Most people don’t ask much of their toilets. If it serves its purpose quietly and efficiently, all’s well and good. But for the toilet shopper, things are not so simple. Eco-conscious water usage practices have led to a greater variety of water-efficient flushing systems. If you’re building a new home or redecorating your bathroom, there are practical factors like shape, size, and style to consider. So before you buy your next bathroom commode, let our primer guide you through the basics of design and performance.
Toilet Shopping Tips: Size, Shape & Style
When replacing an existing toilet, size should be among your foremost considerations, including the footprint and wallprint of the bowl and tank (a comparable footprint would save work on a tile floor, for example). If you don’t already know it, get the rough in measurement, i.e. the distance from the toilet’s bolt caps to the wall, not including the base boards (measure above them, if necessary). The contemporary standard is 12 inches, but it can vary in older homes from 10 to 14 inches.
Seat height may also be an important size consideration for you. Most toilet seats are 14 to 16 inches high, while ADA-compliant toilets are 16 1/2 to 19 inches in height. These taller models are sometimes marketed as comfort-height toilets, as they provide easier access for the elderly, taller people, and others.
An elongated bowl provides greater comfort and access, but will take up more space. A round bowl is usually preferred for small bathrooms.
The vast majority of toilets sold are two piece floor-mounted designs that are white in color. This will be your most affordable option. But if you’re looking for something a little more modern or technologically advanced, one-piece toilets are well worth a look.
The simplest advantage of a one piece is that it’s easier to clean, because there’s no tank gap where grime can accumulate. But it also offers a much more appealing profile for contemporary, design-conscious bathrooms. Water pressure and temperature control, washlet nozzles and dryers, heated seats, deodorizers, and antimicrobial agents are just some of the advanced features available in high-end, one-piece designs.
Another option if you prefer a more unobtrusive profile is a wall-mounted toilet with in-wall tank system, a European-style installation that looks great in modern bathrooms.
Flushing Out The Details of GPF
The federally mandated water usage standard for new toilets is 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf). This applies to all toilets manufactured and installed as of January 1994. The state of California has a stricter limit of 1.28 gpf. A high-efficiency toilet (HET) that meets the 1.28 gpf standard may also qualify for the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense® label, which is given to HETs that are certified via independent, third-party testing as having met the EPA’s standards for both water efficiency and solid waste performance.
If your current toilet predates the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which set the 1.6 gpf 1994 standard, installing a new one is both environmentally and economically smart. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, replacing an old toilet with a WaterSense-labeled model can reduce a family’s water costs by more than $110 a year or $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilet. Your local utility may also offer a rebate for switching to a WaterSense toilet. In other words, it’s an eco-conscious option that pays for itself.
Water Efficient, Water Proficient
A concern many people have about high-efficiency toilets is that they’ll have lower flushing power. This misconception has lingered since the early ‘90s, when the first generation of low-flow toilets did a generally poor job of moving solid waste. Today’s toilets, however, not only use less water, but they’ve also been designed to do more with less.
Dual flush toilets are a great example of water-efficient, waste-proficient design. These commodes normally feature a split, button-style flush mechanism atop the tank, giving users the option of a full or partial flush. The full flush typically uses 1.6 gpf, while the partial flush may use anywhere from .8 gpf to 1.1 gpf, depending on the brand and model.
Pressure-assisted toilets are another water-efficient option. Though most often found in commercial bathrooms, they’re appearing in more and more homes as the technology improves and more people discover their performance and efficiency benefits.
Most commodes rely on gravity to power their flushing action (such as siphon jet toilets, the most popular type of toilet in the U.S.). A pressure-assisted toilet, however, features a sealed tank within its tank, which holds both water and compressed air. This pressurized air is released when the toilet is flushed, increasing the water’s speed and power. This technology is more expensive and also makes for a noisier flush, but it virtually eliminates clogs and in some cases uses as little as 1 gpf.
Shopping Odds & Ends
Finally, though toilets may get all the attention, a urinal or bidet is worth considering if you’d like to enhance your home bathroom conveniences. Urinals would be particularly well suited to man cave bathrooms.