Being energy efficient around the home can help reduce utility costs and reduce our environmental impact that our home has on the resources of this amazing planet. But did you know that you can be ecofriendly in your home without adding insulation, installing solar panels or putting up a windmill in the backyard? With the use of low-flow plumbing fixtures, dual flushing toilets and energy efficient water heaters, you can significantly reduce your overall energy and water utilities bill and treat the planet a little better, all at the same time. Use this ecofriendly plumbing guide to help you find the greenest plumbing fixture for your ecofriendly energy (and money) saving home.
One of the most common devices for saving water in the bathroom, a low-flow showerhead uses pressure to create the feeling of more water, when in fact less water is being used. Because this product is at the top of the list for water saving plumbing fixtures, there are tons of them to choose from. Look for showerheads that tout at least a 2 gallons per minute water consumption rate or less to be truly water efficient.
Low-Flow and Dual Flush Toilets
If your toilet was installed more than ten years ago, it’s probably an inefficient 3.5 gallon per flush water waster. All new toilets are required by law to be built with a minimum1.6 gallon per flush, making them very efficient when it comes to flushing the toilet. But while 1.6 GPF is not bad, opting out for a 1.28 GPF model will save even more. The average person flushes the toilet four times a day. With a 1.28GPF model, one person alone will save over 115 gallons of water per year compared to the average model.
Dual flush toilets work even more efficiently. As the products name states, it can flush two different ways. One way, urine can be washed away using a bare minimum of water. A larger flush can be reserved when you need to flush away solids. Dual flush toilets can also help you rack up extra LEED points for your home.
On Demand or Tankless Water Heaters
These energy efficient water heaters are often called tankless because they don’t have the huge tank that conventional water heaters have. They heat water on demand and as needed instead of wasting valuable energy heating an entire tank of water; even when it’s not being used. While past tankless systems were once not strong enough to heat larger homes by themselves, today’s modern tankless water heater can do the job of its larger cousin and for a much cheaper price. Add in the fact that tankless water heaters can last nearly twice as long as the conventional electric element-based water heater and your initial investment can be easily recouped through energy and water savings.
On demand water heaters can run off of gas or electric (or both). While a gas electric model work about the same when it comes to energy efficiency, gas (or electric) may be cheaper for you in your area and should be the deciding factor when purchasing either a gas or electric model.
Bathroom Fixture Replacement Basics
While a bathroom faucet, sink, tub and shower all seem to work relatively easy, it’s an illusion that deceives the average homeowner, especially when it comes to replacing them. By understanding the basics of how these complex pieces of mechanical equipment work, you can be a better informed consumer when it comes time to replacing bathroom fixtures in your home. This can help you decide if you can replace your own bathroom fixtures or if hiring a plumbing contractor is in your best interest.
Buying the Replacement Fixture
This is probably one of the hardest parts of replacing any bathroom fixture. Finding the right faucet can be difficult at best. And if you’re uninitiated in plumbing part terminology, the task can seem nearly impossible. The spread-or space that is between the plumbing coming out of the fixture is crucial to being an exact fit or it will not work with your sink basin correctly. Turn off the water and remove the old fixture to measure the spread. Depending on what type of faucet you have there may be one, two or three holes penetrating through the sink basin, so keep track when you purchase a replacement faucet. Creating a paper template of your faucet spread to compare with others at the supply store is a good idea to ensure you get the correct fitting fixture for your sink basin.
Another very important feature to take into consideration when purchasing a new faucet is the distance from the handles to the end of the faucet. Taking this measurement will make certain your new faucet will not be too short from the mount to the sink basin, ensuring it will pour into the sink correctly.
Plumbing Material Transitions
Besides new faucets not lining up with the sink basin correctly, new faucet plumbing parts may be made from different materials. Plastic and copper plumbing uses a compression fitting that draws a flange tight against a threaded sleeve. These can easily leak if the flange is not properly seated in the fitting. Threaded pipes are common under bathroom sinks and will not fit to an unthreaded copper pipe without a transition union coupling soldered directly to the copper pipe.
Using the Right Tools
There are many plumbing tools that are needed to remove and replace bathroom faucets safely and correctly. Chrome fixtures are especially susceptible to damage from metal on metal contact that can occur with many open end, crescent and pipe wrenches. Strap wrenches are required to safely tighten and loosen delicate plumbing fixtures without scratches.
But don’t think the tools stop at wrenches. Torches are used to solder copper plumbing lines together and may be necessary when installing a bathroom faucet. Basin drains may also need to be removed and reassembled using a drain key or basin wrench. Valves that may have loosened during shipping to the factory must be tightened using another specialty tool called a valve wrench. Plumber’s putty, Teflon tape, flaring tools, Emory cloth, flux wax, cement solvent and penetrating oil are all materials the average plumber has with them at all times. Without these basic, yet costly tools and materials, replacing your sink faucet yourself may be a project that’s sunk before it’s even begun.