Low-Flush Toilets - A Royal Flush

With the price of a barrel of oil topping $100 the home renovation industry is steering hard toward energy conservation, solar power and many other ways of minimizing energy use to decrease the strain on the household budget. However, while this surge toward efficiency in the home steps into high gear one of the most cherished commodities in the country is not getting the attention it deserves.

Water is not only becoming an expensive item it is also losing its status as a renewable resource. During the last century urban growth, with its dependency on water for everyday uses such as household and personal cleaning as well as lawn and garden care, has led to the redistribution of natural waterways and the lowering of rivers and streams all over the country. Even out in rural areas the water table, or aquifer, has been steadily decreasing. In some areas the water level is so low that natural salts are at very highly concentrated levels and simple water conditioning cannot make it potable.

Flushing Away the Problem

Back in the early 1990's the U.S. government began studies on household water use and came up with some interesting and somewhat shocking statistics. The average toilet used 3.5 gallons per flush (GPF) so one person could use as much as 19.5 gallons of water per day including showers. That's over 7,000 gallons per year and as much as 28,000 gallons for a household - not including watering the lawn.

To counter the wastage of water the government came out with the Energy Policy Act (EPACT) in 1994. This set guidelines and national standards for toilets, showers, and even faucets. And to kick off this program of water-saving policies many cities and towns in California, Florida and New York state set began initiatives to encourage homeowners to replace the old heavy-flush toilets with low-flow toilets that consume only 1.6 GPF

For over a decade bathroom remodeling contractors and homeowners have now been making the required changes. However, the complaint with the first generation of this new toilets -which required only 1.6 GPF - was that emptying the waste and toilet paper sometimes took two flushes which brought the water consumption back up to the old standard. This problem had to do with both design and finish. For example, most traditional toilets are made in Mexico and China and, although they look great, the uniform porcelain finish sometimes stops in the siphon and drain area. The next time you are in the bathroom area of a hardware store reach down into the siphon and feel the difference between the bowl finish and the roughness of the siphon. Toilet paper, especially the puffy, expensive kind, can get hung up on the course finish requiring move water pressure to move it down.

Toilets: The Next Generation

To help homeowners and bathroom renovators with choosing toilets the Environmental Protection Agency has initiated a partnership-program called WaterSense that not only includes toilets but other water dispensing areas like showerheads and faucets. WaterSense is similar to ENERGY STAR, the energy-saving program that labels household products such as dishwashers and refrigerators to inform consumers which ones are the best choice to cut down on energy consumption. For toilets, WaterSense will label a high-efficiency toilet with the HET designation.

Types of New Toilets

1. Gravity Assist

The old 5 GPM toilets and the 1.6-GPM gravity-toilets are similar in their operation. Pulling down the lever opens the flush valve and lets water flow from the tank into the bowl through holes in the rim or the siphon hole. The water pressure creates a vacuum in the drain pipe, much like a siphon action, making the waste go down the pipe. An automatic valve slaps down to let water refill the tank and, when it reaches a certain level, this flow is shut off by a float-activated switch. The problem with the old 1.6 GPM toilets is that sometimes it took two flushes to work - negating the water saving. However, the new models are up to the task

2. Flush-Assisted Toilets

Compressed Air: These are the technological wonders of the bathroom and are powered by forced air. This model one uses a pressure tank where air is compressed by the household water line of around 60 pounds-per-square- inch (psi). When the lever is activated the gravity-fed water is given an extra shot by the air. This is the most popular model as it takes the pressure off the house line and uses it rather than a pump or relying on just gravity.

Vacuum-Assist: Unlike the pressure and gravity toilets there is no siphon-jet. Inside the tank is a vacuum tank that siphons air in the drainpipe below the bowl creating a vacuum so that the waste is siphoned and the incoming water is blasted in for cleaning.

Power-Assist: Like the name implies these require power for the pump and the AC cord is plugged into a standard GFCI outlet. They are expensive ($500-$900) but the quietest and perform very well.

Europeans lead the way

Even though North America is coming on-stream in design with one-piece toilets the Europeans - as in their cars - will always find a new slant: contemporary shapes, no bulky water closets or tanks, wall-mounting, skinny water tanks. Whatever your taste or design strategy leave to guys across the water to invent new ways to move water.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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