Remodelling a small bathroom to save energy and resources. Photo © Tatty - Fotolia.com

Replacing working fixtures for the sake of getting energy efficient ones is rarely the most sustainable option, because it ignores the energy and resources that go into making them in the first place. But if you’re renovating anyway, it makes sense to purchase energy-saving fixtures over conventional ones. It’s the gift that keeps on giving: using less energy means you’ll spend less on bills for years to come. You can save twice if the upgrades qualify for rebates.

Here are some tips on lowering the energy footprint of a small bathroom from Green Living Online and EcoLiving.

1. Demolition
Before contractor Chris Vanderwal started rebuilding the bathroom, he managed to keep a few things out of the landfill. A neighbour claimed a bathroom mirror and Chris took the toilet, countertop and sinks to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. We did the same thing when we greened the demolition during a kitchen renovation.

2. Insulation
Batts of Roxul mineral wool insulation around the shower get extra eco points for being made in Canada and containing recycled content. They’ll retain bathroom heating in winter and keep exterior heat out in summer.

3. Energy-efficient lighting
We love recessed lighting, but skip the wasteful halogen lights and use LED lighting or CFL light bulbs instead (you won’t believe how much you’ll pay less for lighting). Chris installed a moisture-resistant light in the shower area to make it last longer.

4. In-floor heating
A SunTouch WarmWire floor warming kit costs less than radiant heating mats and will keep everyone’s feet toasty. When your feet feel warm, you can lower the thermostat a degree or two – more savings!

5. Programmable thermostat
In-floor heating gets way more efficient when you control it with a SunTouch programmable thermostat.

6. Energy Star–certified ventilation fan
You may be tempted to skimp on the bathroom fan because nobody looks at the ceiling, right? Don’t cheap out! The fan needs to be powerful enough to extract moist air, and efficient enough not to be blowing money into thin air. This NuTone model is strong but quiet. Run the bathroom fan for a good 20 to 30 minutes after every shower and bath to protect your family and house from mould.

7. Water-conserving fixtures
The key is to look for bathroom fixtures that promote water conservation. Take toilets, for example. If you switch out an old 13-litres-per-flush toilet for one that uses 6 litresv – or less you’re going to get that back every time you flush. One household slashed their water bills by 70 per cent when they upgraded two small bathrooms.

Here’s what to look for in bathroom accessories:

Toilet
In many homes, toilet flushing uses the most water of all appliances. This Europa model by Foremost is a dual-flush toilet so it consumes less water and saves money. Use one button to flush liquids (4 litres per flush) and the other to flush solids (6 lpf). Some toilets are engineered to perform well using as little as 3 litres per flush – think of the savings!

Sink faucet
You’ll save more money every time you wash hands or brush teeth with a high-efficiency faucet like this Sky lavatory faucet. Efficient faucets mix air with water so you get the same strong pressure and performance while wasting less water. Look for the WaterSense label, which guarantees the tap has been independently certified to be efficient. Or find a sink faucet that uses a maximum of 5.7 litres (1.5 gallons) per minute – 30 percent less than a standard model.

Shower
Complete the water-saving trio with a high-efficiency showerhead like the EcoRain model from Waterpik. A built-in aerator maintains water pressure and performance while reducing the cost of every shower. WaterSense recommends showerheads that use a maximum of 7.6 litres (2.0 galllons) per minute, so this rain showerhead is right on target. Actually, efficient showers save twice: less water and lower water-heating costs too. Well, as long as you keep showers short. Here are favourite money-saving shower songs.

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