Green Homes
Building for the future, today – combining the best of historical wisdom and modern technology.

How to Stop Your Bathroom from Wasting Energy

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The bathroom is typically the smallest room in the house, making it easy to overlook when seeking out energy savings. But it’s also the room where lights are often left on and the fan can be left to blare away unnecessarily.

Think twice before deciding never to run your bathroom fan again, though. Proper ventilation in a bathroom is important for not only keeping the room fresh but also preventing the growth of mold and helping maintain a healthy home environment. Without a bathroom fan, you’ll need to open a window to ventilate the room, which is not efficient — especially on hot and humid (or chilly) days.

Here are two simple ways to cut down on energy waste in the bathroom.

Install a Motion-Sensing Fan

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If you don’t want to mess with wiring, or you’re in the market for a new bathroom fan, a motion-sensing fan is your best option. These fans are rated highly by Energy Star for their cost-efficiency. They come with or without an LED light, and you can adjust the timer depending on how long you want the fan to run after the room is empty.

You can also have the fan run continuously at a low speed. This may seem counterintuitive to energy savings, but according to Green Building Advisor, “When operated for 24 hours per day or when controlled by a timer, [a bathroom fan] can act (in some cases) as the most important component of a whole-house ventilation system.”

Some bathroom fans have features that add convenience and a “wow” factor to your bathroom. There are fans equipped with Bluetooth-connected speakers that allow you to play music wirelessly from your smart device, models disguised as light fixtures that won’t detract from your decor, and ultra-quiet fans that whisk away humidity without a sound. 

Retrofit Occupancy Sensors and Timers

In my half bath, the problem of lights being left on and the fan running for hours was becoming a major family issue. I was concerned about the wasted energy; other family members didn’t like the fan’s annoying noise when they were watching a movie in the adjoining family room.

I decided to replace our existing switches with an occupancy-sensing switch and a timer. The occupancy-sensing switch turns on when you walk in and turns off after five minutes of no activity. (The switch can also be manually overridden for people who remember to turn the lights off when they leave the room.) The timer switch lets the user select how long to leave the bathroom fan on, ranging from minutes to hours. It also has regular on/off button. These two switches cost about $50 total.

WARNING: Installing these switches requires some electrical knowledge. If you are not comfortable dealing with wiring, call a licensed electrician. If you have some technical know-how, however, it’s a relatively simple project — it took me about an hour in total. If at any point you are unsure of what to do next, call a licensed electrician.

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Things You’ll Need

Phillips-head screwdriver
Voltage tester
Occupancy sensor
In-wall countdown timer
Wall plate

Step 1

Turn off the power to the switch at the breaker. This crucial step prevents injury. Test that the power is off by flicking the lights to see whether they turn on. Once you’re sure the power is off, unpack all the equipment and carefully read through the directions for each switch.

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Step 2

Remove the existing wall plate. (You may need a flat-head screwdriver.)

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Step 3

Examine the wiring you have and make sure you have the correct wires according to the directions that come with your switches.

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Step 4

Remove the old switches by unhooking the wiring, noting where each wire goes in case you need to rewire the same switches at some point.

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Step 5

Wire in your new switches, following the directions and using the included wire caps. Tug on each wire cap to make sure the wires are in securely.

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Step 6

For the in-wall timer, be sure to hook up the “hot” wire (the wire coming from the circuit breaker) and the “load” wire (the wire carrying electricity to the fan or light) in their correct place, as instructed on the timer’s packaging. If you’re not sure which wire is which, a voltage tester can identify (with the power on) which wire is receiving power (the “hot” wire).

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Step 7

Once all wires are connected, turn the power back on and make sure the switches are working correctly. Next, turn the power back off and tuck the wires in.

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Step 8

If everything is working correctly, screw in the switches and attach your wall plate. Turn the power back on, and you’re done. If you need a more detailed walk through of the process, check out this DIY video on installing an occupancy sensor.

Invest some time into making your bathroom as energy efficient as possible. It will pay off in the long run and make for a happier, healthier home.

An award-winning freelance journalist, Jennifer Tuohy has been writing for newspapers and magazines, as well as marketing and online content, for more than 15 years. Her passions lie in technology, sustainability, and the intersection of the two. To see a selection of bath fans like those described by Jennifer, please visit The Home Depot’s website.

This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How Sharing Spaces Positively Impacts the Planet


The American dream has changed over the last couple decades — the goal used to be to buy a home and start a family, but with the constantly growing population, it doesn't make as much sense with the current economic state of the country. In addition to helping you save money, sharing space can be better for the planet. How can getting a roommate or sharing your space positively impact the earth?

Reduced Electricity Costs

Having roommates can reduce the amount you pay for utilities that you all use and other shared expenses. Paying half of a utility bill, after all, is always better than having to pay the whole thing.

While you might use slightly more water when you have roommates, you all use the same heating, cooling and lighting, so those bills should be lower. You can also split the cost of maintenance and other expenses with those you share your space with. To avoid disputes, make your expectations clear and set up a system in advance for who pays what. For example, agree on a temperature for the thermostat and make it known, before you get the bill in the mail, that you'll split it evenly.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Sharing spaces doesn't necessarily just mean sharing your home — the sharing economy encompasses cars as well, with apps like Uber and Lyft. While there haven't been a lot of studies looking into the environmental impact of the ride-sharing apps, studies of carpooling have shown that sharing your car with others during your commute reduces the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.

Again, this doesn't just reduce your carbon footprint — it can help save you money too. If you're carpooling during the week, you don't have to fill up your own car as often which saves you money at the pump.

Reduced Waste

According to the EPA, the average person generates around 4.4 pounds of garbage every single day — in 2013, the entire country generated a whopping 245 million tons of trash. Of that, only about 87 million tons was recyclable or compostable material.

Adding a roommate to the equation might seem counterintuitive but combining groceries and utilities will not only save you money but also help to reduce your impact on the planet. Instead of buying a bunch of different packages that will rot in the landfill, you can consolidate your grocery shopping to reduce your overall waste. If you want to take that a step further, look for a no-waste grocery store that does away with packaging altogether — you bring your own reusable containers to purchase your groceries.

Reduce Clutter and Hoarding Behavior

When you're sharing your space, it's harder to cling to all of your clutter — depending on the size of your home, you may not even have enough space for it. You will need to reduce or better organize your belongings to make room for the belongings of another person. There's no better time to declutter!

Once the home is free of clutter, don't let anyone else makes it back into a mess. Set some ground rules about belongings in common areas and try to keep your own personal items in your room or other private space. Take things that you don't want or no longer need and donate them to local thrift stores.

Be Stingy With the Thermostat

Heating and cooling are some of the biggest energy wasters. Talk to your new roommate about what temperatures they are comfortable with — and set your thermostat accordingly. If you live in an area that allows it (and where it is safe) open your windows during temperate weather and enjoy the breeze. During cooler months, set your thermostat low — 68 is generally the recommend setting — and bundle up. This helps to reduce your utility bills while still keeping your home relatively comfortable.

Investing in fans can help reduce your heating and cooling bills as well — even a warm apartment can be comfortable if the air is still flowing. Ceiling fans are ideal, but if your home doesn't have them and you're renting or can't install them for other reasons, floor and desk fans are a good alternative.

Sharing your space doesn’t just help you save money on utility bills — it can also help reduce your impact on the planet. With a growing population and climate change breathing down our collective necks, every little bit helps.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.