Utility Room Eco-Tips
Select the icons to get remodeling tips for each area of the room.
Is your mechanical closet inside or outside the heated space of your house? Many mechanical rooms are half-in, half-out and present a major source of heat loss. There should be a continuous, insulated and airtight barrier between all heated and unheated spaces.
Check the walls of the closet for insulation. Look for fresh air grills that may be connected to the crawl space or attic.
If the closet is outside the heated space, ensure the water pipe, water tank and ductwork are insulated.
- Green Home Remodel Guide for Bath and Laundry Rooms – from the King County Solid Waste Division Download PDF 620 K
Provides in-depth eco-friendly tips for your laundry room/mechanical closet remodeling project – on everything from water heaters, to efficient laundry machines, to electrical system efficiency improvements.
- Snohomish County’s EnergySmart loan program offers below market interest rates for homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements to their home or add renewables
Heating and electrical systems
- Puget Sound Energy's Renewable Energy Advantage Program (REAP) external link
A voluntary, financial incentive program that benefits customers who generate their own renewable power and connect to their electricity grid
- Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct program provides customers the opportunity to purchase 100% of their energy from a dedicated, local , renewable energy resource.
- Northwest Mechanical Incorporated external link
A local contractor specializing in the design, installation, service, and repair of both radiant flooring and several solar-powered home systems
- Snohomish Public Utility District for electric heated homes and/or electric based incentives
- Puget Sound Energy for gas heated homes and/or gas based incentives
- If in Snohomish County, be sure to visit Public Utility District’s (PUD) and Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) website and use a registered trade ally in order to be eligible for incentives, rebates, and the EnergySmart loan program.
- Do-it-Yourself Home Energy Audit GuideDownload PDF 3.6 MB – from the King County Solid Waste Division
Offers tips on home energy efficiency improvements that can be made without hiring a professional
- Insulation and Air Sealing from the U.S. Department of Energy external link
Provides information on energy–efficient insulation, and how to fix air leakages in your home
- U.S. Department of Energy Home Energy Audits external link
Offers both professional and do-it-yourself tips for conducting home energy audits
- Washington State University Energy Program external link
Provides information on the most cutting-edge research on energy
Washing machines and dryers
- Puget Sound Energy, State and Federal Energy Efficiency Incentives: Residential Construction – appliance rebates and tax credits for homeowners
- CEE Tier II and Tier III Washers external link CEE has developed a set of specifications and a qualifying products list to define energy efficiency and works with initiative participants (utilities and energy organizations) to promote qualifying washers through incentive, educational, and promotional programs. The CEE high efficiency clothes washer specifications have two parts: energy consumption (Modified Energy Factor) and water usage (Water Factor).
- Ehow Tips for Replacing Washing Machine Spinners external link
Offers step-by-step instructions on how to remove and replace your current laundry machine spinner (agitator) — if upgrading to a more water efficient model
- ENERGY STAR-Qualified Clothes Washers external link
Helps you find washers and dryers that qualify under ENERGY STAR’s new criteria. It also provides “water factors” information for water efficiency comparison between brands
- ENERGY STAR Store Locator external link
Helps you find which stores carry energy and water-efficient washers and dryers
- Saving Water Partnership– for Laundry Rooms external link
Provides several strategies for saving water inside your laundry room
- EcoBusiness Environmental Directory external link
Provides an extensive list of links to companies that specialize in eco-friendly products for any home remodeling project
- Household Hazardous Waste Collection Options – from the King County Solid Waste Division
Provides information on how to best dispose of household hazardous waste
- Textile Recycling – from the King County Solid Waste Division
Shows several ways that people can recycle or donate unwanted clothing
Utility Room Flooring
- Use hard surface flooring in laundry rooms and mechanical rooms.
- Choose flooring products that can easily be maintained.
- Choose flooring options that allow for partial replacement instead of whole-room replacement.
- Consider healthier alternatives to vinyl flooring products such as Marmoleum.
- Always use hard surface, water-resistant flooring such as protected wood, tile, or natural linoleum in areas prone to wetness such as laundry rooms and mechanical rooms.
- View more Eco-Cool Remodel flooring resources
- Green Product Buying GuideDownload PDF 500 K
- For well-sealed, well-insulated homes, install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to recover between 50-80 percent of heat exiting your home.
- For homes built before 1991, upgrade to a whole house ventilation system as prescribed in the Washington State Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality Code.
- Change your furnace air filter once a month during the heating season.
- Choose MERV-8 filters, preferably approved by the American Lung Association.
- Consider MERV 10 or MERV 13 filters for enhanced filtration, provided the furnace or other ventilation system can accommodate them.
- View more Eco-Cool Remodel energy resources
Washer & Dryer
- Check with your utility for rebates on efficient washing machines. Clothes washers are one of the largest indoor users of water in homes.
- Wash with cold water – for items other than towels and sheets (these items require warmer water to kill properly remove allergens) conventional detergents perform well in any temperature water.
- When replacing, pick an ENERGY STAR rated washer, or, for increased performance, a CEE Tier 2 or Tier 3 washer.
