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The Benefits of Water Efficient Toilets

Has it been a while since you’ve shopped for a new toilet?

Let’s be honest, the purchasing process for new bathroom fixtures like sinks, bathtubs, and toilets isn’t something many people look forward to, even if they are undertaking a full bathroom remodeling project.

Other than making sure these hardworking plumbing components match one another, not much thought generally goes into their features and technology. However, when it comes to a new toilet there are a lot of options to consider, including the ability to save water (which ultimately saves you money, too).

Today’s post offers a closer look at why you should give high tech, water-saving toilets more than a passing glance. Whether you’re totally overhauling your bathroom or simply replacing an old, leaky commode, you’ll want to consider the possibilities to improve your bathroom with a new toilet that exceeds your expectations.

How does a water saving toilet work?

To meet EPA regulations that changed in the mid-1990s, toilet manufacturers had to quickly figure out how to use only 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush (gpf) instead of the roughly 3.5 gpf that had previously been standard. As a result, the first “low flow” toilets introduced to the market didn’t perform well, which didn’t do much to save water at all—multiple flushes were often needed to fully clear waste.

Much has changed since those days, however, and new high-efficiency and ultra-high efficiency toilets (UHETs) offer a powerful flush without wasting water. In fact, some of the newest UHET models use as little as 0.8 gallons, though 1.28 gpf is now common.

So, how do these toilets accomplish such excellent water savings? The answer is technology. While most toilets don’t incorporate onboard computers (though, don’t laugh…some do), advancements in things like bowl configuration and flushing mechanisms have made newer toilets less thirsty. Following is an overview of some of the prevalent “toilet tech” you’ll come across while shopping new commodes.

Gravity-Assist Toilets

Toilet designers have harnessed the powers of good old-fashioned gravity to deliver the standard 1.28 gpf performance that high-efficiency toilets (HET) must achieve to qualify for the EPA’s WaterSense label. These toilets work by moving water down into the bowl from the tank to easily move waste down the drain. Gravity-assist toilets are popular because they are inexpensive and easy for plumbers and handy homeowners to fix.

Dual-Flush Toilets

While technically also gravity-assist toilets, these models offer users a choice based on whether you need to flush solid or liquid waste. Configured as either a two-stage handle or two buttons that make it obvious which to push based on your particular needs, different amounts of water are released from the tank to flush different volumes of waste. For instance, a liquid waste “number 1” flush will only use about 0.8 to 1.1 gpf, while a “full-power” 2nd stage flush will use 1.28-1.6 gpf, depending on the toilet model’s efficiency rating. Dual-flush toilets do cost a bit more than their single flush counterparts, but the water savings potential is worth it for many households.

Pressure-Assisted Toilets

Want the satisfaction of an ultra-powerful flush? Pressure-assisted (P-A) toilets are the way to go. The technology involves a sealed inner tank within the main tank that compresses air to create pressure as it refills with water. When the handle is pressed for a flush, the pressurized air bursts out with the water and quickly escorts waste out of the bowl and down the pipes. One advantage of these toilets? No sweaty tank exterior in hot weather. The main drawbacks of these models are their higher initial cost and potential to be difficult to fix. The P-A toilet “power flush” is also somewhat noisy.

Vacuum-Assisted Toilets

These toilet models are close cousins to P-A toilets, but use a different mechanism to achieve a powerful flush. So-called V-A toilets have the same inner pressure tank as P-A toilets (so no condensation here either), but instead of pushing waste out of the bowl, they pull it out through depressurizing the trapway. They are quieter than pressure-assisted toilets, but may be harder to find because the technology is newer (and more expensive).

How Much Water Can You Really Save with a Low Flow Toilet?

Because toilets are the source of the most water usage in nearly all American homes—roughly 30%—installing efficient toilets can offer significant savings right from the get-go. Looking for that WaterSense label as you search for your new toilet will guide you to water savings of 20%-60% per year.

Two-stage toilets offer the most water savings when users make an effort to choose the right flush for each occasion. The EPA reports that these toilets typically save 10%-20% more water than single flush toilets of the same efficiency rating.

Shopping Considerations for Water Saving Toilets

As we already touched on, considering the different types of efficient toilets is the place to start your buying process. Think about how much water you want to save, and look for the EPA’s WaterSense label to achieve the best savings. Also, looking at independent testing agency (Consumer Reports, etc.) reviews on specific models will help you narrow your search. Or, consult a professional plumbing company like us here at Ressler & Mateer for honest, expert advice.

You’ll want to think about your preferences related to the following points:

Gallons per Flush

Notated as gpf, product information or specifications listings for new toilets will prominently list how many gallons of water they use each time you flush. As mentioned previously, no more than 1.6 gpf is required by the EPA today for all toilets. Toilets labeled as “high-efficiency” must use no more than 1.28 gpf.

Solid Waste Removal

Read reviews to discover how well different toilet models clear solid waste. Remember that dual-flush toilets have two separate settings for waste removal – one for liquid waste and one for solid waste.

Noise

Pressure-assist toilets have several benefits, including the fact that they don’t “sweat.” They tend to be noisy flushers, however. Think about your noise tolerance, and if a quiet flush is something you desire, shop other types, like common gravity-assist toilets.

Cost

New toilets come in a wide variety of price points, though a higher price tag doesn’t always equal better performance. If you’re looking for a computerized toilet with all the bells and whistles, you could potentially spend over $6,000. Many highly-capable gravity-assist toilets, however, cost under $250.

Remodeling Your Bathroom? Ressler & Mateer Can Help!

At Ressler & Mateer, we offer a full range of plumbing services to help you troubleshoot toilet issues and install new toilets that save you water and money. Did you know that we can handle bathroom remodeling projects throughout our service area in southcentral PA? To discuss your bathroom remodeling project with us, or to get more information, contact us now.

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