Toilet Replacement

Making a Toilet Replacement Project Successful

Replacing older toilets with new ultra low flush models can provide dramatic water savings, but making the switch successfully takes a little know how.

The following tips on successfully replacing older toilets with water-saving ULF models are excerpted from the Water Efficiency Manual for Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional Facilities, a joint publication of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Land of Sky Regional Council. Access the complete publication, which features detailed descriptions of the different types of toilets on the market.

The manual notes early versions of ultra low flush toilets were associated with performance problems, but more recent models feature design improvements that get the job done.

ULF toilets also provide considerable water savings compared with older toilets. While ULF toilets use a maximum of just 1.6 gallons per flush, most toilets manufactured from the late 1970s to early 1990s use 3.5 gpf and even older models use up to 7 gpf. Most 1.6 gpf replacements have a payback period of less than four years.

Factors to Consider

When installing new ULF fixtures, here are a few factors to consider:
  • Ask about guarantees and returns, especially for future leak problems.
  • Ask for references from the building manager, plumbers, or other users who have installed newer toilet models.
  • Base decisions on the current models. Many design improvements continue to be made.
  • Carefully choose toilet type depending on use level and the potential for misuse.
  • Choose a licensed plumber or contractor.
  • High cost does not automatically mean better performance.
  • Know your sewer infrastructure. Older cast iron types with a larger diameter (4 inch and 6 inch) may have more problems transporting waste with 1.6 gallons. Substandard wastewater pipe grading should be addressed before installing water efficient toilets. Make sure the building's water pressure is adequate if switching from a gravity-type to flushometer or pressurized tank toilets. Usually, 25 to 35 pounds per square inch or more at the toilet is required for pressure-dependent systems.
  • Listen to noise levels of the model you are considering.
  • Plan for the legal disposal of old toilets. Consult your local solid waste authority for recycling options or disposal requirements.
  • Replace highest-use toilets first to achieve the quickest payback.
  • ULF toilets cannot be used as trash cans. If flushing trash is a problem at the facility, employee education with the new toilet installation is necessary.