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Energy COOL: Searching for the Perfect Flush

November 1st, 2009 · 1 Comment

Since diving into the deep end when it comes to energy issues, almost every day sees new fascinating concepts, approaches, and technologies. Fascinating … exciting … even hope inspiring at times. And, as well, as the passion builds, so many of these are truly Energy COOL.

Humanity has treated natural resources as boundless. And, we are facing the reality of limits. Peak Oil. The ‘end of frontier’. Global Warming. And, that most endless of resources, the freshwater that falls from the sky, water is not boundless.

One of Rome’s great contributions to humanity, the toilet has not truly gone a long way in the past several thousands of years. While ever-fancier options abound, the truth remains that, amid all of our uses of fresh water, one of the more wasteful is the use of perfectly good drinking water for flushing away our bodily wastes. There are a number of paths to cut into this, from the aggressive (from changed behavior (”if its yellow, let it mellow“) to using saw dust and an old bucket for a toilet) to introducing technology that has a shocking impact on some people’s sensibilities (waterless urinals or combining sinks with toilets) to the moderate and more socially acceptable replacing of an inefficient toilet with a more efficient new one. Thus, for quite literally millenia, humanity has long searched for that perfect flushing away of the detritus of our meals.

And, the search has a reason. Toilets represent just about 10 percent of the average household water use and in the range of 30 percent of the indoor use. The average person uses about 18 gallons, per day, day-in, day-out, for flushing toilets. That adds up — to some 6 billion gallons per day in the US alone. And, remember, that water has been cleaned and transported to the home to then be flushed. And, there are systems-of-systems implications: realize that, for example, about 20 percents of California’s electricity goes to cleaning and transporting water.

The very first rule: reduce. Every gallon less used means less electricity, less demands on the system, less impact on the environment …

For a number of years, I’ve noted double button toilets on trips. While not solving the issue of using drinking water for flushing toilets, they offer a quick path for providing a more responsible choice to that waste elimination. Sigh … I’d already changed my old 4 gallon toilets for 1.6 gallon ones and wasn’t about to go and spend $600 or so on installing toilets with the double-flush feature. Well, Brondell came around and introduced a product to scratch my itch for more responsible flushing. The Perfect Flush is a double-flush system that can be back fitted on nearly every home toilet out there. (If you have a flapperless/pressure assist toilet, the Perfect Flush isn’t for you.)

It took about 40 minutes, from reading the package to first ‘trail’ use, to transform the main 1.6 gallon toilet into a double-flush toilet. After a few uses, with some playing around, the ‘half-flush’ button delivers about 35% of normal flush and cleans out that ‘mellowing yellow’ while the ‘full flush’ handles more serious loads. The handle on the side of the toilet is now ‘decorative’, with the buttons on the top of the tank now controlling the flush. And, the majority of the time, the ‘half-flush’ is getting hit.

As with a “Prius” or solar panels or having an urban farm, the Perfect Flush satisfies on multiple levels. The button provides a conscious choice as to one’s water use and a reminder that we, each, can affect the total use of resources via even the smaller of actions and choices. It is
a tool for conversation and teaching the kids that options exist to more responsibly use resources.  And, in our household, we’ve installed the Perfect Flush in the toilet which guests are most likely to use.  We have yet to have a visitor come down saying “how do you flush the toilet” but have had several ask “That’s great. … How much water does it save … Where did you get it?”

For about $94, the Perfect Flush [UPDATE -- recommended retail price reduced to $79] provides a quick path to cutting toilet bowl water usage. Reportedly, 9 of 10 toilet ‘calls’ don’t require a full flush.  Assuming a 50% reduction in your tank, installing a Perfect Flush offers a quick path to cut toilet water use by 45 percent. Installed nationwide, that translates to about a 15% cut in indoor water use and 5% in total water use.

To be honest, with efficient toilets in place and relatively inexpensive water bills, the fiscal return-on-investment for installing The Perfect Flush can be a hard case to make. (It looks to be, in my situation, with a highly efficient water household already, something like a 10 year payback. To make an assumption, this toilet is used perhaps 60 times per week (with family plus visitors) or about 3000 times per year. That translates to about 2500 gallons less / year or roughly $9 in savings at the local $3.69 per 1000 gallons.) On the other hand, if you have older toilets and/or higher rates, The Perfect Flush offers an interesting option for introducing some degree of water efficiency at a relatively low cost, with a faster payback, compared to replacing old toilets. And, in that case, there is not the waste issue of sending those old toilets to the dump.

And, there are other situations where this might make more sense.

  • If you’re a renter (especially one paying utility bills) and the rental property has old toilets, you can install The Perfect Flush, cut down significantly on water use from the get go, and take it with you when you move on to your next property.
  • If you have a high traffic toilet (that shared family toilet; an office toilet; a public toilet; …), then The Perfect Flush might be a fast path for real reductions in water use. (Whether with an old, inefficient toilet or a new efficient one.)

Over all, The Perfect Flush is a nice addition to the comfortable home abode. For me, an Energy COOL gadget lover, this is a ‘fun’ toy. And, while it doesn’t necessarily make perfect sense for my household on financial terms (e.g., not perfect cents), it is easy to see that it could make sense for many others as a tool to cut costs and to help make a drop in America’s water problems.

Disclosure: At request, Brondell provided a Perfect Flush for review purposes.

Tags: Energy · eco-friendly · energy cool · energy efficiency · environmental · water

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Andrea Paulinelli // Nov 30, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Toilets account for approx. 30% of water used indoors. By installing a Dual Flush toilet you can save between 40% and 70% of drinking water being flushed down the toilet, depending how old the toilet is you are going to replace.
    If you are serious about saving water, want a toilet that really works and is affordable, I highly recommend installing a Dual Flush toilet. Caroma toilets offer a patented dual flush technology consisting of a 0.8 Gal flush for liquid waste and a 1.6 Gal flush for solids. On an average of 5 uses a day (4 liquid/ 1 solid) a Caroma Dual Flush toilet uses an average of 0.96 gallons per flush. The new Sydney Smart uses only 1.28 and 0.8 gpf, that is an average of 0.89 gallons per flush. This is the lowest water consumption of any toilet available in the US. Caroma, an Australian company set the standard by giving the world its first successful two button dual flush system in the nineteen eighties and has since perfected the technology. Also, with a full 3.5? trapway, these toilets virtually never clog. All of Caroma’s toilets are on the list of WaterSense labeled HET’s (High Efficiency toilets) http://www.epa.gov/watersense/pp/find_het.htm and also qualify for several toilet rebate programs available in the US. Please visit my blog http://pottygirl.wordpress.com/2008/08/01/what-you-should-know-about-toilets/
    to learn more or go to http://www.caromausa.com to learn where you can find Caroma toilets locally. Visit http://www.ecotransitions.com/howto.asp to see how we flush potatoes with 0.8 gallons of water, meant for liquids only. Best regards, Andrea Paulinelli

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