Are Low-Flow Toilets Worth It?

Thinking of installing a low flow toilet? Whether you're looking to save money on water costs or to be kinder to the environment, find out the pros and cons.

low flow toilet in a bathroom

Low-flow, or low-flush toilets are popular with many homeowners who like to conserve water, whether to save money or to limit their home's impact on the environment. These efficient, water saving toilets have come a long way since they were first introduced in the 1990s, with many styles available today offering better functionality and more options than in previous years.

While low-flow toilets are often more expensive to install and maintain than traditional toilet fixtures, they can also save you a significant amount of money over time.

If you are thinking about adding one or more low-flow toilets to your home, you may have some of the following questions as well.

How Do Low Flush Toilets Work?

Low-flush toilets use one of two methods to clear waste: gravity or pressure-assistance.

Gravity-driven toilets clear waste when the flapper in the toilet tank moves and water is released. Water flows down from the tank into the bowl, flushing its contents, while gravity carries the waste down into and through the pipes.

Pressure-assisted toilets have a pressure tank that works like a big water balloon. Water fills the toilet tank and is held there under pressure. When the flush valve opens, pressure and gravity combine for a powerful flush.

How Much Water Does a Low-flow Toilet Use?

Toilets are the biggest water drain in American households according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), accounting for almost 30 percent of water use in the home. Older toilets can use anywhere from 3.5 to 7 gallons of water with every flush. Consequently, many cities and counties have begun passing conservation laws requiring homeowners and landlords to install low-flow toilets.

Government plumbing standards for low-flow toilets specify that they use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. There are also high-efficiency models that use 1.28 gallons per flush or less.

What Are Some Low-flow Toilet Problems?

Common complaints about these toilets include noise and flushing or water pressure issues.

  • They rely on a pressure-assisted system that makes a distinctive "whooshing" sound which tends to be louder than a regular toilet flush.
  • If they do not operate properly, they may not force waste far enough down the drain, which can lead to clogs and other plumbing system issues.
  • If the water pressure in your home is not sufficient for the smooth operation of low-flow toilets, they will not eliminate waste with a single flush or work as intended.

Low-flow Toiles Vs. Regular Toilets: What's Right for My Home?

Whether you are required to install low-flow toilets due to local ordinances or are simply interested in saving water and money, here are some things to consider when choosing the right option for your home.

The Pros

  • Low-flow toilets save a lot of water, both by the flush and over time. Whether you install a gravity- or pressure-assisted model, a low-flow toilet will significantly reduce the amount of water needed to channel waste through the plumbing system and away from your home.
  • You can begin saving money right away. The EPA estimates that homeowners save as much as $110 per year on their water bills simply by switching to low-flow toilets.
  • You should recoup your initial investment and save even more money the longer you use a low-flow toilet. Low-flow toilets can last up to 30 years without being replaced. Moreover, they can also add to your home's resale value.
  • Low-flow toilets are increasingly available as an option for newly constructed homes. Some cities, states and counties also offer a rebate to homeowners who replace their traditional toilets with low-flow models.

The Cons

  • Because they use a reduced volume of water and may apply less pressure than a regular toilet, low-flow toilets do not always flush waste as well as their standard counterparts. A second or third flush is sometimes needed to ensure heavy waste has cleared the bowl, requiring the consumption of more water and rendering the toilet less efficient.
  • Low-flow fixtures may not work with your existing plumbing if you live in an older home. Because low-flush toilets operate on pressure and gravity, the pipes to which they are connected have to be positioned at a specific angle and slope. The older the house, the greater the chance your plumbing may require adjustment or replacement in order to be compatible with low-flow toilets. This can lead to installation taking more time and being more expensive than anticipated.
  • Homes built in the last two decades are more likely to accommodate low-flow fixtures without significant alteration to the existing plumbing system.

If you're interested in keeping your appliances protected, an American Home Shield® home warranty may be a good option for you. Our professional home service contractors can help with repair and replacements of covered items, including plumbing. 

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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New Jersey Residents: The product being offered is a service contract and is separate and distinct from any product or service warranty which may be provided by the home builder or manufacturer.