Seven Considerations For Low-Flow Toilets

Jim Mallery

Are you flushing an old toilet, wasting water with your waste? Maybe it's time to pull the plug on the old geezer and install a low-flow toilet.

Toilet Matters

The water savings can be huge. A federal law that went into effect in 1994 limited new toilets to 1.6 gallons per flush. If your toilet dates to the 1980s, it probably uses 3.5 gallons, and if it goes back forty years, it could be using 5.5 gallons per flush. If you are truly archaic, like mid-century, you could be dumping seven gallons per flush.

Count your daily flushes and multiply it by the two, four or more gallons per flush that you will save with a low-flow toilet, then multiply by 365. That's a lot of water you are not paying for and that does not have to be treated.

Flush with Confidence

True, the early 1.6-gallon low-flow toilets did not always perform. They gave a dash of reality to the old adage, "Flush twice, it's a long ways to Washington, D.C." But manufacturers have improved their products with new designs and smoother passages so that the old plugging and partial-flush problems have all but disappeared.

Here are six tips if you are going to replace your toilet.

  1. Height. Low-flow toilets come in different heights; find one that fits best. Remember, aging knees don't take kindly to low toilets.
  2. Oval or round. Perhaps an oval toilet will stick out into the room too far. Otherwise, it's a matter of personal preference.
  3. Footprint. Will your floor show marks or damage from the old toilet or will the footprint of the new low-flow toilet cover them.
  4. Noise. Some toilets are hush-hush quiet, and some sound like they are sucking the city of New York down the drain. Your choice.
  5. Refill time. Not terribly important. You're putting only 1.6 gallons into the tank. On the other hand, occasionally prompt repeated, rapid flushings are required.
  6. HET. High-efficiency toilets, so called because they will flush with only 1.3 gallons, are eligible for rebates in several states and municipalities.
  7. Dual flush Low-flow. For more money, sometimes quite a lot more, you can buy a toilet with a dual flush system--a very low flow for liquid only, and the regular flush for solids.

So the bottom line is: don't let the water police catch you with your pants down, using an old water-guzzling toilet.



About the Author

Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing, and rebuilding homes.

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