For a growing number of people, tiny houses and other types of small living spaces are becoming an attractive option. Many middle-aged adults want to create affordable, independent homes for their aging parents. Young adults site both economic and environmental concerns when choosing a tiny house. Ever responsive to market needs, the home goods industry has begun to manufacture scaled-down appliances and fixtures that are both energy and water efficient.
This nifty space-saving concept originated in Japan in the 1950s but is just beginning to make a splash on this side of the Pacific. Imagine a toilet with a sink on top of the tank. Complete models are available but many companies offer an after-market add-on sink that replaces your standard toilet tank cover. Although these sink toilet combos operate in slightly different ways, the basic concept in all of them is the same. Instead of going down the drain, the water you use to wash your hands is reused to flush the toilet.
Smeg Sink/Washing Machine
Italian domestic appliance maker Smeg introduced the LBL14 washing machine/sink combination to great praise. Don’t let the 1950s-retro style fool you, this little combo is energy and water efficient. It is rated class A+ by European Union energy efficiency standards. The LBL14 can also hold 15 pounds of laundry, this is on par with most front loading washing machines. Generally installed in the bathroom, the LBL14 allows even small apartment dwellers to live the impossible dream of an in-home washing machine.
Drawer dishwashers use less energy and less water and take up less space, a win, win, win situation. Smaller models may only accommodate a few place settings but this is not a huge drawback in a space designed for a couple or a small family at most. Water consumption can be as low as 1.8 gallons per cycle, this is barely more than one toilet flush! And, despite what your grandma says, machine washing your dishes is almost always more energy and water efficient than hand washing them.
Shower of the Future
Inspired by the water systems on space stations, Mehrdad Mahdjoubi of Orbital Systems designed the Shower of the Future for terrestrial bathrooms. This amazingly innovative shower saves 80% of the energy and 90% of the water of a conventional shower. The compact 90 cm x 90 cm (approximately 3’x3’) shower tray houses two filters that recycle the shower water to drinking water purity almost instantaneously. An eight-minute shower, for example, uses only 1.3 gallons of water!
These few innovations are likely the front runners in the move toward home-improvement products that maximize space, energy efficiency, and water efficiency. Sometimes thinking small can save you big money and reduce your environmental impact as well.