Low-Flow Toilets: New Technology Means Stronger Flush
LESLIE: Let’s talk to Susan in Michigan who’s got a toilet that’s not functioning properly. Tell us what’s going on with it.
SUSAN: Yeah, it – this (chuckling) has never functioned properly.
TOM: Never functioned properly.
SUSAN: It has never, since I had in installed.
TOM: How long ago did you have it installed, Susan?
SUSAN: Oh, 10 years.
TOM: Is it a low-flow toilet?
SUSAN: You mean one of those that only takes a couple of cups to flush? (chuckling)
TOM: (chuckling) Pretty much, yeah.
SUSAN: (laughing) Yes.
SUSAN: And I hate it and I …
TOM: And you know why? Because that’s about when they were hitting the marketplace for the first time and the technology in low-flow toilets has changed dramatically from the very first ones that came out, which really didn’t work well at all. And I can’t believe you …
LESLIE: For 10 years.
TOM: … put up with it for all these years.
SUSAN: Well, if you don’t have the money to – you know, borrowed money to do the house and I’ve replaced the insides once and it still didn’t help any and …
TOM: No, that’s not going to help. You know why? Because it’s not the flush valves. It’s the design of the trap which is built into the toilet. When the water goes through a toilet – and the waste – it goes through a trap, a U-shaped structure that’s sort of part of the porcelain. And in the original low-flow toilets, those traps were too narrow. Because the toilet used to have, say, four or five gallons of water. So if you had five gallons of water at eight pounds a gallon, that was 40 pounds of water. That was enough pressure to push that waste through that narrow trap. To just make the tanks now only hold 1.6 gallons of water, it’s not working the same. So what you need to do is to replace the toilet.
Now, there are new toilets out that have different trap designs so they have – they have very little restriction. Or you can get one that’s pressure-assisted. And it’s sort of like a commercial toilet in the sense that you have that whooshing sound, but it’s not nearly as loud.
TOM: But you will see a world of difference if you use a low-flow toilet that’s built today as opposed to the one that was built 10 years ago when, frankly, none of them worked very well. You know, there was an effort to conserve water in this country – which we salute – but the technology was just not there and it really has taken the plumbing manufacturers practically a decade to kind of figure that out and redesign the toilet from the bottom up, literally, and make it work. And that’s what they’ve done now.
So, that’s what you need to do. There’s nothing that you can add. You can’t replace the valves or anything to make this thing better. You’ve got to replace the toilet with a new one.
SUSAN: Yeah, I couldn’t figure out why they said this took less water when it took three times to flush it every time. (laughter)
TOM: Yeah, right. (chuckling) Flush twice, flush three times, but – yeah, right. So then you’re still putting the 40 gallons of water down there.
SUSAN: Right. And I could never afford to have another plumber come back in here and do that.
TOM: Well, that’s what you need to do, OK, Susan? Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.