Do you have a kitchen or bathroom in need of remodeling? Would you want to save the planet and your budget at the same time? The green living trend has a number of solutions that will do both. You can save water, save energy and add value to your home without spending a fortune.
Bathrooms and kitchens are two areas of the home that are particularly suited for green makeovers. They both rely on water and electricity to provide you with comfort and convenience of modern living. And they both offer you cost-effective ways of conserving these resources without sacrificing your style.
Getting green in the bathroom
Before you pick out the colour of your new tiles you’ll want to consider how you consume and heat the water for your bathroom. Here are some areas you could consider when planning your ideal eco-friendly bathroom:
Toilets: Surprisingly, your toilet uses the most water. If you’re still using an old toilet, it can use as much as 13.6 litres per flush. In the average home that would add up to 71.2 litres per person per day. Your toilet accounts for about 30% of your household water usage.
You could put a brick in the cistern to reduce the flushing capacity—that’s hardly a renovation! Instead, look for a dual-flush toilet. They are more efficient. A dual-flush toilet uses about 8 – 9 litres for a full flush, and only 4 – 5 litres with a reduced flush. They do cost more than regular toilets and offer you the dual benefit of saving water and money—truly green living. If you don’t want to replace your current toilet you can install a dual-flush converter.
Showers: Next to your toilet, the shower uses the most water in your home. If you shower for seven minutes with a conventional showerhead you’ll go through 112 litres of water. That’s 16% – 20% of your total water usage. Even if you think showering is better than bathing when it comes to practicing green living, that’s no longer true. The average bath uses about 80 litres of water. These days we tend to spend more time in the shower. A five-minute shower consumes 16 litres of water a minute—as much as a regular bath.
With a low-flow showerhead, you can halve the amount of water you normally use for a five-minute shower. And you’ll still enjoy the feeling of a powerful blast of hot water every time you step under the shower. If you consider that 70% of the water used to shower is heated, using a low-flow showerhead means you’re also cutting down on your hot water consumption. With the price of electricity constantly going up, using hot water wisely is becoming a necessity for eco-friendly living.
Water heaters: What would a shower or bath be without hot water? That’s what makes your geyser such an energy-guzzler. You could simply buy a geyser blanket and make sure your pipes are fully insulated. Two steps you can take that would reduce your electricity usage by an extra 4 – 9%. While you’re at it, turn down the thermostat by a few degrees. You won’t feel any difference, and reduce your final power bill.
If you’re serious about green living, you’d probably prefer to splash out on a solar water heater. They are expensive and a retrofit may also require some extra spending; the end result is worth it. Install a solar water heater and you’ll see an immediate reduction in your electricity consumption.
Another alternative you may consider is a heat pump. Although you’ll still be using electricity, heat pumps are more energy efficient. A heat pump works by absorbing the heat energy from the surrounding air and using this energy to heat the water in your water tank. You save more of your total electricity bill with a heat pump.
Finishes and lighting: This is the part you’ve waited for! Choosing the finishes for your new bathroom is probably the main reason why you want to renovate your bathroom in the first place. It’s also an area where you can continue to exercise your desire for greener living. When it comes to selecting eco-friendly tiles for your walls and floors you have plenty of options:
- Concrete: This material can be used as both the finish and structural floor. That makes it a cost-effective choice. You can make it green by combining it with recycled aggregates such as glass, porcelain or coal fly ash.
- Linoleum: True linoleum is made from natural materials and should not be confused with sheet vinyl. It is naturally anti-bacterial, scratch-resistant and easy to maintain.
- Recycled glass: Tiles make from recycled glass give your bathroom a clean, bright and contemporary appearance without impacting the environment.
- Cork: Another natural material, cork is sustainable, durable and safe. It doesn’t release toxins, it’s doesn’t attract dust and it’s resistant to mould.
- Ceramic tiles: Arguably the most popular choice for bathrooms, ceramic tiles can be a green choice. Look out for tiles that are made from recycled ceramic waste such as discarded clay and tableware.
Be sure to use low VOC paints and adhesives when fitting your chosen flooring and finishes.
