Green Planet

A Guide to Buying Eco-Friendly and Low Flush Toilets

eco friendly toilet
August 28, 2018 Water Conservation

“Eco” and “eco-friendly” are fast becoming popular phrases in construction in the wake of a shifting focus on climate change, corporate responsibility and environmental impact. If you are planning to build your home anytime soon, you should consider constructing a home that’s sustainable or at least contains eco-friendly elements. Building an eco-friendly home may be costlier up-front, however due to increased energy efficiency and water conservation, you’re likely to save in the long run.

One thing you may want to consider installing are low flush toilets, which are designed to save on water consumption, saving you money on your water bills.

10 things to consider when choosing your low flush toilet

1.      Design

While your finances are important in choosing your bathroom throne, practicality is an equal, if not more important factor.

One thing you may want to look at when buying your toilet is diameter size of the opening. Check and compare to see if it’s larger compared to that of the traditional models. Also take note if the bowl’s bottom has a wider trap. Usually, toilets with a relatively small opening size and a narrow bottom consume 12 to 18 litres of water per flush, these are the traditional models. Modern designs, on the other hand, provide a more powerful disposal of your waste, but only using 4.5 to 4.8 litres of water per flush! That’s more than 50% less water consumed compared to older models.

Modern designs should be compliant with the Water Efficiency Labelling Standards (WELS) of the Australian Government. The WELS scheme requires that flushes of toilets sold must not exceed 5.5 litres.

There are also two types of toilets you can choose from: the gravity-fed and pressure-assisted.

Gravity-fed toilets are commonly installed and used in homes and commercial establishments. Every time you flush this kind of toilet, water goes down the tank into the bowl pushing down the waste. Compared to pressure-assisted toilets, gravity-fed toilets are cheaper. However, most models are not strong enough to immediately handle large amounts of waste.

Pressure-assisted toilets are more powerful and can handle larger amounts of waste sparing you flushing more than once. These types of toilets also use less water since they use air pressure. Pressure-assisted toilets save more water, however since these have greater flushing power, they can be noisier and more expensive.

water efficiency

2.      Quality of materials

The porcelain used in manufacturing toilets is made of a clay and water mixture. It is, then, poured into a mould for finishing and glazing before being sent through a kiln for heating and solidifying.

Not all toilets come in the same shapes and sizes, nor do all manufacturers have one and the same production process. So, it’s best to check on the characteristics of the porcelain used to manufacture the toilet, particularly its quality and thickness. Not only would these qualities give a long-lasting look, but more importantly, they would mean less maintenance. The best measure of quality is the finish and the manufacturer’s reputation.

3.      Go for dual-flush

The dual-flush toilet is designed to dispose of waste using different amounts of water. If you push the smaller button, 3 litres of water will be released. Meanwhile, the larger button releases 4.5 litres of water to flush out solid waste.

Both the gravity-fed and pressure-assisted models have the dual-flush variant. Dual-flush toilets may be pricier than their single-flush counterparts, but these do a better job in saving on water consumption and in turn cutting on water costs.

Interestingly, the dual-flush was first manufactured and sold in Australia. Though originally designed by an American in the late 1970s, Australians thought they needed it more and fast, as they live on dry land scarce with water. Bruce Thompson, then the research and development manager of Caroma, developed the system in 1980, thanks to a $130,000 grant from the Australian Government. The smaller button of the original dual-flush toilet released 5.5 litres of water, while the larger button released 11 litres. Since then, the project was such a success that every state except NSW mandated the installation of dual-flush toilets in new buildings constructed.

The dual-flush’s water usage was eventually reduced to 3 litres and 6 litres in 1994. The water release volume for the larger button eventually went down to 4.5 litres in compliance with the WELS scheme.

4.      Flushing performance

The WELS scheme also has a ratings system in place. The more stars, the better the toilet’s flushing efficiency. The most efficient low-flush toilets are the dual-flush variants that release 3 and 4.5 litre. Majority of these units have a 4-star rating.

Low-flush toilets with a 5-star rating are also available in the Australian market. These have an integrated hand basin, which use greywater for flushing. Based on the government’s report, these only use less than 3 litres of water on average.

The report cites that there are 6-star rated toilets that already are out there, though not available in Australia. The 2 and 4-litre dual-flush toilet and the urine-separating toilet, which are available in Europe, only use from 1-2.7 litres of water. There’s also the 2 and 3-litre dual-flush that still needs further research and development; and the air-assisted prototype toilet, which flushes 1.5 litres of water.

