In the Flow: Water-Saving Toilets and Showerheads

What’s new and hot in saving water in the bathroom.

| September/October 2005

  • FloWise toilet by American Standard, $395
  • The Cimarron toilet by Kohler, $246
  • Toto’s UltraMax toilet, $514
  • Mansfield EcoQuantum toilet, $333
  • Envirolet Composting Toilet, $1,550
  • Prismiere showerhead, $12.50
  • Athena controllable flush, $30
  • WOW shower, $99

One of the biggest water hogs in a typical home is the bathroom. The average person uses twenty-seven gallons of water per day just flushing the toilet, and a five-minute shower uses between fifteen and twenty-five gallons, according to the American Water Works Association. Multiply those numbers by a household of people over the course of a year, and that’s an enormous volume of water down the drain.

So how do you conserve water in the bathroom while still taking care of life’s necessities? Check out these cool new water-miserly products; when combined with a conscious effort to conserve, they can make a real difference.

Straight flush

Historically, the toilet has been the bathroom water hog, using three to five gallons per flush (gpf). After the Environ­mental Protection Agency’s 1992 Energy Policy Act mandated that all new toilets abide by a 1.6 gpf rate, all new installations are of the low-flow variety. Still, millions of older homes use the old inefficient models.

Initially, toilets functioned poorly, forcing folks to flush twice—negating the low-flow benefits. “One of the biggest shifts in the past decade or so is that 1.6 gpf toilets now work reliably,” says Nadav Malin, editor of Environmental Building News, a monthly newsletter devoted to sustainable building practices. “At first, many manufacturers used the same toilets, just with less water. Now they have fundamentally redesigned the toilets, and new testing protocols help ensure quality products.”

Though toilet mechanisms look virtually the same to the casual observer, there are now a number on the market. The conventional model, used in millions of homes and businesses, is a gravity-assisted, “flapper” style. Improvements on this design include a larger diameter flush valve (the big hole that drains the toilet) and a “flapperless” model. Both of these improve on flushing effectiveness.

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