Stephanie Singleton | Technical Writer

If you’re looking for ways to save money on your water bill, look no further than your toilet. According to the EPA, toilets account for 30 percent of your home’s water usage, making it the number one source of water waste if you have an inefficient toilet. However, newer and more efficient toilets can help homeowners reign in their water bill.

Low-flow (Single-flush) Toilets

Low-flow toilets, also known as single-flush toilets, use 1.6 gallons of water per flush compared to the traditional 3 to 5 gallons or even 6 gallons of water that older models use. While these toilets save money, their initial introduction to the market in the 1990s wasn’t great after some models failed to properly dispose of waste. In order to deliver a product that used less water while providing a proper flush, companies had to rethink their designs.

Homeowners can choose between gravity-assisted or pressure-assisted flushing. Gravity-assisted flushing is the method designed by the original creator of the toilet. When the toilet is flushed and the water is released from the tank, the force of gravity aids in pulling waste out of the toilet bowl. Because low-flow toilets use less water, the force of gravity is decreased, which makes flushing difficult. However, newer low-flow, gravity-assisted toilets feature a special design that compensates for the low amount of water, which helps gravity apply enough pressure to remove waste.

Pressure-assisted toilets help solve the low-flow problem by using pressurized air to increase the force at which the water leaves the tank. Pressure-assisted toilets are often noisier than gravity-assisted models, and some models require an electrical power source in order to operate them.

Dual-flush Toilets

Dual-flush toilets provide homeowners with two different flushing options: a light flush that uses less than 1.6 gallons of water and a regular flush that uses 1.6 gallons of water. The flushing options are reflected in the handle or button located on the toilet. A handle can be pushed up or down to release a light or regular flush (the type of flush received from pushing the handle up or down will depend on the toilet’s manufacturer); a circular button provides two options—one half of the button releases a light flush and the other half releases a regular flush.

There are other variations on the handle and button; for example, some manufacturers offer a two-in-one handle that’s color coded to differentiate between the two options. If a lighter flush is needed, one simply presses down on the color-coded tip of the handle; for a regular flush, press down on the metal part of the handle. This option takes the guesswork out of flushing a traditional dual-flush toilet and creates an intuitive flushing experience.

WaterSense-labeled Toilets

Choosing a WaterSense-labeled toilet is a great way to replace an older, less-efficient toilet with one that saves money, water, and natural resources. WaterSense, similar to ENERGYSTAR, is a partnership program created by the EPA that is dedicated to protecting the future of the nation’s water supply by promoting and testing water-efficient products and services. WaterSense-labeled toilets earn their certification through independent laboratory testing. In order to receive the WaterSense label, toilets have to use 20 percent less water than standard 1.6 gallons-per-flush models without sacrificing performance. Homeowners can find both low-flow (single-flush) and dual-flush toilets with the WaterSense label.

Retrofit Options

Retrofitting is an inexpensive way that some homeowners use to save water without replacing their toilet. Common methods include placing a brick in the toilet tank to displace water and installing early-closing toilet flappers, displacement products, or dual-flush converters. However, retrofitting can cause more harm than good. Using any of these methods could interfere with the operation of the toilet, void its warranty, or increase the need for maintenance. The best option for saving money and water is to simply replace the toilet with a high-efficiency model.

Homeowners thinking about upgrading their bathrooms with new, high-efficiency toilets should research their options to determine which type would be right for their home. It’s also wise to consult a plumber and discuss upgrade plans. A plumber will be able to examine the home’s pipes and offer input on which toilet option would be best for the plumbing system.

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Sources:Alliance for Water Efficiency; EPA; Green Your Home: The Complete Guide to Making Your New or Existing Home Environmentally Healthy; HGTV; This Old House; WaterSense.

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