If you live in an older home you may have heard of low-flow toilets, but not been sure what they are. Also known as low-flush toilets or high-efficiency toilets, they were introduced in the 1990s to aid in water conservation efforts. They are now the only kind of toilets that can be legally manufactured and sold in the U.S.
Toilets manufactured prior to 1992 typically used at least 3.5 gallons of water per day. This averaged out to a whopping 20 gallons of water per person, per day! Today's low-flow toilets in the U.S. can't use more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush by law.
You may have heard that low-flow toilets don't work as well as older models. Well, that was certainly true in the beginning. This is because toilets have traditionally been designed with what's known as gravity-assisted flushing. That worked fine for flushes that used more than three gallons of water. However, the new 1.6-gallon flushes weren't always able to generate the necessary amount of water pressure. Having the amount of water per flush cut by more than half meant that toilets struggled to do the same job with a lot less water. This led to a lot of frustration for consumers.
Fortunately, toilet manufactures stepped up to the plate and began modifying their designs to come up with a solution. Some adjustments included using wider flapper valves (that's the hole in the bottom of the tank where the water flows into the bowl) and trapways (that's the hole at the bottom of toilet bowls).
Ready to buy a low-flow toilet? Consider buying a model that is branded as a WaterSense toilet. That means that it has the stamp of approval from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) WaterSense program, which promotes water efficient, high-quality appliances.
Toilets labeled as WaterSense may use as little as 1.28 gallons per flush, but still work just as well as their counterparts that use more water. They tend to use 20 to 60 percent less water than the average toilet.
As an added incentive to make the switch, several cities and municipal water organizations offer rebates for homeowners who purchase a low-flow toilet. And, according to the EPA, low-flow toilets with the WaterSense label can save a family of four $110 per year and $2,200 over the life of the toilet!