Planning to remodel your out-of-date kitchen? Thinking about a major bathroom overhaul? If so, you're probably thinking about all the green you're going to spend, as in greenbacks. But smart home owners also should be thinking about another shade of green, as in energy efficiency and sustainability.
"With a few simple steps, home owners can turn a kitchen or bathroom renovation into a green renovation," says Mike Nagel, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders' Remodelers Council and a contractor from Chicago.
Here are some upgrades Nagel and his fellow remodelers say can significantly reduce utility bills while looking great for years to come.
- Refrigerators, average life-span: 13 years -- Even though today's model's are more efficient that they used to be, the most efficient will save you only about $6 to $9 a year. But if your current refrigerator is more than a decade old, you can save more than $100 a year by replacing it.
- Dishwashers, average life span: 9 years -- Energy Star-rated models use 41 percent less energy than other dishwashers, saving up to $90 over the product's life. However, when replacing older models, you can immediately reduce your energy bills by $30 a year.
- Microwave Ovens, average life span: 9 years -- Microwaves cook much faster than conventional ovens, but they also can use up to 80 percent less energy. While microwaves are not appropriate for all cooking, using them can save time and money.
- Oven/Ranges, average life span: 13-15 years -- Gas burners use 55 percent of the energy produced compared to 65 percent for electric cooktops. Consider induction cooking, which uses 90 percent of all the energy that's produced. When choosing ovens, convection ovens can save up to 20 percent on energy use compared to non-convection models. Additionally, self-cleaning ovens tend to have more insulation, making them more efficient as well.
- Kitchen Cabinets, average life span: 50 years -- Energy-efficient cabinets? Yes, if you consider recycled or reclaimed wood when replacing your cabinets. Particleboard offers another economically and environmentally friendly alternative, though it can be less durable than solid wood products.
- Countertops, average life span: lifetime of home -- Counters come in all shapes and sizes, but recycled glass and concrete have a great modern look and give these old materials a second chapter. Many of these same products also work as tiles for your kitchen.
- Flooring, average life span: 10 years to lifetime -- Carpeting only lasts up to 10 years and linoleum up to 25 years, while wood floors last a lifetime. Consider using renewable flooring like cork or bamboo. These flooring options offer easy maintenance with a long-lasting natural look for your kitchen.
In the bathroom, you can make some energy and water efficient upgrades simply by swapping out a shower head. Here are some thoughts on greening up your bath:
- Water heater, average life span: 10-11 years -- Technically, this isn't normally part of a bathroom remodel. At least not unless you add a whirlpool tub. But heating water can account for around 15 percent of a home's energy bill, and much of your hot water is consumed in the bathroom. With an energy-efficient, tankless water heater, home owner can save $40-$100 a year.
- Showerhead, average life span: lifetime of home -- A high-efficiency showerhead can save $15 a year on your water bill.
- Toilet, average life span: lifetime of home -- Though a typical toilet lasts practically forever, one of today's high efficiency models can save more than $90 a year in water use.
- Ventilation Fans, average life span: 10 years -- You can cut your electric bill by switching to energy-efficient exhaust fans. An Energy-Star-rated model can save $120 over the product's life span.
- Bathroom Faucets, average life span: 20 years -- A high-efficiency water faucet may save you only about $3 a year. But that puts an additional $60 in your pocket over the product's life.