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12 tricks for an eco-friendly bathroom

The main reason for renovating bathrooms used to be to make them more practical and attractive. Today, the goal is also to make them healthier and more environmentally friendly. With smart renovating principles and a judicious choice of products, you can reduce your water consumption, save energy, and protect your health all at the same time.

If you are considering a bathroom renovation, then here is 12 tips to a more eco-responsible bathroom design.

Choose a low-flow toilet

The toilet is generally the fixture that consumes the most water in the home. New toilets that are not much more expensive generate major water savings, reducing the impact on this valuable resource.

Our recommendations:

  • Certified WaterSense toilets among RONA ECO-approved products use 20% less water than non-certified models.
  • Installing a toilet with a 4.8 L tank saves 50% or more of the water used by a standard 13-L model.
  • Installing a dual flush toilet save over 66% of the water of a standard toilet if the dual flush function is used optimally.

Choose a low-flow showerhead

Unlike flushing fixtures such as toilets, the volume of water used in a shower depends on the length of use and the flow from the showerhead.

By controlling both length and flow, it is possible to save water and energy.

Our recommendations:

  • Certified WaterSense showerheads use 20% less water and energy than standard showerheads. When you choose a certified WaterSense showerhead instead of a standard model, you’ll save up to 3,703 L of water in a single year.
  • Low-flow showerheads use between 3.8 and 7.4 L per minute, compared with traditional showerheads, with a flow of 9.5 L per minute or more. They save several liters of water and energy used to heat the water.
  • Install a showerhead valve: this allows the water to be turned off while you soap and shampoo and then turned back on to rinse without having to readjust the temperature.

Choose a low-flow faucet

You can save water and energy by using effective plumbing fixtures that limit your impact on the environment. The bathroom is the prime place to install a low flow faucet.

Our recommendations:

  • Certified WaterSense faucets among RONA ECO-approved products use 30% less water and energy than standard faucets.
  • Installing aerators reduces the flow at low cost without reducing water pressure. Installing an aerator on a standard faucet can reduce a flow of 13.5 L per minute to a flow of up to 5.7 L per minute.

Choose an energy-efficient water heater

The water heater is one of the biggest energy consumers in the home. A good eco-responsible choice will save water and energy as long as your use behaviour is suited to the selected appliance. Check out the Buyer Guide on water heaters for help choosing the right water heater for your household.

Our recommendations:

  • Certified ENERGY STAR® natural gas water heater with a storage tank costs more than an electric model but use up to 14% less energy.
  • If you prefer an electric water heater, choose a RONA ECO-approved three-element water heater which helps lower power demand at peak periods. Tankless electric water heaters are also one option to consider: their lifespan is twice as long, and effective models can generate energy savings of up to 30% compared to the old tank-style water heaters.
  • Solar water heaters can reduce energy consumption by up to 50% or more. The water is preheated by a solar panel system before being sent to a traditional water heater, reducing the amount of energy required to bring the water up to temperature. The antifreeze models can be used year-round.

Optimize plumbing and the water heater

You can save a lot of energy, reduce your GHG emissions, and protect your health by optimizing the plumbing in the home.

Our recommendations:

  • If you’re planning to redo your plumbing, then try to reduce the length of hot water pipes and avoid putting them in outside walls. This will cut both heat loss and the risk of mould related to condensation on pipe surfaces.
  • Install the water heater as close as possible to the shower or use a recirculation system that limits wasted water and energy losses from standing water in the pipes.
  • Without changing your plumbing as such, you can insulate accessible hot water pipes to save energy. Insulating the pipes keeps the water hot longer. This cuts down on the wait time before you get hot water in the faucet, which also saves water.
  • Installing an insulating cover on older hot water heaters also reduces energy loss and saves about 10% of energy.
  • Adjust the temperature of the water heater. The temperature is usually set at 60°C. Lowering it to 55°C generates energy savings of 3% to 5%. To avoid bacterial contamination, the water temperature should never be set below 52°C.

Install electronic thermostats

The most effective way to reduce energy consumption is to reduce unnecessary heating by replacing mechanical thermostats with electronic thermostats.