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5.      The rough-in measurement

Like any other part of your home or building, you’d want to have the actual fit out and design of your toilet done right. Getting the right rough-in matters, in this case, because this determines the fittings that your plumber would be installing.

In laymen speak, the rough-in is the space between the wall and the centre of the toilet flange, which is found right below the toilet’s base. Most rough-ins measure 30.5 centimetres.

Unless you are undergoing significant remodelling, make sure that the toilet you wish to buy matches the rough-in distance. This way, you avoid the arduous task of moving the flange. It’s also wise to account for your baseboard’s thickness.

Forward planning is essential, which also means constant communication between you and your contractor.

6.      Rebates and special offers

Quite a few areas in Australia offer rebates or services at special rates to encourage the use of low-flush toilets. In the metropolitan Sydney area, Sydney Water offers customers its WaterFix service. Customers with single-flush toilets can have their units replaced with WELS 4-star rated dual-flush toilets for as low as $196. The NSW state government can subsidise all or part of this amount if you are experiencing financial difficulty. If you’re charged at least $200 for the replacement service, you can opt to pay in 4 equal instalments spanning 4 billing periods. Visit Sydney Water’s WaterFix page to know more details on the service. You may also check out the replacement units (and their specifications) under the WaterFix service here.

Further south of Sydney, the local government of Eurobodalla Shire offers rebates to encourage residents with single-flush toilets to have them replaced. The Shire’s council is particularly providing a $100 refund on purchases and installations of any toilet with a WELS 4-star or higher rating. The program also allows a maximum of 2 rebates for every residential property.

Check with your local council or state governments for updates on rebates and special offers for replacing your toilet.

7.      Bowl fixture and size

Make sure you know the size of the toilet you’re wanting, and where it will be fixed onto. Weigh all the pros and cons.

The two common types of toilet bowls in market are the floor-mounted and the wall-mounted. Where the toilet is attached is where the drainage goes. For the floor-mounted type, you can also choose to give it a wall outlet.

Choosing the type of toilet would depend on any existing plumbing, as well as the waste pipe where the drainage would connect to. Floor-mounted toilets are a more popular option, but it still helps to be discerning when choosing one. Make sure that you know the distance between the wall and the centre of the waste pipe for a perfect fit.

Wall-mounted toilets can look more stylish. They’re also easier to clean because of their smaller size. However, they need added reinforcement not only to bear the weight of the toilet itself, but also of those who would sit on it (you want to know that you’re supported when you sit down)!

Next thing to consider is whether to get a round or oval-shaped bowl. Given its shorter length, rounded bowls are used in smaller bathrooms. Most toilet seats are also made to fit rounded bowls for greater selection. Oval bowls, on the other hand, are usually 5 centimetres longer than round bowls giving more seating comfort. If you are thinking of installing an oval bowl, especially if upgrading from the usual round one, make sure that you still have space to move around.

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8.      Availability of spare parts

As with other permanent fixtures in your home, certain parts of your toilet are prone to wear and tear. Thus, make sure that the low flush toilet you plan to get has spare parts available in most hardware stores. This way, you’re sure to continue saving on water consumption.

It would also help to know the replaceable parts of your toilet and their specifications early on. List these down as the information will come in handy if/when the time comes.

9.      Provisions for the elderly (if applicable)

Having seniors in your home means giving more care and special attention. You may be thinking of having a taller bowl installed, especially if they are frequenters of the bathroom. However, more able-bodied persons would find it discomforting to be sitting on a bowl taller than the standard 38-centimetre one. It also is a little pricier to get a high bowl.

Installing well-adjusted grab bars on the sides of the toilet would be more useful instead of having a tall bowl. This way, you’d maximise the toilet’s usage and thus become more considerate to all those who’d use it.

10.  Colour scheme

Blue and peach are just some of the colour palettes trending in bathroom design in 2018. Just be careful when choosing whether your toilet’s colour would follow the trend or not. No matter which colour you choose, make sure it fits your style of the bathroom.

Neutral colours – like white – are safe because they won’t go out of style.

Enjoy your comfort zone

The toilet can be considered a place of comfort in one’s home. It’s also comforting to know that amid a changing environment, if we invest in eco-friendly flush toilets that conserve water, we’re not wasting natural resources.

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When you’re ready to switch to an eco-friendly flush toilet, you can contact your trusted Newcastle plumber at Green Planet Plumbing. Our licensed plumbers are ready to take on the job anytime, anywhere. Contact us today!

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