Toilet Running? How to Avoid Flushing Money Down the Drain
Is your toilet running? Sure, it’s an annoyance. But more importantly, a running toilet is a major waste of water — and money.
The toilet accounts for nearly 30 percent of all the indoor water used in the average household.
With costs of water rising 33 percent since 2010, that kind of inefficiency is something for all homeowners to think about. But at a time when California and other parts of the western United States are suffering through crippling droughts, a lot of precious water is literally being flushed down the drain.
It’s not like there’s enough water to go around to begin with — only 1 percent of all water around the world is suitable for human use.
The city of Wichita Falls, TX, which has been experiencing three years of an extreme drought, is serious about not letting toilet water go to waste. The city built a 13-mile pipeline connecting its water treatment plant to a separate plant that purifies water to make it potable for human use. In other words, what the people of Wichita Falls flush down their drains will eventually return to their faucets.
There are other solutions for homeowners to reduce their “water footprint” and make the toilet clean up its act, so to speak.
The toilets of olden days required a lot of water to flush down solid and liquid waste — as much as six gallons a flush. Over time, federal regulations lowered the amount of water that could be used per flush to 1.6 gallons. New technologies have helped bring that down even further, and they’re easy for any homeowner to find on the market.
Dual Flush Toilets
Dual-flush toilets come with two different levers — one for liquids (which uses 1.1 gallons per flush), one for solids (up to 1.6 gallons) — and can save up to 20,000 gallons a year. While these toilets can cost up to $300, they eventually end up saving homeowners money by lowering their water bills.
Pressure-assisted toilets use pressurized air to force water into the bowl as it is flushed. While this has been known to cause fewer clogs, pressure-assisted toilets can be costly (over $500 in some cases) and loud.
As the name suggests, a waterless toilet doesn’t even use water. These toilets separate solids from liquids through specially designed bins, in which the resulting waste is composted and re-used in the backyard. This can also come at a steep price — upwards of $2000.
For those who don’t want to replace their older toilets, there are multiple options to retrofit older ones.
- Water displacement bags, which are plastic bladder bags filled with water and placed inside the toilet tank, can reduce water usage by 0.5 gallon a flush.
- Early closure toilet flappers save water by closing the flush valve while there is still water in the tank.
- Toilet fill cycle diverters work to direct more water to the tank and less to the toilet bowl, and can save nearly 0.5 gallon of water per flush.
- A leaking toilet can be a killer when it comes to wasting water and inflating your water bill. To help keep homeowners on their toes, there are toilet leak detectors that keep tabs on the toilet and sound an alarm when the toilet stops working or overflows. Of course, the easier way is for people to personally check up on all toilets regularly for leaks.
Despite these retrofitting devices, people would be better off buying a new toilet, says Karen Guz, director of conservation for the San Antonio Water System in Texas.
“Those older toilets were designed to do their jobs with a fair amount of water, and so you may not clear everything through your pipes successfully without all that water,” says Guz.
This can lead to clogged drain lines and overflowing toilets, which wastes more water in the process.
The choice is yours. You can always buy a new toilet, or configure an older one to use less water.