Three green trends for 2012 home remodeling

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For some homeowners, remodeling projects are regular occurrences to keep their homes looking fresh. Sometimes, that means smaller changes like a new coat of paint or changing a light fixture. Other times, more substantial changes are needed. Determining those changes can be a challenge, but looking at the potential return on investment is a great way to prioritize.

Bathroom remodeling offers a 68.7 percent return on investment, according to a National Association of Realtors survey. One way to add value to a bathroom remodel is to pick bathroom fixtures that are more efficient than what you currently have installed. Americans are going green in many areas of life, whether with more energy-efficient light bulbs, hybrid cars or by recycling more regularly. Bathroom fixtures are no different.

Here are three reasons why you should consider going green with your bathroom modeling project:

* Products may be outdated. Toilets made before 1994 use anywhere from 3.5 gallons to 8 gallons per flush (gpf), while new EPA WaterSense labeled high-efficiency toilets can work beautifully on a modest 1.28 gpf. Not sure of your toilet’s vintage? Look at the underside of the tank lid – the date of manufacture is often stamped into the porcelain. In the shower, the typical showerhead installed in California homes built after 1994 uses as much as 2.5 gallons per minute. At that rate, your eight-minute shower consumes a whopping 20 gallons of water.

* Savings to be had. Compared to 3.5 gpf toilets, TOTO’s Aquia One-Piece Dual Flush High-Efficiency Toilet has a flushing system that enables homeowners to select the level of water used each time the toilet is flushed – 1.6 gallons for bulk waste or .9 for liquid. The approach provides exceptional water savings paired with outstanding performance. A family of four can save more than $90 annually on their water bill, and $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet.

If you replace a typical 2.5 gpm showerhead with a TOTO high-efficiency Trilogy Showerhead, you will experience the same luxurious shower, yet consume a responsible 14 gallons, saving 20 percent of the water used by older models.

Even something like a faucet can contribute to water savings. TOTO’s Silas Widespread Lavatory Faucet is a WaterSense labeled lavatory faucet that consumes a responsible 1.5 gallons per minute without sacrificing an ounce of performance. Its design has a classic contemporary elegance with a graceful, curved spout.

* Be a trendy homeowner. A whopping 68 percent of builders surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders say that energy-saving technologies and features including low-E windows, energy-efficient appliances, and LED lighting will be common along with other green features like engineered wood products, and water-saving plumbing fixtures such as dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets by 2015. Start now and you’ll be ahead of the curve.

Lumens, CFLs and LEDs: A light bulb guide for new regulations

Home Inspector ChicagoYou’ve probably been hearing the talk of federal light bulb regulations for years, but in January 2012, the talk will become reality, and these regulations will begin to take effect. While California residents began the transition in January 2011, the federally mandated phase-out of less efficient incandescent light bulbs begins with the 100-watt light bulb on Jan. 1, 2012, so now is the time for the rest of the country to make the switch to more efficient bulbs.



Before you begin considering your options, here’s a quick review of how the new regulations will work:

* Incandescent, or traditional, 100-watt light bulbs forĀ  general purpose, household shape lamps will no longer be available in stores beginning January 2012. Retailers will be able to sell-through any existing inventory, but the traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs will not be replaced on the shelf.

* Incandescent 75-watt light bulbs will be unavailable in 2013.

* Incandescent 40-watt and 60-watt light bulbs will be phased out in 2014.

As these rules phase in gradually, it’s a great time to educate yourself on the different types of energy-efficient light bulbs available. Lowe’s is joining the effort to advise consumers on the types of options available. In addition to offering a comprehensive light bulb buying guide on its website, Lowe’s offers the following tips as you bring your lighting into the future.

Learning about lumen’s

As we transition away from incandescent bulbs, the lingo used to describe the brightness of the light bulbs is changing. We’ve become accustomed to identifying the brightness of a light bulb by the amount of power – watts – that it uses. However, more efficient light bulbs emit the same amount of light – measured in lumens – while using less electricity.

For example, the following light bulbs all produce roughly the same amount of light (450 lumens): 40-watt incandescent, 29-watt halogen, 11-watt compact fluorescent (CFL) and 9-watt LED. It’s still important to pay attention to wattage to make sure you don’t exceed the recommended level for your lamp, but it’s increasingly unlikely that you’ll exceed that level as you purchase more efficient bulbs.

Types of bulbs available

As you move on from incandescent bulbs, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the different types of more energy-efficient bulbs available. These bulbs will consume less energy and last longer, saving you money on monthly utility bills.

Compact fluorescent: CFL bulbs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but use up to 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times as long, making it easy for you to quickly recoup the money you spend on them. You can save up to $70 per year by placing CFLs in your five most commonly used lamps, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. You’ve likely seen them in spiral or tube-like shapes, but CFLs also come in the A-line form common in most incandescent bulbs.

Halogen: These bulbs use the same technology as incandescent bulbs but last up to three times longer and are about 50 percent more efficient. Halogens are known for producing the highest quality light but aren’t as efficient as CFLs. When changing halogens, you’ll want to make sure you use a rag because oil from your skin can reduce the bulb’s longevity.

LED: Lowe’s began offering the industry’s first Energy Star-qualified LED bulb this year – the GE Energy Smart 9-watt LED light bulb. LED bulbs take the efficiency and durability of CFLs even further, as this bulb is rated to last more than 22 years and uses slightly less energy than a CFL bulb that also produces 450 lumens.

For more information on what the light bulb legislation means for you, visit the Lowe’s YouTube channel for a light bulb tutorial.