Our recommendations:

  • Electronic thermostats are less sensitive to room temperature differences than mechanical ones and produce a steadier temperature – helping you save up to 10% of the energy required to warm your home.
  • Programming options allow you to adjust the temperature and avoid raising and lowering the temperature too often. You’ll avoid needlessly heating your home and will considerably reduce your energy consumption.
  • Models equipped with occupant presence detectors don’t require any programming. The heating is activated and deactivated based on the presence of people in the rooms, leading to significant savings.

Install a high-efficiency ventilation system

If there is no central ventilation system in the home and you are not planning to install one, then you should consider installing high-efficiency bathroom fans to evacuate excess moisture. This solution can save energy and reducing the emissions of GHGs.

Our recommendations:

  • Certified ENERGY STAR® fans use 65% less energy than conventional models are quieter and displace more air.
  • Choose a fan with a discharge flow of at least 50 cubic feet per minute (25 L/s). The used-air outlets must be outside the home.

Choose eco-energetic lighting fixtures

Today, the market offers lighting fixtures that are more efficient, save energy, reduce resource use, and decrease the amount of waste going into landfills.

Our recommendations:

  • Certified ENERGY STAR® light fixtures consume 90% less energy on average and minimize heat release, cutting down on air-conditioning needs in summer.
  • Certified ENERGY STAR® LED lightbulbs use up to 90% less energy and last about 15 times longer than incandescent lightbulbs. LEDs have the potential to consume less energy than compact fluorescent bulbs, and contain no mercury or noxious gases, unlike compact fluorescents. Choosing this type of lightbulb will lower the electrical bill and reduce impact on climate change.
  • Dimmer switches adjust the intensity of the light, which decreases energy consumption. Depending on the decrease in intensity, a zero-resistance dimmer can save from 5% to 50% in energy costs.

Choose durable cabinets with low VOCs

Cabinets are essential in the bathroom and to make sure to keep them for many years to come, it is important to choose durable materials.

Our recommendations:

  • Wood is the best material of choice for bathroom cabinets. Choose cabinet wood from FSC®, PEFC® or SFI® certified forests, which guarantees that the wood is from forests that are responsibly managed for the environment.
  • For cabinets made of bonded panels, make sure the panels contain recycled materials and use low-VOC products, which are better for your health.
  • Consider the possibility of replacing only the decorative panels and doors, and keeping the existing cabinets. It saves time and money while reducing resource use.

Pro Tip

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are greenhouse gases that have a direct negative effect on your health. Their volatility allows them to spread relatively far from the site of emission, so they can have both direct and indirect effects on health.

Install a durable, low emissions countertop

Bathroom counters made of long-lasting materials will withstand the test of time, since counters are subject to so many stresses (use, heat, humidity, etc.). The best eco-responsible choices should come from renewable resources, consume little water and energy in their production, and generate few greenhouse gases in their production and transportation.

Our recommendations:

  • Natural stone counters, such as marble, granite, quartz, slate, and steatite are healthy choices that respect the environment, especially if they’re produced in the region where they are installed, cutting down on the energy and GHGs involved in their transportation.
  • If you go with a stratified counter, choose a model with the core made of 100% urea-formaldehyde-free recycled fibres. Urea formaldehyde is used as a binder in many kinds of materials and is one of the most common air pollutants inside homes.
  • Ceramics with recycled content, mosaics with recycled glass, and recycled glass counters (with a concrete or resin base) are healthy, long-lasting choices. The concrete must be covered with a sealant every year to maintain its water resistance.

Install a durable, low emissions floor covering

Some floor coverings are more wear- and moisture-resistant than others. Installing a durable product will help you steer clear of premature replacement, reducing resource use and waste production. If you choose wood, avoid exotic woods and select the one from FSC®, PEFC® or SFI® certified forests. If you choose vinyl, make sure it does not contain phthalates.

Eco-responsible tips for painting

The final step to completing any bathroom renovation is to apply a new coat of paint. Use VOC-free or low emissions paint. Select certified ECOLOGO® or GREENGUARD® products, which emit fewer VOCs and have a lesser impact on the environment.