Ultimate Guide to Low-flow Toilets

Low-flow Toilet Beginnings

Purchasing a low-flow toilet means substantial water savings for a homeowner -- ranging from 1.9 to 7 gallons (7 to 26 liters) per flush. In fact, when you replace an older model toilet with a low-flow toilet, you can permanently reduce your use of bathroom water by 50 percent. And that can mean substantial financial savings. Saving water with a low-flow toilet can reduce utility costs by about $78 per year, [source: Massachusetts Water Resource Authority]. Buying and installing a low-flow toilet does demand a small financial outlay of $100 or more, but that investment can often be recouped within a year and a half.

In the early 1990s, many homeowners complained that their new low-flow toilets just didn't function effectively. At that time, to comply with the new Federal law mandating a 1.6-gallon (6-liter) maximum flush, most manufacturers merely reduced the size of the tank of their toilets to achieve that required water reduction. Unfortunately, however, many of those manufacturers hadn't figured out how to clear waste efficiently from a low-flow toilet, plumber Terry Love told HowStuffWorks. Back then, homeowners were often double flushing to get their toilets to perform, which didn't translate into water or financial savings.

The flapper, the device inside the tank that opens when you push the flush handle to allow water to run into the bowl, also often leaked on those early low-flow toilets. These flappers were also difficult to replace because consumers often weren't given the right information on how to obtain the correct replacement product. Plus, the chlorine-based bowl cleaning tablets popular at that time could destroy components inside the tank, including the flapper, which caused leaks. This was a serious problem that affected not only low-flow toilets, but older models as well.

Are today's low-flow toilets still riddled with such problems?