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Saving In The Shower

Your bathroom could be dripping with energy inefficiencies. But a few remodeling ideas could keep your energy dollars from going down the bathroom drain.

Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home. And an estimated three-quarters of all indoor water use is in the bathroom.

You can save energy by using less hot water in the bathroom and purchasing a more efficient water heater. Also, lower the thermostat on your water heater; a setting of 120 degrees provides comfortable hot water for most uses.

As you shop for a more efficient water heater, your local electric cooperative will be glad to help you select a model that fits your needs. Most new electric water heaters carry lifetime warranties and have features that make them much more efficient than older models.

The efficiency of water heaters is rated by their energy factor (EF). This is the percentage of energy that remains in the hot water you use compared to the energy that was used to heat that water. For example, the best new electric water heaters have an energy factor of 0.95. This means that 95 percent of the energy used to heat the water is still there when it enters your water lines, and that 5 percent escaped through the walls of the tank before you used the water.

If your existing electric water heater has an energy factor of 0.86 and the new one is 0.95, you’ll save more than 400 kilowatt-hours a year.

Installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators can save from 25-60 percent in water use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

For maximum water efficiency, select a showerhead with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm). There are two basic types of low-flow showerheads: aerating and laminar-flow. Aerating showerheads mix air with water, forming a misty spray. Laminar-flow showerheads form individual streams of water.

If you have shower fixtures that predate 1992, you might want to replace them if you’re unsure of their flow rates. Here’s a quick test to determine whether you should replace a showerhead:

1. Place a bucket—marked in gallon increments—under your showerhead.

2. Turn on the shower at the normal water pressure you use.

3. Time how many seconds it takes to fill the bucket to the one-gallon mark.

If it takes less than 20 seconds to reach the one-gallon mark, you could benefit from a low-flow showerhead.

Then look at your faucets. The aerator—the screw-on tip of the faucet—ultimately determines the maximum flow rate of a faucet. Typically, new bathroom faucet aerators have flow rates from 1.5 to 0.5 gpm.

Aerators are inexpensive to replace and can be one of the most cost-effective water conservation measures.

Saving energy starts with simple actions. When you replace standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), you will have a bright, warm light that uses at least two-thirds less energy than standard lighting, generates 70 percent less heat, and lasts up to 10 times longer.

Energy Star bathroom fans provide energy savings and are significantly quieter than standard models.

Earning the Energy Star means products meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

• Energy Star ventilation fans use 70 percent less energy on average than standard models.

• These fans are more than 50 percent quieter than standard models.

• They feature high-performance motors and improved blade design, providing better performance and longer life.

The walls behind tubs or showers are often poorly insulated and air-sealed. Opening these walls as part of the remodeling project provides an opportunity to ensure comfort by sealing air leaks with caulk or expanding foam and installing insulation. Also, seal around plumbing and electrical penetrations.

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