Eco-friendly toilets gain popularity
by Brooke Reynolds and Anisha Vichare
Did you know the average person visits the porcelain throne 2,500 times per year? But once our toilet duties are done, we often dismiss how much water is wasted when we flush. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, water-efficient toilets save about 4,000 gallons of water and $90 per year on water bills.
Here's the scoop on some increasingly popular options:
As the name implies, dual-flush toilets have two flush options - a 0.8 or 0.9 gallon per flush mode for liquid waste, and a 1.6 gallon per flush mode for solid waste. They are the standard in Europe, Canada and Australia, conserving more water than the standard low-flow toilet, which uses 1.6 gpf and is required in all homes built after 1994.
The two-lever or button design lets you choose the type of flush you want, so you only use the water you need.
Clogs can occur if the smaller flush is used for solid waste, and they're louder than traditional toilets.
$250 to $600
What owners say
"It's nice to know that when you're doing 'No. 1,' you're just getting the water that you need. And if you can conserve water, why wouldn't you?"
- Lisa Morrison, Portland, Ore.
Self-contained composting toilets, also known as remote-system toilets, rely on bacteria, heat, aeration and time to turn waste into useful compost material. Check with your local health department before purchasing one to make sure they are permitted in your area.
Composting toilets aren't hooked up to local sewer lines and use no water and little to no power. You can discard kitchen scraps in them, and the compost can be used as fertilizer around non-edible vegetation.
They require good maintenance or else removing the end product can be unpleasant, odorous and hazardous to your health. The waste takes almost a year to compost, so the more you use it, the more often you must empty it.
$1,000 to $3,700
What owners say
"The composting toilet doesn't smell, and it has a nice look to it. It's not like an outhouse."
- Dennis Coler, Dayton, Ohio
Incinerating toilets come with vents and burn waste electrically or with propane, turning it into a sterile ash. Check with your local health department before purchasing one to make sure they are permitted in your area.
Like composting toilets, these privies aren't hooked up to local sewer lines and use no water. Also, the ash can be thrown away and the incinerating cycle runs frequently, so the toilets are relatively odorless.
They require energy, so they're not 100 percent eco-friendly. Also, the incineration process takes time, so these toilets typically serve a family of four to six and might not work well in busy areas.
$1,700 to $3,700
What owners say
"It sure is a high-tech potty. It's not as simple as pushing the flush lever on a regular toilet. But we're up in a mountain cabin in Montana, so it works just fine for us."
- Don Hicks, Billings, Mont.
Sources: Angie's List staff research; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; NSF International; TOTO Ltd.; Home Depot; Kohler Co.; Envirolet; Sun-Mar; EcoJohn; American Standard; Incinolet