Energy efficient lighting is essential for every area of the home if you want to keep your electricity costs down. Fluorescent lights for your bathroom are now available in wide range of modern, attractive designs.
Creating an eco-friendly kitchen
Remodeling your kitchen is a serious business. It’s the one room in the house that has to be very practical, while at the same time you’ll want to add a touch of your own style to it. Eco-friendly houses have kitchens that are functional, appealing and green. These are the elements you need to consider before you begin demolition:
Countertops: There are many different eco-friendly materials you can use for countertops. Wood is a popular choice that gives you two options: bamboo and reclaimed wood. Bamboo is a fast-growing material that is sustainable making it 100% eco-friendly. It’s durable, hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial and easy to install. Bamboo adds a touch of real elegance when used in the kitchen. Don’t stop at bamboo cutting boards. Make your whole countertop bamboo and enjoy the benefits of this beautiful material.
Of course, if you want to achieve a different style you could use another type of wood. And instead of buying something new, look for ways to recycle scraps of wood. With a little love and care, they can be restored to their former glory and provide you with a true green living alternative. Scrap wood is still solid and durable and it’s unnecessary to let it go to waste when it can be used to make the perfect countertop for eco-friendly homes.
Recycled stone-chip composite countertops are ideal for eco-friendly houses. These countertops are made from a variety of recycled materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill or burnt in an incinerator. They offer a mix of strength and stain resistance and there are plenty of different styles and designs for you to choose from. They have the appearance of granite countertops and are just as durable, with the added benefit of being an eco-conscious choice.
Flooring: Many of the materials available for bathroom floors can also be used in the kitchen. Bamboo works well for countertops and floors and can help you pull the look of your new kitchen together while saving you money. The same can be said for linoleum. It’s less expensive than tiles although you should call on a professional to install it correctly. It’s highly water resistant and you’re less likely to break your precious crockery on it if you accidentally drop a plate or cup.
Another material you may consider using for the flooring in your kitchen is cork. Made from the bark of a tree, cork has a low impact on the environment. Trees need to be at least 25 years before its bark can be harvested and then the cork can be stripped every 18 – 25 years without killing the tree. It’s one of the most comfortable flooring types available because it ‘gives’ when compressed. Think about how much time you spend standing in your kitchen and you’ll understand why cork is a popular flooring choice for this area of the home.
Appliances: If you haven’t already considered replacing your old fridge, washing machine and dishwasher for new, energy-efficient appliances—do it now. As you’re busy remodelling, it’s the perfect opportunity to cut down on your energy bill. A top/bottom refrigerator unit is a better choice than the side-by-side model because less cold air escapes when you open the door.
You should also investigate getting a convection oven. It uses a fan to drive heat from the source to your food. As a result, your dinner will be ready almost 25% faster than with a conventional oven. Everything from your kettle and toaster to bigger appliances such as your washing machine and dishwasher can be used more efficiently. Using power wisely is the hallmark of eco-friendly homes.
Lighting: Once again, you can take advantage of the modern fluorescent lighting available today to brighten up your kitchen. They could cut your total energy use significantly and your kitchen won’t will feel overly bright and stark. There is now a wide range of tones available to help you set exactly the mood you want in your kitchen without sacrificing your style.
As you get on with the hard work of removing old fittings and fixtures, think about what you’ll do with all that rubble. Estimates reveal that between 22% – 40% of landfills consist of construction debris. Of course, there will be many bits and pieces that you simply cannot salvage. And where possible, donate your old toilets, sinks, baths, kitchen cupboards and countertops to charities. This way you’re reducing the waste that you send to the landfill.
It is possible to build eco-friendly houses from scratch. Although it is not yet a trend in South Africa, many homeowners are coming round to the idea of finding ways to reduce their consumption of water and electricity. Remodelling your kitchen and bathroom to embrace the principles of green living makes just as much sense for your pocket as it does for the environment.
Green alternatives are available, all it requires is for you to put some thought into the choices you make. Every element of these important rooms in your home can be optimised to run more efficiently. And the good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort to accommodate greener living.