Toilets: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

by Bill and Kevin Burnett, Inman News

ToiletPraise to our readers, they’ve done it again. Last week we wrote about dual-flush, water-conserving toilets when, after returning from a trip to France, a reader questioned why she could not find a dual-flush model similar to the one she used in France to install in her Alameda, Calif., home.

We lamented the fact that our 1.6-gallon toilets were inadequate and directed her to two manufacturers and one possible supplier where she could find dual-flush commodes. We thought the whole thing was pretty white bread. Fooled us. The column generated a good bit of interest and some valuable information that we’re happy to pass along. Another traveler wrote echoing our Francophile:

“We recently returned from a two-week tour of Croatia last month, starting in Dubrovnik then continued touring by sailboat to many ports, cities and villages. Every place where we used rest rooms, they had dual-flush toilets, and we were not in the ‘high-end’ tourist spots. If in Croatia, why so difficult here?”

As another reader pointed out in no uncertain terms, it’s not so tough here, just a well-kept secret whose time may have come. He wrote:

“Read up from someone who really knows toilets and write a better article. Dual-flush is one option of many effective, reasonably priced solutions.”

He directed us, the Web site of a Seattle-area plumber that’s full of good information. He then continued with his story:

“I bought a Toto Drake for less than $400 in San Francisco earlier this year. It will flush anything you throw at it and it has more or less of a dual flush. Push regular and it flushes. Hold the handle longer and you get a real power flush. I will soon be replacing my other poorly performing 20-year-old toilet with Toto.”

Love’s Web site is worth a click. Not only does it contain good information on toilets, but an apocryphal account of a tour of the plumbing in Bill Gates’ mansion. Darned if he didn’t have us believing him for a while.

Another reader likes Toto too:

“I’d like to give you another point of view for your rather negative dual-flush-toilet column today. We recently installed two Totos, and they have been stellar performers. Never a double flush needed — stay clean just fine. They were expensive, but rebates are available from the county, plus we got an additional rebate from (the city of) Palo Alto. Water is a decreasing resource. Even a small change to low-flush toilets could make a large difference if everyone were to install them.”

We didn’t think we were negative. Clearly the reader is happy with her Totos. However, the Canadian study we cited last week reported only 66 percent of respondents in their survey would definitely recommend dual-flush toilets to others. We wonder why?

On the cost front, another reader pointed out that there are rebates available from local utility companies to help defer the cost of high-efficiency toilets.

“Almost every water agency in the Bay Area (and up and down the West Coast) offers rebates for dual-flush toilets, which fall under the category of a high-efficiency toilet. Please take a look at the Web site for the California Urban Water Conservation Council, especially the pages dealing with MaP Testing. Most local water agencies rebate any toilet designated as a high-efficiency toilet and testing at more than 350 grams. This is also the standard set by the EPA’s new WaterSense rating system. For more information on rebates check with your local water company.”

Finally, a reader had what we think is a grand suggestion: a place where you can try out toilets.

He wrote that he went to a plumbing showroom to buy Brand X but came out with Brand Y. Seems the salesman told him, yes, Brand X was the best in the world, except that Brand Y was better — it even flushes a bunch of potatoes.

“Because of his enthusiasm, we bought (Brand Y) and I am very unhappy with it. You have to hold down the button the entire flushing time, because if you don’t, the water that is left sitting in the bowl is unclean. Also, the water level sits very low in the bowl and because of the deep bowl shape, one sometimes gets the old ‘splash back at you’ treatment. And (Brand Y) often needs two flushes. Is that what they mean by ‘dual’? I felt really duped. But what is a person to do? You can’t return a used toilet, can you?

“There really should be a showroom where one can actually try out the toilets in real life, so one can make an intelligent purchase and not one based on the technique of an ambitious salesman who probably got a higher commission than on the other toilets.”
Test-driving toilets. What do you plumbing distributors think about this suggestion?

What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story. Copyright 2008 Bill and Kevin Burnett

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