QUESTION: My wife and I are planning a remodel of our guest bathroom and want to install a water-saving toilet. We want to do our part to conserve water, but we were shocked when a neighbor told us about problems with these toilets. Can you give us some more information on problems with low-flush toilets?
ANSWER: Your neighbor may be suspicious of low-consumption toilets clogging your sewer or drain-field, but studies locally and in other cities concluded that clogging is not an issue. Like all products, some low-consumption toilets perform better than others. Check out the July, 1990, issue of Consumer Reports magazine for performance test results on a group of low-consumption toilets.
With toilets as the single largest water user in the home, this is a good place to start saving water.
A typical pre-1975 toilet uses between 5-7 gallons per flush (g.p.f.). New low-flush toilets use just 1.6 gallons. An average family of four can save about $100 a year in water and sewage charges, just by switching from a standard 5 g.p.f. toilet to a new 1.6 g.p.f. low-consumption toilet. Less water per flush also means less sewage to be treated.
Obviously this is a savings in the amount of water you use when you flush. Aside from running out and replacing all your toilets, another way to save water is to flush the toilet less often. Unnecessary flushing to dispose of items such as facial tissues, spiders, food waste or other items should be discontinued and those items disposed of in a more appropriate manner.
If you're not going to replace the other toilets in your house, there are some things you can do to reduce the amount of water these toilets use. Perhaps the easiest is to displace some of the water in the tank. This can be done using a plastic laundry or dish soap container, or any plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Fill the container with water or sand and carefully place it in the toilet tank. Be careful not to let the bottle interfere with the flush mechanism. Do not use a brick. Bricks may deteriorate over time and result in expensive plumbing problems down the road. You should also check with your local water utility . . . many have free water saving devises to retrofit into toilet.
Prepared by Bruce Carter of the Energy Extension Service, a division of the Washington State Energy Office.