Many ‘green’ rules that apply to new build bathrooms don’t yet cover renovations, but you should still make sure that any bathroom make-over is a planet friendly one.
If you are planning a major renovation – including replacement of the bathroom suite – then you need to look for low-water and low-energy models.
If your existing toilet was installed before 1993 then it is probably one of the larger cistern types that typically use at least nine litres of water per flush.
By replacing it with a more modern toilet, you could reduce this by two litres EVERY flush. There are even some new low-water toilets that use only two to four litres per flush and in a typical family house, the water savings could soon add up.
Scientists are concerned that the UK demand for water is having a devastating effect on our rivers and the wildlife that depend on them. Some rivers have now reduced to almost a stream due to the amount of water being taken by water companies to provide low cost water for consumers.
An investigation by the BBC discovered that enough water to fill several Olympic sized swimming pools was being taken from at least one river every day! For the sake of our environment we all need to find ways to dramatically cut our domestic water consumption.
A new low-flush or dual flush toilet is a big step towards this – but if you are not replacing your fixtures then you can still fit a water ‘hippo’ device to your cistern.
This is very simple and involves putting the device into your cistern. The amount of space it uses cuts down on the amount of water that the cistern can hold so it reduces water use with every flush.
Many water companies supply them free to domestic customers – if not, then you can easily improvise with a plastic bottle filled with water.
Bath or Shower?
There is a common myth that taking a shower uses less water than a bath but that isn’t always true.
A lot depends on the individual circumstances – such as whether you fully fill the tub for a soak or manage with it half full, the type of shower you are using and, of course, how long you stay in the shower.
The average shower uses between 9-15 litres of water per minute so if you spend a long time under the shower head, you will quickly use more water than filling a bath. In addition, used bath water can be recycled for other tasks such as washing the car or watering the garden.
Water Saving Showerheads
To ensure that your shower is not wasting too much water, you could fit a new water saving shower head (most are flow restrictors that aerate the water so that you feel you are still getting a decent flow.)
If you are buying a new shower then choose an electric shower since it only heats the water it needs. Some even have a pause button so that you don’t waste water while you are lathering your hair or soaping your body.
Choosing a New Bath
If you are replacing your bath, check how much water is needed to fill it – some new shapes use a lot less water but still offer a good soak. Whichever bath you choose, don’t allow it to overfill – otherwise once you get in, the excess simply goes through the overflow plug.
If you value the luxury of a deep bath or a long shower, you can always compensate by installing a grey water system. This saves water from the shower or bath to re-use for toilet flushing.
Another option is a rainwater tank system which collects and filters rainwater to use in toilet flushing or for garden use.
If your bathroom needs mechanical ventilation then new rules say it must be energy efficient. If you are fitting intermittent ventilation, then you need to fit equipment that has a fan power less than 0.5watts/sec.
Replacing Your Taps
Taps are probably second only to toilets in the amount of water used each day. A tap at full flow can use six litres of water every minute so if you leave it running while shaving or brushing your teeth, it adds up to a lot of wasted water.
If it’s difficult to get your children to oblige by turning off the tap while brushing their teeth, then invest in eco-taps. These have a lower flow and cut down on water use or there are new taps where a gentle lift puts the flow at 50%. When you need full flow, you can lift the lever higher.
If you are planning a bathroom make-over then remember that it’s not just the fixtures that need to be eco-friendly.
If you are using wood, then choose a sustainable source – look for the FSC label on any timber you buy. Choose eco-friendly wall coverings as far as possible, install low energy lighting and make sure that you use low-VOC or VOC-free paints.