Water shortage is becoming so common that Australia and most other countries are now trying to come up with different ways to conserve water. The efforts, centred on the principle of water efficiency, are aimed towards helping meet our needs using the least amount of water. One such approach is the installation of water efficient toilets to replace the old and water-intensive ones – wasting as much as 20 litres per flush. If your home has an old toilet, it makes sense-–both economically and environmentally–to get it replaced with a water efficient model that will use about 55 percent less water than a conventional model.
On top of that, installing a water efficient toilet can help you save a lot of money by reducing your water bill. Water efficient toilets can also reduce our collective pressure on limited water supplies, which equates to less water ending up in sewage treatment plant. Less waste means lower operating costs for the sewage plant.
I have had a few people ask me about what water efficient toilets are and I’ve come up with a list / short guide on everything you need to know about them.
What are water efficient toilets?
Water efficient toilets are no different from conventional toilets in terms of function. They just differ in the amount of water used per flush. Water efficient models can only use as much as 3 liters on a half-flush.
What are the different water efficient toilets?
For water efficient toilets, you have two choices: the dual-flush toilet and the pressure-assisted toilet.
A dual-flush toilet provides you with two flushing options. If the waste is liquid, it will only use a little over 3 liters (a half-flush). Solid waste will require more water and will use about 5 to 6 liters of water per flush (a full-flush). This is still within the WELS standard, which will be explained in this article.
Next, we have the pressure-assisted toilets (or toilets equipped with pressure-assist technology). This is usually found in commercial buildings like hotels, but they can also be installed in your home. The pressure-assist system consists of a plastic pressure tank that’s mounted inside the toilet tank and it uses pressure from the water supply line to compress air inside the pressure tank. This system traps and compresses air as it fills with water. The compressed air then forces the water into the bowl when flushed. The unit then uses the pressure to push waste out, creating a more vigorous flushing action that can whisk away waste and cleans the bowl using only 4 liters per flush.
A pressure-assist unit has many benefits. One benefit is that the water used for flushing is contained in a plastic tank inside a ceramic tank, so the threat of condensation on the outside of the tank is eliminated. This prevents water from dripping on your bathroom floor and causing mould which could damage eventually it.
Because the toilet bowl is drier inside, it stays cleaner for a long time and requires less cleaning.
The only downside is that these toilets can be noisy and you have to buy a new toilet if you want this technology.
I saw WELS stamped on water efficient toilets. What is WELS?
WELS is Australia’s Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme and it allows consumers to compare the water efficiency of different products by requiring those products to have water rating labels during the time of sale or advertising.
Will WELS make a difference?
It’s estimated that by the year 2021, Australians will have saved more than a billion dollars in water and energy bills by using more efficient products.
- An older single flush toilet can use up to 12 liters per flush while a modern dual-flush toilet uses only 6 liters for a full flush and 3 liters for a half flush.
- A standard showerhead uses 25 liters per minute while a water efficient model uses 7 liters per minute.
- A washing machine with a WELS label will only use 1/3 of the water of an inefficient one and will save you more energy when using warm or hot wash program (advice: you can save more with a cold wash program).
To know more about the WELS scheme, you can go to www.waterrating.gov.au and check out the list of registered products.
How Much Water Do They Save?
Dual flushing is now the standard for water-efficient toilets in Australia and the most efficient dual flush toilets use about 4.5L for a full flush and 3L for a half-flush, averaging at around 3.3L for flush volume. These toilets are given 4 stars under the WELS rating scheme (note: the more stars, the more efficient the model). Some models with an integrated hand basin that flush with greywater can reach 5 stars but there are no 6 star toilets available.
Given the current technology, we may have reached the minimum amount of water used for flushing – too little water can create draining problems as water helps push the waste along sewer drainage lines. There have been different ways to get around draining issues and still reduce the amount of water used (this includes flushing with grey water) like using a Drainwave that releases water from your house in stored batches or using another type of water that doesn’t depend on water – like using air pressure to flush or composting toilets.
In order to be given a WELS rating, there are performance requirements for a toilet and one is a minimum water efficiency requirement. The average water consumption must not exceed 5.5 liters per flush. This should serve as a guideline for you from now on when you’re shopping for new toilets.
Are there toilets that have reached the 5-star WELS rating?
The Caroma Profile™ Toilet Suite with Integrated Hand Basin is the first toilet suite in Australia to ever reach a 5-star WELS rating. Caroma pushed the boundaries of water saving by launching their all-in-one toilet complete with hand basin and tapware system designed to lower total bathroom water usage.
It is the first of its kind to feature a unique dual-flush push button and spout arrangement that saves water when hands are washed in a separate basin. The flush cycle activation controls the flow of fresh water through the basin sprout. This gives you time for thorough hand washing before the same water fills the cistern tank. The Caroma Profile™ also features the award-winning Smartflush® technology that utilizes the lowest 4.5/3L flushing.
It’s like a regular toilet suite, but the only difference is the cistern being filled differently. There are no additional installation requirements beyond that of a regular toilet suite and this is suitable for both new and existing installations.
How much do water-efficient toilets cost?
Water-efficient toilets can cost around $100 to $200. If you can save a little more money and water while getting a good flush, it will be worth the extra dollars because you end up saving money on your utility bill in the long run.
How do I go about with toilet maintenance and cleaning?
Before I go about and tell you how to clean these toilets, there are a few things that you need to know. First, there are different kinds of water-efficient toilets and they are either easier or more difficult to handle than the others. For example, there are dual flush toilets with two flush buttons or handles instead of one – one button flushes the liquid waste and the other flushes down solid waste. There’s another type that’s similar to airplane toilets, which use water and air pressure to discharge waste. These are often used in places where water is minimal.
When cleaning the exterior and interior, it’s similar to cleaning conventional toilets. You need to wear gloves when handling an all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant before you start scrubbing the seat and the inner and outer rim of the toilet bowl.
Some problems with waste disposal
Water-efficient toilets, or dual-flush toilets, have improved significantly since they came into the market, but there are still some systems that are not as effective as others when it comes to removing all solid waste. In most cases, waste collects under the rim of the bowl and as it does, it causes odour problems. To clean this, you may want to use bleach or other powerful chemicals to remove the waste. However, if you want a more eco-friendly approach, you can use elbow grease and a good toilet bowl brush.
It’s important to get a brush that’s made to clean the rim of the bowl easier. I suggest you go for the brushes with softer bristles to get to the tough spots with more ease.
Water-efficient toilets are now becoming a requirement for households in some countries. In California, USA, the government has required all homeowners to use water-efficient toilets for water conservation. This law was passed down on Aug 2013 and by the year 2017, all homeowners in California must have water-efficient toilets.
We shouldn’t wait for legislation to be passed in order to be proactive in water conservation. The sooner we can install water-efficient toilet in our home, the more water (and money) we will be able to save in the long run.