Types Of Toilets
What your loo says about you
Most people buy their toilets directly from a plumbing contractor when building their home or from a local hardware store. As distasteful as it may be, there are many things to consider before settling on a toilet you’ll be counting on to get rid of your waste. Anyone who has installed a toilet with weak water flow will tell you about the frustrations of constant plunging or unsanitary overflow onto the bathroom floor. Anyone who has installed an inefficient toilet will tell you what it can do to your annual water bill.
Most types of toilets work using the same, fairly simple technology: When you flush a standard toilet, the handle pulls up a chain, which raises a flush valve, which releases at least two gallons (about 7.5 litres) of water from the tank into the bowl in about three seconds, which triggers the siphon to suck the contents of the bowl down the drain and into a sewer system or septic tank. Contrary to what some people think, the tank is not the most important part of the toilet’s technology. You could detach the tank and pour a two-gallon bucket of water into the bowl by hand and the toilet would still flush.
Most toilets are “gravity toilets”, meaning they use the weight and the height of the water in the tank to facilitate a flush. But a recent innovation on this design is the vacuum-assisted flush, which creates a vacuum that draws the water with more force into the bowl using the rim holes in the upper toilet bowl. This leads to a cleaner flush, but be wary of clogs: to unplug the bowl, you have to take the lid off and put your hand over an opening in the tank for the plunging action to work. The vacuum-assisted toilet also costs about $100 more than a gravity toilet.
Once you get past the general technology, toilets have several variations to meet specific consumer needs and concerns. The biggest thing to think about is the actual amount of water flow, from both a cost-effective and eco-friendly point of view. Thankfully, you no longer need to choose between a standard and a low-flow toilet. Dual-flush toilets, which have been used in Australia for several years, are now becoming available in North America.
There are also toilets that are tailored to those with special needs. The bidet, or “paperless toilet”, is growing in popularity among seniors who have found their mobility limited by their age. There are also several makes of toilets for the disabled that can be customized for a specific bathroom.
Maintenance is fairly standard across the board for most makes of toilets. Because the fundamental technology behind a toilet is simple, keeping your unit in good working order is not difficult. If you are one of the lucky ones who can afford a high-tech toilet, such as a bidet or Japanese toilet, it’s probably a good idea to find a trained plumber with the expertise to fix it should something go wrong instead of attempting it yourself.