Low-flow toilets aren’t like they were a decade ago — they’re no longer headaches. And that’s important because the EPA notes that flushing alone is responsible for almost 1/3 of all water use in the typical home. So newer toilet technologies can go a long way reducing the total volume of water used during normal years and are absolutely critical during times of drought.
Many decades ago the battle cry for water conservation was “Stop the 5-Gallon Flush.” Using 4 to 7 gallons of water to flush a pint or less or urine was really wasteful. Standards now require reducing that to at most 1.6 gallons per flush for any new or replacement installation. A few gallons difference may not seem like much, but it saves millions of gallons per year in a single large city.
Low-Flow Toilets Benefits
- Save water, save money. Updating toilet fixtures can cut their water use in half. For a typical household that can mean over 20,000 gallons saved per year for a roughly $100 annual savings in water bills.
- You might also be able to save some money through utility rebates.
- It will be easier to meet requirements to cut back on usage during droughts.
- Besides helping the environment directly, reducing water consumption reduces the amount of sewage to be processed. That may allow more thorough processing or avoid construction of a new expensive treatment plant.
- A smaller tank size means a bit more space, and a bit more flexibility in your bathroom decor.
Even with reduced water usage regulations you still have choices even in the basic type of low-flow toilets, plus the many designs, colors, and styles now available.
- “Gravity” designs work essentially the same way as designs from a century ago, just better. Water from the storage tank flows by gravity into the bowl when a large flapper valve is opened.
- Pressure designs use pressurized water for more efficient flushing. But that doesn’t mean any sort of compressor or complicated machinery. A simple “balloon” fills from the pressure in the supply main, then forces water out of the tank. Some models can be a little noisy though.
- Dual flush models give you the option of a regular 1.6 gallon flush when you need it or 0.8 gallons when you don’t, for even more conservation.
Today’s options include many material and design innovations to make them work better, resolving past issues and operating more reliably. They are also more durable, and can last up to 30 years.
But there can be problems retrofitting older homes that have smaller diameter sewer lines or lines with lower slopes. Homes less than 20 years old should be OK, but it’s always a good to have a plumber check out the system before making any major upgrades.
Tip #1: Needing a second or third flush? Check that your water pressure is high enough.
Tip #2: Toilet clogging more easily? That can happen with some models. Try avoiding extra-fluffy ultra-style toilet paper.