Potty Talk: Shopping for Toilets
Since toilet shopping can be a daunting task, we are hopeful that the following information will make the job less challenging.
It has been referred to as the john, the throne, the lieu, the water closet and occasionally in less flattering terms. Still to most Americans, it is known simply as the toilet. However you may refer to it at your home, it has (as have most household fixtures) evolved since it was first invented by Thomas Crapper in 1861. Beyond its place as an integral part of household sanitation and thanks to the efforts of manufacturers, the toilet is becoming increasingly more efficient, style sensitive with a bent toward comfort, convenience and improved personal hygiene.
A toilet is one of the biggest water guzzlers in the American home. If you are like most people, toilet use in your house accounts for about 30 percent of your water use. Consequently, toilet manufacturers have spent the last couple of decades developing increasingly water-efficient models that combine form with function. The former being increasingly important as bathrooms have become finish-rich retreats that stimulate the senses and the bang for one’s remodeling buck!
In an effort to reduce water consumption, in the early 80’s, the U.S. Government required all toilets manufactured to utilize a maximum of 3.5 gallons per flush. Prior to that time, a single flush used seven to ten gallons. Although the new ‘water-saver’ toilets utilized about half of the water per flush, poor engineering and the relationship between the new toilet and existing drain, waste and vent systems often required the toilet to be flushed a second or sometimes even a third time to fully clear the bowl. What seemed like a good idea had in many ways backfired. The significant savings in water was not realized and many consumers were outraged at the need to flush more than once.
In an effort to save still more water and to reverse the multi-flush syndrome, the government again stepped in with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1992 that required toilets must not exceed 1.6 gallons per flush. Ironically, these newly engineered ‘ultra low flow’ toilets utilize less than half of the water of their previous ‘water-saving’ counterparts and, on the whole, produce a more efficient flush. You see, it isn’t just the volume of water that causes the toilet flush, it’s the velocity of the water that creates a siphon action that draws the water from the bowl into the waste line and out to the municipal sewer or septic system.
Since the toilet works in harmony with the vent and waste system; even the slightest abnormality can prevent the toilet from flushing properly. The root to some of the more common toilet flush problems can be linked to one or more of the following: a clogged waste line; a clogged vent line; a faulty flush assembly or clogged siphon jets – the holes beneath the toilet rim. So, it’s worth noting that the notion that a new toilet will solve your flush problems may leave you quite disappointed. That being said, all else being equal, a new toilet can save lots of water, conserve this natural resource and improve the comfort and appearance of your bathroom.
Toilets are available in a wide array of brands, shapes, styles, colors, means of operation and, of course, price. Toilets range in price from about $50 to over $5000. You read it right — $5,000! Most ‘basic’ good-quality toilets range between $250 and $500 – depending on choices stated earlier.
There are three basic types of toilet flush operation: gravity, pressure assist and vacuum assist. As the name implies, gravity flush utilizes nothing more than gravity to transfer the water from the tank into the bowl to create the siphon action. In general, a gravity toilet is the least complex, the easiest to repair and the most reasonably priced.
A pressure assist toilet contains a pressurized tank that captures air as the tank fills with water. Although the early models of this style of toilet were compared to toilets found in airplane lavatories due to the ‘whishing’ sound they made when flushed, they have become increasingly less obnoxious.
The vacuum assist toilet is the newest toilet flush technology. The system allows the toilet to give a complete, clean flush using only the rim holes inside the upper toilet bowl. When a vacuum assisted toilet is flushed, a vacuum is created which draws the water with more force into the bowl. There is no siphon-jet hole in this toilet. With all the water that is coming out of the rim holes, the bowl stays cleaner.
When it comes to style, there are two basic configurations – one and two piece. Two piece (close coupled) toilets are the most common and, in general, less costly than their one piece counterparts. Other than aesthetics and price, there is little difference in the two. Many designers and consumers like the look of a one piece toilet. Conversely, elderly people tend not like them because they are too low to the ground. Once you’ve decided on the configuration, you’ll need to choose the shape – round or elongated – and the pedestal style, and the color. While white is still the leading color, you can purchase a toilet in virtually any color. Some manufacturers coordinate colors with other fixtures (lavatories, tubs, shower receptors, tile and other finishes). The choices are virtually infinite!
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