Q: What are some toilet options that save water, but that still flush well?
A: There are several inexpensive do-it-yourself options you can try first to improve your existing toilet, but it’s probably best to just install a new water-saving model. Toilet-flushing typically accounts for 30% of a household’s water use.
If you want to try to improve your existing toilet first, install an inexpensive water dam kit. Flexible panels made of plastic or thin sheet metal fit across the bottom of the toilet tank. These reduce the water volume in the tank, so less water is used each flush. By moving the kit to different positions in the tank, you can adjust the water use to get an effective flush.
Most hardware and home center stores sell replacement water-saving flapper valves for the tank. They are designed to close before the tank totally empties to save water per flush. Select an adjustable valve and give it a try. You may be able to target an effective water-saving flush, but not always based on the toilet internal design.
Depending on how old your toilet is, it may be designed to use 3.5 or 5.0 gallons of water per flush. The average family can save up to $100 a year in water costs by installing water-saving toilets. I recently replaced a 3.5 gpf toilet with a 1.6 gpf toilet that cost less than $60 at The Home Depot. This can provide a payback in less than one year.
The standard for new toilets is a maximum of 1.6 gpf. Many new toilets use only 1.28 gpf, and some are as low as 1.1 gpf. With the new internal water flow designs, they flush effectively with smaller amounts of water.
There are techniques and kits to reduce water use for old toilets, but they sometimes require double-flushes for solid waste.
A standard gravity-type 1.28- or 1.6 gpf-toilet is your best choice for your master bathroom. It flushes effectively and is reasonably quiet. Two-piece (tank and bowl) models are usually less expensive than more stylish one-piece models. They are also easier to handle in two pieces. The only drawback is that the gap between the two pieces is harder to keep clean.
Dual-flush gravity models use either 1.1 or 1.6 gpf for liquids or solids, respectively. On some, you push the handle up or down depending on the flush volume needed. On others, there is a dual push button on top of the tank.
For a new first-floor half bathroom, consider installing a pressure-assist model. The incoming water compresses air in an internal tank. This compressed air creates a forceful, rapid flush. These are common in public restrooms. The flush is louder than with a gravity model, which should not be a problem on the first floor.
If you have several men in your family, consider installing a small wall-mounted urinal in a half bathroom. These use less than 1.0 gpf and flush quickly. To save space, some models are designed to collapse into the wall and are hidden when not in use.
If your house is built on a slab, or when putting a toilet in a basement, it can be difficult to install the drain. In this case, use a macerating toilet that grinds up waste and pumps it upward—up to 15 feet—to an existing drain. These toilets are expensive, but less costly than installing a new drain.