- Position washer on lowest floor near the floor drain. If there is no fllor drain, place a catch basin under the washer or install a moisture sensor water shut off valve.
- Keep washer door open when not in use to mitigate potential mold growth.
- Ensure your dryer is vented directly to the outside of your house.
- When buying a new dryer, look for a moisture sensor with automatic shutoff, rather than just a timer.
- Clean lint filter at each use for efficient dryer operation.
- Switch to an energy-efficient clothes washer, many of which are front-loading. Front-loading machines save water and energy, are easier on your clothes, use less detergent, and allow your clothes to dry faster. Look for the ENERGY STAR label. New ENERGY STAR dryers spin clothes instead of relying on the dryer to heat the water out. CEE Tier 2 and Tier 3 provide additional performance advantages.
- After each use, clean dryer lint filter and keep washer door open to mitigate potential mold growth.
- Vent dryers to the outside. Choose a metal duct, preferably with a smooth interior, and use the shortest, most direct route possible to vent it to the outdoors. Secure the vent with metal tape only and/or mastic only; screws will snag lint and accelerate build up. For the same reason, remove any metal screen at the vent termination. Check to see there is a damper that closes to prevent cold air infiltration and insect entry when the dryer is not in use.
- Check the inside of the duct twice a year (or as needed) for accumulated lint and to ensure that it has not come loose in the wall cavity, attic or crawl space. Lint build-up presents a fire hazard and could result in overheating and a shortened lifespan of the dryer. Failed vents also add moisture indoors or in crawl spaces and could foster mold growth. Gas heated dryers would also add carbon monoxide and other dangerous combustion gases into the home.
- Use hot or warm water only for greasy clothes, diapers, and to sanitize linens well particularly if someone in the household is sick and potentially contagious. Detergents now work effectively with cold water for both wash and rinse cycles. Stick with liquid—instead of powder—detergents, which may cake up in colder water.
- Seek alternatives to having a dryer vent with an indoor bypass, allowing dryer air into the house to capture the dryer heat. Such a system is dangerous because it adds moisture, fabric softener, and (in the case of gas dryers) combustion products to indoor air.
- Locate washer on lowest floor near the floor drain. If there is no floor drain, place a catch basin under the washer or install a moisture sensored water-shut off valve. Another option for additional moisture control, is to ensure the water shut-off (1/4” turn throw valves are accessible). If water-shut off valves are not accessible, install steel-braided hoses for water supply and discharge.
Heating & Cooling
- Install quality air filters and change regularly.
- Service furnaces every one to two years.
- Locate your heating and cooling system inside conditioned space.
- If your furnace is more than 15 years old, consider a new ENERGY STAR high efficiency model.
- Consider hiring a technician to check gas pipes for leaks, ductwork for asbestos, and evaluate changing heating fuel types.
- Install the furnace or boiler in a central, well-insulated mechanical closet to save energy by reducing delivery distance and heat loss.
- Locate your heating and cooling system inside conditioned space to take advantage of indoor temperatures; however if the furnace burns oil, gas or propane, it may be prudent to keep the heating system outside the conditioned space. This will further prevent spillage of exhaust gases into indoor air.
- View more Eco-Cool Remodel energy resources
- Keep your water heater set to 125-130 degrees Fahrenheit to mitigate the risk of scalding.
- Insulate the water heater and pipes – especially the first five feet from the appliance.
- Saving energy on water heating is strongly related to the flow rate of fixtures.
- Consider an ENERGY STAR rated water heater; whether tank or tankless.
- Have maintenance done on your water heater, per the manufacturer's recommendations.
- If your hot water is not insulated, insulate it for more efficient performance.
- ****Consider alternative methods of hot water heating such as a:
- Solar thermal system - roof mounted tubes circulating water, for space heating or hot water needs.
- Sewer thermal system - harnesses the heat from waste water to offset boiler heating energy.
- Install heat traps on cold inlet pipes at hot water storage tank.
- View more Eco-Cool Remodel plumbing resources
- If you find white, fabric-like insulation on your pipes it may contain asbestos, which presents a serious health hazard. Contact a professional for recommendations on how to abate the threat.
- Use polyethylene (PE or PEX) piping for plumbing rather than polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
- Insulate all water pipes whether they are in heated or unheated spaces with at least one inch (R4) of insulation.
- Inspect exposed pipes in your home regularly for signs of deterioration, such as wall stains, drips, and corrosion.
- Seal around edges of plumbing and electrical penetrations with non toxic/ low-VOC sealants
- ****Consider installing a greywater system which captures and filters waste water from sinks, clothes washers for reuse in toilet flusing.
- View more Eco-Cool Remodel plumbing resources
Regular Maintenance Documents
- Keep equipment user manuals
- Keep a list of local service providers that offer regularly scheduled service and maintenance contracts to assure proper performance of equipment and the structure (e.g., HVAC, water heating equipment, sealants, caulks, gutter and downspout system, shower/tub surrounds, irrigation system, roof, plumbing)
- Maintenance checklists, including instructions for:
- maintaining gutters, downspouts, rain gardens and other infiltration devices and importance of diverting water at least five feet away from foundation
- inspecting the building for termite infestation or other pests
- practices to conserve water and energy