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How to Select a High Efficiency Toilet (HET)

Toto ImageBased on all of the toilet talk and analysis in our previous posts on toilet efficiency, Lara and I have come up with a plan that will allow us to reduce the water consumed by the six toilets at our four properties from approximately 49,500 gallons per year to 29,000 gallons per year – a 42% decrease and savings of 20,500 gallons per year. In this post, we’ll look at the specifics of the plan and give you some tips on new toilet selection.

The Plan

Our immediate action plan to save over 20,000 gallons of water per year is as simple as replacing our two old, inefficient toilets with new high efficiency toilets (HET’s). For our own home, we will purchase a Toto Aquia dual flush HET pictured above to replace the existing 3.5 gpf model. The Toto Aquia uses 1.6 gpf to flush solids, 0.9 gpf for liquids. At our rental property where our other offending 3.5 gpf toilet resides, we will go with a 1.28 gpf Toto EcoDrake HET.

For disposal, we’ll take the 3.5 gpf toilets to ReSource to take advantage of a great City of Fort Collins toilet recycling program under which old toilets are collected, crushed and incorporated into road base at no cost to the homeowner to keep them out of the landfill.

Selecting a High Efficiency Toilet

We discovered that researching and deciding which HET to purchase can be a bit overwhelming. Following the four simple steps below will help you keep this process manageable.

1. Start with the EPA’s list of WaterSense® labeled high efficiency toilets. The HET’s on this list have been certified to meet performance criteria developed by the EPA.  Be forewarned, this list is long, with nearly three dozen toilet brands and many models per brand.

2. Develop a short list of HET prospects for further scrutiny. You can do this quickly by using the web to check out prices, styles and colors for the various models on WaterSense® list.

3. Consult the experts to help you make a final decision. Like Step 2, this is easy to accomplish on line by searching for reviews on makes/models on your short list, or you can ask a trusted plumber or green builder you know in your area. We found this site from plumber Terry Love to be particularly helpful.

4. Purchase with eyes wide open. Toilet tanks and bowls are often sold separately. Also, seats and lids are typically not included with the tank and bowl. Some manufacturers do not provide warranty coverage for products purchased over the internet. And then there are some e-tailers who offer attractive prices and promote “free shipping”. Look closely…we found one such claim where shipping was indeed free, but “freight charges” were significant! Finally, be sure to look for incentives, rebates and eco-friendly disposal programs. This is as simple as checking your municipality’s web site.

Here’s how our selection process played out…

Steps 1 and 2 – We quickly shortlisted to three prospects; Toto, Caroma and Kohler. Toto and Caroma made the list because we were aware of them as manufacturers from countries that have long been focused on toilet water conservation (Japan and Australia, respectively) with relatively long track records of HET production. Kohler made our short list simply due to brand name recognition.

Step 3 – Our situation quickly became a Toto vs. Caroma showdown after we discovered several online stories about serious problems with Kohler’s performance, poor customer service and high replacement part costs related to their HET’s. We started leaning toward Toto over Caroma because we liked the styling better, and Maximum Performance Testing (MaP) ratings favored Toto for the models we were comparing (click here to learn more about MaP testing). This thread from Terry Love’s website sealed the deal in favor of Toto. We chose their dual flush Aquia for our own home to maximize water savings, and decided that their EcoDrake was a better choice for our rental property due to ease of operation and lower price point.

Step 4 – We decided to purchase our toilets at Green Logic because we prefer to work with other green-minded local businesses and keep more of the dollars we spend in our community. We are also comforted by the idea that we have someone we can turn to for support with future parts or warranty needs, should they arise.

Flushing Factoid

According to the EPA, if every American home with older, inefficient toilets replaced them with new WaterSense® labeled toilets, we would save nearly 640 billion gallons of water per year, equal to more than two weeks of flow over Niagara Falls!

Are the toilets in your home a part of the problem, or part of the solution?

  1. Matt
    June 5, 2009 at 3:45 am | #1

    Dave & Lara, Nice to meet you last night. It sounds like you got a bit further with your investigations than I did. Why did you pick the dual flush (1.6/0.9 gpf) over a standard toilet at 1.28 gpf?

    • June 5, 2009 at 12:24 pm | #2

      Matt, nice to meet you too. We actually bought two new toilets, one Toto Aquia at 1.6/0.9 and one Toto EcoDrake at 1.28. The answer to your question is not a short one. Between the time we started our toilet efficiency series and the time we made our purchase decision, we also decided to move from our current home (Buckeye St. – one bathroom/toilet) into one of our rentals (Phoenix Dr. – two bathrooms/toilets). So a big part of the reason for buying one of each was to be able to compare the two in our own home. We’ve read the 0.9 flush can handle almost anything. We also really liked the aesthetics of the Aquia for our main bathroom. We’ll be moving the existing 1.6 gpf toilets from Phoenix to our properties that have the wasteful 3.5 gpf toilets.
      We move into the Phoenix house on July 1, so will be starting a series soon on all of the eco-friendly updates that we’ll be doing to that home, including energy audits and enhancements, kitchen and bath updates, new sustainable flooring, etc. We hope you’ll tune in to that, and even stop by some time since you’re in town.

  2. Matt
    June 6, 2009 at 3:01 am | #3

    I think for our house that a 1.28 g toilet on the main floor bathroom would be best since we have a counter over top of the tank. Also this prevents us from having to explain operation to guests. We’d then go with a dual-flush in the master. I’m fairly sure our basement toilet is a 1.6g model since it was finished after the rest of the house, so we don’t gain as much from replacing it.

  3. June 21, 2010 at 1:27 am | #5

    Wow nice to know that about the toilet! I didn’t know that much information but now i became more aware! Thanks for the information guys!

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