We’ve amped up the eco-friendliness of our house by installing a new high-efficiency toilet, or HET for short. These models use less than 1.3 gallons/flush. That compares quite favorably to the modern standard of 1.6 gallons/flush, and is waaay better than the old 3.5 or even 5 gallons/flush of decades past. Our old one had “1964” stamped on the bottom of it, so I’m pretty sure it was on the high end before.
It also leaked, and rather than sink 20 or 30 bucks into rebuilding the flush valve I decided to get a Toto Eco Ultramax. Toto is a Japanese toilet manufacturer that makes really good toilets.
In terms of impact, here’s a good description from the EPA’s watersense page on HETs:
Over the course of your lifetime, you will likely flush the toilet nearly 140,000 times. If you install a WaterSense labeled HET, you can save 4,000 gallons per year and your children can save as much as 300,000 gallons during their lifetime. Additionally, if a family of four replaced a 3.5 gpf toilet made between 1980 and 1994 with a WaterSense labeled toilet, they could save more than $90 annually on their water bill, and $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet. Savings could be as much as two to three times that amount if the model being replaced is a leaky toilet or a pre-1980 model that uses 5.0 gpf or more.
With these savings, a new WaterSense labeled HET can pay for itself in only a few years. Additionally, many local utilities offer substantial rebates (ranging from $25 to $175) for replacing old toilets with HETs.
I’m not so hung up on exactly what we’ll save, but it does make me happy every time I flush it to think I’m not wasting water. And it does look a heckuva lot more stylish than my old one.
I’m stubborn and thrifty and somewhat handy so I installed it myself, with the help of my mom who was visiting from Amarillo. Lucky her. 😉 Neither of us had done this before. Based on our experience here are a few tips that should help your new toilet installation go smoothly:
- Plan on being grossed out from the get-go. There is no avoiding this so just suck it up and imagine this project done. Set up a radio and play your favorite station.
- Buy the best toilet you can afford. I am really thrifty, and sure I’d rather spend my dough elsewhere, but there is nothing worse than a subpar flush. You will see and use this thing every day, why not make that little part of your day better? I read a ton of toilet blogs online before choosing the Toto, and someone on one of those strings put it this way — you will remember a bad toilet a lot longer than you will remember the extra hundred bucks you spent getting the best one. If you google toilet ratings you will get plenty of food for thought, and you’ll probably arrive at the website of my personal favorite toilet expert, which brings me to my next tip…
- Visit Terry Love’s plumbing site. This guy is Mr. Toilet himself. He knows toilets. The internet has rewarded him with cyber stardom in this cultish realm of we-who-research-toilets. Anyway, there is lots of good advice here, an active forum (why is my flange moving?!?!), and helpful ratings, that I assume are not biased. His favorite toilet is the Toto Ultramax, so that is what I got.
- Assemble the right tools. I bought a ratchet set from Sam’s Club for around $60 and a big wrench for about $10. Sure, this is bordering on how much it would have cost to hire a plumber, but I figured I’d need those tools again eventually. It’s also good to have a general reference book that covers toilet replacement. Get about twice as many rags as you think you’ll need. A bucket is good. To wrap things up you’ll need a hacksaw or a dremel to cut off the nuts that hold the device down.
- Use three-in-one oil to lubricate the bolts that hold your old one in if they are stuck. Also use this oil to lube up the drill bit it you have to drill in tile at any point (to secure the flange, for example).
- Take advantage of the time you have with the toilet out to clean up the area around the toilet. It’s a good time to paint, scrub grout, or use my new favorite product –white grout paint! Seriously, this stuff really improved the look of the tiled floor around the loo. It’s tedious, but trust me, you will never do this again once you put the toilet back in.
- Buy two wax rings in case you screw it up the first time. Home Depot will always take the extra back.
- Take the old supply valve hose with you to the hardware store. I found out they make different sizes. What a pain!
- Have a friend help you lower it onto the nuts. I felt like the most difficult part of this whole deal was getting the toilet set down properly. You only have one shot at it. If one person holds up the base and the other acts as navigator to help maneuver the holes over the nuts, this will work more smoothly.
- I recommend against caulking around the bottom of the toilet. Overcaulking is amateurish in general. Why glue the thing down to the yucky old tile? The other more practical reason is that if you did somehow miss the wax seal, you will more quickly know about the failure if there is no caulk.
Those are my tips. I am ready to replace my other toilet and bet I could do it in around an hour. I absolutely love the model we chose, it flushes beautifully and refills in about 8 seconds. Here’s to saving water!