The product of intensive, computer-driven engineering, today's low-flow toilet is a far cry from its much-reviled predecessors. Both market and regulatory forces have urged manufacturers forward, with consumers demanding performance and municipalities pushing efficiency standards ever lower in the face of mounting water conservation and waste treatment challenges. With the recent introduction of the High Efficiency Toilet standard (a high efficiency toilet is defined as one that uses at least 20% less water than a 1.6-gallon model), manufacturers have set a new target for performance.
In the pressure-assist sphere, says Rob Zimmerman, senior staff engineer at Kohler, performance has never been an issue. “The big drawback has been that it's really loud,” he says. By re-engineering water flow, Zimmerman says manufacturers have been able to couple power with efficiency at a significantly lower volume, using less water to provide quiet, effective flushes. Kohler's Highline pressure-assist model now operates on just 1.1 gallons per flush (gpf), qualifying it as a High Efficiency Toilet. “The 1.1 and 1.4 are much quieter,” than their predecessors, Zimmerman says, “and that makes them much more attractive for the homeowner.”
Gerber's new 1.1-gpf Ultra Flush is another pressure-assist model that meets high efficiency standards. “We've maximized the location and direction of flow and minimized the change of direction, making the water flow as smooth as possible,” Gerber's Kevin McJoynt says. “It's an exercise in hydrodynamics.”
Gravity-fed toilets are exploiting the potential of high-level engineering, too. American Standard's new FloWise, an extension of its gravity-fed Champion line, redirects water flow in the bowl to gain more power from less water. The result is a 1.28-gpf toilet that qualifies for high efficiency rebates. The key to this model, says American Standard product director James Walsh, is a self-closing tower that seals automatically. “No matter how long you hold down the lever,” Walsh says, “the tower never allows more than 1.28 gallons to be released.” Engineering isn't only improving flush performance. Toto's Double Cyclone system, a gravity-fed 1.6-gpf engine available in the company's new Soiree line, harnesses hydrodynamic power to help with maintenance. Each flush fires two targeted jets of water, one after the other, that in combination both amplify the siphoning action and help clean the bowl.
Look Ma, No Flapper!
Niagara Conservation's Flapperless Toilet reduces the gravity-fed flush model to its essential elements. The New Jersey company's patented system simply holds water in a 1.6-gallon bucket and spills the bucket over into the bowl when the exterior lever is pushed. “The big concept is that we took out all the seals that cause a toilet to leak,” says Niagara's executive vice president Carl Weihmeyer. And the Flapperless is durable, Weihmeyer says, because the pivot that tips the bowl is one of the few moving parts. The Flapperless was also designed for easy retrofitting, sized to fill the footprint and wall coverage of a traditional 5-gallon fixture. www.niagaraconservation.com.
Kitchens have become the focal point of many households, and as a result, homeowners are looking for increased pantry space, have a preference for high-end appliances and features, and have a desire to integrate the kitchen with family space.
Bathrooms are increasingly being designed with more room for separate or double vanities and include upscale products such as multi-head showers, steam showers, and heated floors and towel racks. These findings are from the American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey for the fourth quarter of 2005. The survey of 600 architecture firms is conducted quarterly. Listed at right are the most popular features and products.