What Is a Low-Flow Toilet?

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New white toilet (Photo: @TatianaMara via Twenty20)
Low-flow toilets have a few great benefits, such as saving you money on your water bill, as well as being environmentally friendly. Also called low-flush toilets or high-efficiency toilets, flow-flow toilers have some decided downsides, too. Their use of less water can sometimes require more than one flush. Of course, this defeats the purpose of having a low-flow toilet in the first place.
Fortunately, today’s low-flush toilets are more efficient when it comes to ridding your toilet bowl of waste. Add in the bigger selection of available toilet types compared to when they were first introduced, and low-flush and efficient toilets easily become a viable option for many environmentally conscious homes.
Here’s what you should know about the different types of water-saving toilets available, and what to look for when buying one.

What Is a Low-Flow Toilet?

Low-flow toilets first saw use in the U.S. in the 1990s. Current low-flush toilets use less water, 1.2 gallons when flushing, compared to more conventional toilets, which tend to use 1.6 gallons of water per flush. This can lead to a lower water bill and is better for the environment.
Problems arose in the early days of low-flush toilet technology when users complained of the need to flush more than once to rid the toilet bowl of waste. Better design has allowed modern-day low-flush toilets to live up to their original intended design.

Types of Low-Flow Toilets

When purchasing a low-flow toilet, you basically have two designs to choose from: gravity-flush and pressure-assisted toilets.
Gravity-flush toilets use gravity as their primary means of disposing of waste materials in the toilet’s bowl. In simple terms, when you press the flushing knob, a flush valve opens, allowing the waste material to exits the bowl, with the help of water flushed into the bowl via the rim jets.
Easier to maintain than a pressure-assisted toilet, homeowners usually run into problems when the drainage system in their home is inadequate to remove the waste from the toilet, requiring multiple flushes. Less expensive than a pressure-assisted toilet, gravity-flush toilets are the most common of the two types.
Pressure-assisted toilets account for poor drainage in a home by using pressurized water to help with waste removal from the toilet bowl. Much louder than a gravity-flush toilet, pressure-assisted toilets also find common use in many commercial businesses.
More expensive than a gravity-flush toilet, pressure-assisted toilets are nonetheless the most efficient of the low-flow toilet types. Plus, a pressure-assisted toilet uses as little as .8 gallons of water, meaning even more savings on your water bill.

What to Look for When Buying a Low-Flow Toilet

If you do decide to purchase a low-flow toilet, you should base your decision of which one to purchase on a few factors. These factors could help determine how well your low-flush toilet performs. Consider the following:
How much waste the toilet removes: Waste removal is the single most important factor when buying a low-flush toilet, as having to flush multiple times means your toilet is less efficient. Your best bet is to look for models marked as “high efficient” and with a WaterSense label.
The amount of noise the toilet makes: A noisy toilet flushes the same as one that’s not as loud, it just makes more noise while doing so. Look for a toilet that’s marked as Quiet Flush for less noise and more satisfaction.
The toilet’s overall design: Design is also an important factor. Taller toilets that are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act tend to work better when it comes to waste removal. This is because the water must travel further to exit the toilet, giving it more time to clear the waste.