Choosing Energy-Efficient Bathroom Fixtures
Although your bathroom probably is not the biggest room in your house, it is often the room that consumes the greatest amount of energy.
From getting ready for work or school in the morning to long grooming sessions for a Saturday night out with friends, many of us spend a great deal of time in the bathroom. That means lights are on, gadgets are plugged in and drawing power, music is blaring, and the shower and sink faucets are used as you get ready.
Homeowners can reduce their overall home energy usage by remodeling their bathroom’s outdated fixtures for modern, energy-efficient alternatives. In most cases, homeowners who replace older fixtures with Energy-Star certified products are choosing high-performing, energy-efficient bathroom fixtures with the newest design technologies. Here are some sustainable upgrades you can consider to conserve energy in the bathroom.
Energy-Efficient Bathroom Lighting
Today’s oversized bathrooms require bright lighting to ensure proper personal grooming in a heavily task-oriented space. In the past, incandescent lights ruled the day, followed by curly compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Perhaps you remember the CFL tagline: looks funny, saves money.
Energy-efficient LED bulbs have taken over as the bathroom lighting choice for designers and lighting experts, and for good reason. LED bulbs combine increased light output (lumens) with lower energy usage and unmatched longevity when compared with other types of bulbs.
LED bulbs typically last between 50,000 to 100,000 operating hours — nearly 40 times longer than incandescents. When installed in bathroom vanities, they can result in up to 75 percent greater energy efficiency. LED bulbs also come in a variety of correlated color temperatures such as “warm,” “daylight,” and “cool” that can provide enhanced illumination benefits to your bathroom. Warm color temperatures usually are a bit more visually forgiving than brighter lighting colors such as daylight.
Many homeowners might not equate energy-efficiency with their toilets, but nearly one-quarter of all the water used in single-family homes comes from flushing the toilet, the Water Research Foundation reports.
Eco-friendly toilets, such as water-efficient toilets, cut waste and save energy in your bathroom by reducing the amount of water used during each flush. Specifically, standard toilets use about 1.6 gallons of water per flush. A high-efficiency toilet, meanwhile, uses about 1.28 gallons per flush. These fixtures use water velocity rather than water volume to eliminate waste in the toilet bowl. Regular toilets can consume as much as 33 gallons of water each day, according to the Water Research Foundation. Reducing the amount of water used during the flush process, therefore, is an excellent way to reduce the total amount of water used in your bathroom.
American households average more than five flushes per day. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a high-performance, water-efficient toilet can reduce annual toilet water usage by 20 to 60 percent. In addition to saving thousands of gallons of water each year, you also likely will realize significant reductions on your monthly water bill.
Energy-Efficient Bathroom Ventilation Fan
Exhaust fans in the bathroom are crucial for proper bathroom ventilation and moisture control. The best bathroom fans provide strong air movement measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), low noise and reduced energy usage.
Homeowners who want to upgrade their bathroom fans should consider energy-efficient ventilation fans that are Energy-Star certified since they perform the same tasks as uncertified fans while consuming up to 70 percent less energy. These fans also meet rigorous standards for low noise emission.
When shopping for a new fan, special consideration should be given to the size of your bathroom — larger spaces require fans that can move more air. The Home Ventilating Institute provides additional guidance on choosing the right-size fan for your bathroom.
Water-Saving Showerhead and Faucet
For many, a long, hot shower is one of life’s great joys. That luxury comes with a price, though.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, your shower is second only to the clothes washer for total hot water usage. A typical shower consumes 10 gallons of water — more if you enjoy standing under that steady stream of soothing hot water. Bathroom faucets, meanwhile, consume an average of 2 gallons per minute.
Reduce water usage by installing a low-flow showerhead and low-flow faucet. Prior to 1992, showerheads could have flow rates as high as 5.5 gallons per minute (gpm). Today’s showerheads can’t exceed 2.5 gpm, while bathroom faucets can’t exceed 2.5 gpm at 80 pounds per square inch or 2.2 gpm at 60 psi. New bathroom faucets also typically include a screw-in aerator at the tip that further restricts water flow.
When remodeling your shower opt for low-flow or eco-flow options for the best water conservation and energy reduction.
Putting it all Together
There are many ways to reduce energy usage in the bathroom.
Taking shorter showers and implementing a faucet-on/faucet-off usage strategy when brushing your teeth or washing are simple ways to cut water use and save energy. Other options include installing motion sensors for lighting, unplugging appliances such as straighteners or curling irons as soon as you are finished using them, and using cold water only when washing.
If you truly desire to realize significant energy savings in the bathroom, though, you will likely have to swap out some of your fixtures for more energy-efficient models. You will pay a higher price upfront, but over time you will come out in the black on your investment through lower energy and water bills.