Exploring Green Interiors – Yes, Virginia There IS Eco-Friendly Plumbing

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Exploring Green Interiors – Yes, Virginia There IS Eco-Friendly Plumbing

by Karrie Seaton of Beth Haley Design

When the idea to remodel and “go green” strikes a homeowner, the possibilities seem endless and exciting. But the stress of bud-gets, tight schedules, and the impending doom of being without a kitchen or bathroom for several weeks, create definite potential for homeowner meltdown. If I have learned anything in my time as an interior designer, it is to take a project step-by-step. This is especially true when it comes to plumbing. There are several eco-friendly plumbing options available that can decrease water and energy consumption and increase water efficiency. The average American uses about 100 gallons of water a day with toilets and showers accounting for up to 50 percent of that usage. With that knowledge, your first step towards eco-friendly plumbing updates is in the bathroom.

The easiest and most important way to conserve water and energy in your home is to replace your old toilet with an eco-friendly model. A basic rule of thumb for toilets: the older the model the bigger the flush. The newer, more efficient models have been redesigned to perform with less water, usually around 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) as opposed to 3 to 7 gpf in models made before 1994. (Look under the tank lid for the date stamp.)  There are also High Efficiency Toilets (HET) on the market that use only 1.28 gpf; 20 percent less water than mandated by law. According to the EPA, if 1 percent of American households replaced an outdated toilet with an HET, the power saved would supply electricity to 4,300 homes for 1 month.

If you strive for the ultimate in water conservation in the toilet arena, then a dual-flush model is the answer. When using a dual flush toilet, the user decides how much water is needed with the press of a button or the turn of a lever. The lighter flush cycle generally uses 0.8 gpf and will be used about 80 percent of the time. When it comes time to install a new low flow toilet, don’t forget to recycle the old fixture.

Everyone wants to feel relaxed and rejuvenated in their bathroom and a common misconception is that to be pampered effectively, you need lots of gadgets and— well—stuff. Multiple shower heads and body sprays may sound wonderful, but the environmental downside is staggering. A “spa” style shower with multiple nozzles can use as much as 60 to 100 gallons of water per minute which exceeds the heating capabilities of most hot water heaters. Instead of watching all that hot water wash down the drain, decide what is most important to you and make selections based on what you need. There are several high performance, low-flow shower heads on the market that use “air-infused” technology. For example, a standard shower head must not exceed 2.5 gallons per minute, by law, but a high performance shower head can use as little as 1-1.5 gpm and still deliver on performance.  
The technology is rather simple; the movement of water is controlled and sent through special openings that control droplet size. By focusing the stream and mixing the water with air, turbulence and pressure are created, culminating in an enjoyable showering experience.

A good source for additional tips and product recommendations is the EPA’s WaterSense Program. Their website, www.epa.gov/ watersense, also has a quiz that tests your water conservation knowledge. “When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.”—Benjamin Franklin

Editor’s Note: Beth Haley Design, an urban interior design firm,  assists clients with all phases of renovation, remodeling, new construction, and décor. Haley has won awards from the Tennessee Chapter ASID (American Society of Interior Designers). She is a member of ASID, ASID Sustainable Design Council, HGTV Designers Portfolio, Home Builders Association Remodelers Council, National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), and the USGBC. E-mail your questions to her at ngregg@ ngregg.com or visit http://www.bethhaleydesign.com

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