install Low-Flow Shower Heads and Faucets – These will save on both water and energy. For many consumers, these represent a compromise that they have not been willing to make. However, technology has improved and newer products have better designs that maintain strong water pressure. If you have walked away from these products in the past, give them another shot! Note that you can also install aerators on existing fixtures if you don’t want to spring for new ones.
Insulation – If you haven’t done it already, install a blanket for your traditional hot water heater. Also, turn down the temperature on your water heater. Both of these will provide immediate cost savings on your energy bill.
Lighting – If possible, replace incandescent bulbs with low wattage choices such as fluorescent or LED. It may be a good time to update the fixture to a more economical one as well.
Timers and Motion Detectors – Installing timers or motion detectors on the wall switches for your lights and fans will save on your electrical bill.
Purchase eco-friendly accessories and personal products:
Bath Mats: Try a bath mat made from bamboo or cork.
House Plants: Most houseplants do well in bathrooms because of the high humidity. Many plants will also help clean the air. Consider these houseplants for clean air.
Consumables: Read the labels on your cleaning supplies and personal care products. Suffice it to say that you should purchase the “green” ones. Be sure to purchase large rolls of toilet paper that are made from recyclable materials and don’t include harmful dyes and scents.
Floors – Stick with natural linoleum, bamboo or tile made from recycled materials. Avoid vinyl floors.
Dual Flush toilets – These have light flush and heavy flush buttons and could save you hundreds of gallons of water each year.
Cabinets – MDF or particle board cabinets are the worst for the environment and possibly your health. If possible stick with plywood or hardwood cabinets. Refurbish your old solid wood cabinets if you can. Bamboo is also a popular eco-friendly choice.
Counter Tops – There are now many choices made from sustainable materials. Counter tops made with recycled glass are now common.
Solar Tubes – Solar tubes are an affordable way to add natural light to your bathroom and cut back on utility bills. These are similar to skylights, but are much cheaper to install.
Grey Water – Grey water systems can be installed to divert the wastewater from your shower and sink to your garden. Be sure to check with your local building codes.
Water Heaters – If your water heater is old, there is a good chance that a new one will provide immediate energy savings. Replacing a conventional water heater is surprisingly affordable. You can also go the extra mile and install an on-demand water heater. These can save even more energy, but can also be expensive.
Ventilation – While adding effective ventilation in your bathroom is not going to save you a lot of money in the short term, it’s critical to maintaining a clean, healthy and mold-free environment. This could potentially reduce both health and maintenance bills down the road.
Bathrooms are among the most personal spaces in the home and will leave a lasting impression on your visitors. Maintaining an inviting environment that takes advantage of eco-friendly products will project a good image and save you a boatload!
Chris Long is a store associate at a Home Depot in the Chicago suburbs. He has been helping customers since 2000, and frequently writes on plumbing for the Home Depot website, supplying tips on plumbing fixtures, bathroom decor ideas and other homeowner topics.