This article was originally published in the March/April 1997 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online March/April 1997


The Toilets Conservationists Like Best

Modern-looking, low-consumption toilets such as this Toto brand have proven popular with conservation officials and residents alike.
The subject of consumer choice and toilet quality has become increasingly important since the Energy Policy Act (EPACT) set new national minimum-efficiency standards for water closets, showerheads, and faucets. These standards took effect in 1994.

Many communities in California, New York, and Florida have adopted financial incentives for the replacement of old toilets with low-consumption models. Low-consumption toilets consume only 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) compared to the 3.5 gpf toilets that became the standard during the early 1980s and the nominal 5 gpf toilets that preceded them.

Groups in Los Angeles and New York City have studied consumer satisfaction with low-consumption toilets. In June 1996, the Conservation Committee of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) decided that another useful perspective would be to ask water efficiency professionals who actually run conservation programs about their preferences in toilets.

Fifteen people--managers of water efficiency programs for water utilities, water efficiency consultants, and professional builders with experience in this area--responded to the survey. The survey is not necessarily statistically valid, and its conclusions should not be transferred to the general public. These are the views of people who hang around toilets a lot because of their profession. The survey asked only about gravity-flush tank-type toilets. The results for toilets are ranked in Table 1.

Table 1. Favorite Low-Consumption Toilets
Brand Points Average Score
(points/# of people mentioning)
Toto USA, Incorporated 81 9
Kohler Wellworth Lite 61 8.7
Western Pottery 26 8.7
American Standard Cadet/Colony 24 8
Sterling Windham 22 7.3
St. Thomas Marathon 21 7
Universal Rundle Atlas 21 7
Ifo Cascade 20 10
Total points depend on the rating provided by the respondent. #1 on someone's list received 10 points, #2 received 9 points, and so on.
The table lists only the top-ranking toilets. Others received one or two responses, but less than 15 total points. Pressurized-tank models are not included in the list. This more expensive, high-performance technology uses compressed air to provide a very powerful flush and allows the fixture to retain a large trapway. Four people mentioned various pressurized-tank models, and all four rated them as their favorite.

We also asked the same professionals to rank the showerheads they installed. These survey results are shown in Table 2.

I conducted the survey with John Olaf Nelson Water Resources Management in Petaluma, California. The survey should not be construed as an endorsement of these products by the American Water Works Association.

Consumer Surveys In both New York and Los Angeles, it isn't just water conservation professionals who like low consumption toilets. Consumers generally like them, as well. In 1993 and 1995, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) surveyed more than 7,000 people, primarily homeowners, about their satisfaction with nine popular gravity-flush tank toilets commonly found in the western United States. This survey dealt with Toto USA, Great WC Corporation, Western Pottery, Kohler, Universal Rundle, Kilgore/ Mansfield, Briggs, and Eljer. It found generally high satisfaction.

In 1995, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California surveyed several hundred end users. This survey covered the same models as the LADWP study, plus Sterling, American Standard, Norris, and St. Thomas Creations.

More recently, New York City's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) published a customer satisfaction survey of almost 1,000 homeowners, more than 7,000 apartment building tenants, several hundred licensed plumbers and several hundred apartment building owners. This 1996 survey covers toilets more common to New York, including Gerber and Crane gravity-flush tank and flushometer models, Toto USA, Peerless, American Standard, and Briggs.

The DEP consumer study is similar to the ones from Los Angeles, except that we surveyed more tenants. Homeowners, who made a voluntary decision to replace their toilet and will benefit from lower water and sewer bills, turned back far more positive responses than tenants, whose responses were mixed. Only 10% of homeowners say they double flush with any regularity, while about 40% of tenants say they do. Tenants may feel that the replacement was made by their landlord, and that they will not see any benefits. With small exceptions, there is no indication that the models installed in apartment buildings are of lower quality than those installed in homes; in most cases the models are the same.

Low-consumption showerheads were rated in an informal survey of conservation officials.

Table 2. Favorite Low-Flow Showerheads
Brand Points Weighted Score 
(points/# of people mentioning)
Niagara Earth 65 9.3
Energy Technology Labs Spa 39 9.8
A.M. Conservation Spoiler 34 8.5
Brasscraft massager 34 8.5
Resource Conservation Incredible Head 26 8.7
Niagara Prism 20 10
Teledyne Water Pik 19 9.5
Total points depend on the rating provided by the respondent. #1 on someone's list received 10 points, #2 received 9 points, and so on.
On the whole, the home owners and building managers are generally very satisfied, while tenants have mixed feelings. There is still evidence that tenants don't mind the toilets. Under New York City's Toilet Rebate Program, we require at least 70% of the toilets in apartment buildings to be replaced. About 50,000 apartment buildings have replaced their toilets under the program, and less than a dozen have faced enough tenant resistance to ask for a waiver of the 70% requirement.

To see whether the low-consumption toilets are having an effect, DEP has been tracking before and after water consumption in a sample of 39 retrofitted apartment buildings. In these buildings, water consumption has declined, on average, about 37%. Further, since we began this program in 1991, average daily water consumption in NYC has dropped by about 65-70 million gallons per day.

--Warren Liebold
Warren Liebold is director of conservation for the Bureau of Customer and Conservation Services at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Resources A Survey of Ultra-Low-Flush Toilet Users is available from LADWP Water Conservation Publications, Box 111, Room 1348, Los Angeles, CA 90051.

For the results of the Metropolitan Water District survey, contact William P. McDonnell, Public Affairs and Conservation Division, Metropolitan Water District, P.O. Box 54153, Los Angeles, CA 90054-0153.

For a copy of the New York consumer study, contact: Warren Liebold, Director of Conservation, Bureau of Customer and Conservation Services, 13th Fl., New York City Department of Environmental Protection, 59-17 Junction Blvd., Corona, New York 11368-5107. E-mail:


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