When shopping for a toilet, don't assume that a high price tag assures top performance. Among single- and dual-flush models, our top overall scorers were priced about midway in the group.
Flushing out the best performers
More water sometimes--but not always--means better flushing. To simulate a bathroom's worst nightmare, we made do with a measured mix of baby wipes, sponges, plastic balls, and tubes to see whether a toilet would clog. And to simulate liquid waste, we used a dark-blue dye. Our tests revealed major differences in flushing ability, even across models of the same brand.
None of the WaterSense toilets we tested scored excellent overall, although several came close. Some dual-flush models did a fine job of flushing solid waste in the full-flush mode. But in their water-saving mode, most were mediocre at best in removing liquid waste. But in day-to-day use, you're not likely to notice the trace amounts that remain in the bowl of even the worst performers. Subscribers can check our Ratings for specifics.
Toilets are flushing away about 30 percent of all residential water in U.S. homes, so it's not surprising that water conservation remains a major issue. A 1995 U.S. Department of Energy standard limits new toilets to 1.6 gallons per flush. All the toilets we tested met that standard, although a few initially required minor adjustments. About a third of the tested models met the stiffer California standard, which limits toilets sold in that state to 1.28 gallons per flush. The high-efficiency models that satisfy the California standard carry a WaterSense label.
Dual-flush technology is another water-saving option. Two buttons on the tank let you choose a partial flush for liquid waste or a full flush for solid waste. Some WaterSense models combine high efficiency with dual flush.
A toilet rim that is about three or four inches higher than usual is yet another rapidly growing trend that is now approaching half the market. The added ground clearance of a "comfort height" toilet makes getting on and off easier--especially for aging baby boomers, who have helped to boost sales of those toilets. But the added comfort is likely to appeal to younger buyers too.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.