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Low-flow Toilets: How (Not) To Install One

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Winston Churchill (who had an American mother) is supposed to have once quipped in a moment of wartime frustration with his best allies that:

"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities."

I'm a bit like that as a handyman. The job gets done, usually without serious injury or loss of expensive parts, and gets done fairly well. But it rarely seems to be as smooth, efficient, or rapid as it could possibly be. But perhaps my bumblings can save you a bit of time. Let's see--if, that is, you want or need to replace an older, inefficient toilet.

Upgrading to low-flow toilets is a popular DIY project these days, and for good reason. If you have older toilets, you are probably using from three and a half to six gallons per flush. (Mine used about 4.5 gpf.) A modern low-flow model uses 1.28 gpf. For simplicity, let's say that the saving is 3 gpf. Obviously, the water used will be the gallons per flush times the number of flushes times per day. So, if there are ten flushes per day, 30 gallons will be saved daily--and 900 gallons monthly, or 9,195 gallons a year.

For some of us, those numbers will produce dollar savings worth mentioning. Some--especially those of us who live in areas whose water supply is stressed or at risk--may just wish to do our bit to help conserve a valuable resource. And for those concerned about carbon footprint, all that water is pumped electrically--and the biggest proportion of US electricity, nearly half of the total, is generated by the most carbon intensive method--burning coal. (You can read more about that at this link.)

And there's another motivation, too. Like any other device, toilets wear out. This is a great time to replace them, as many areas are offering subsidies to go to low flow units. In our case, we picked high efficiency units priced at $106. They are eligible for $100 rebates. (Enough said.)

So, what's the project like? Not too bad. Let's go step-by-step.

Image courtesy McGill & Wikipedia Commons.