I must confess – I have a tendency to procrastinate. If something is minimally working, I am very reluctant to replace it. Our HVAC system died a few years ago and I still haven’t gotten a new one. Luckily, we live in a moderate part of the country and we can make do with our kotatsu table and portable heaters in winter, and going to the pool in summer. I will try to get it fixed before next winter, but it’s not urgent.
Recently, I found out about the $50 Toilet rebate program from the city of Portland. This gave me the little push I needed to replace some toilets. Our rental duplex has two ancient toilets which probably use 6 gallons per flush. The tank is huge on those toilets! Another strange thing is the uncomfortable rectangular seats. I have never seen that before so it must be really old or really special. Anyway, the real incentive is to save water and reduce our water bill. The water bill is higher than I’d like so replacing the 6 gpf toilets with the new high-efficiency 1.28 gpf models would help quite a bit.
Let’s calculate the cost of water here just for fun. Our water cost about 1 penny for 2 gallons. We’ll call it 3 cents per flush. At 8 flushes per day (2 toilets), the water would cost about $88 per year. That’s not a lot of money, but the toilet should last many years. Before I inconvenient our tenants, I thought I’d try one at home first.
Would a 1.28 gpf Toilets work?
We have 1.6 gpf toilets at home and they are crap. (Sorry, couldn’t resist…) I’m sure the ones we have are the cheapest 1.6 gpf toilets the contractors could find. They often need to be double flushed and our OXO plunger gets frequent workouts. The OXO plunger is really awesome and I highly recommend it, but I’d rather not use it if at all possible. Also, one of the 1.6 gpf has been emitting a high pitched whine whenever the water is filling the tank. I probably need to at least replace the hardware in the tank, so we might as well put in a better toilet.
Could a 1.28 gpf toilet work better than what we already have? After all, there is no replacement for displacement, right? I spent a couple of weeks researching 1.28 gpf toilets and found that people generally dislike them. It sounds like the same story as the 1.6 gpf we already have – frequent double flushes and plugged toilets. However, there are some new toilet technologies that improve the flush.
- Pressure assisted flush – The tank has a bladder which forces the water down the bowl. This gives it more flushing power. These toilets are more expensive and probably require more maintenance than the regular gravity powered toilets. Also, your water pressure must be over 25 psi for the bladder to work properly.
- Better gravity flush – The flushing mechanism is improved in various ways. The flush valve has been getting larger to enable better flushing. The new swirling flush is also better than the old water holes.
Eventually, I settled on the recently released American Standard VorMax toilet. The tank has two flush valves and the promotional video looks good. One valve goes to the bottom of the bowl to push the stuff out and the other valve creates a powerful swirling action to clean the bowl. This is one of the most expensive toilets at Home Depot, but we really want to retire our beloved OXO plunger. I decided to install the toilet myself because we potentially have 5 toilets to replace. We’d save a bundle at $140 per installation.
5 hours later
I did some research on YouTube and it looks like a 5 minute job. You just need to put the wax ring on the bottom of the toilet, flip it over, and install the tank. Looks easy enough.
It took us 5 hours from start to finish… This included the lunch break and 3 trips to the hardware stores (yes, plural). We picked up the toilet and water supply line on the first trip. We unpacked everything and laid them out. As I started to remove the old toilet, I found that cutting the old caulk was rather difficult. I drove to the hardware store to pick up a bottle of caulk remover and that helped soften up the old caulk. Then I was able to cut the caulk with a utility knife and pry the old toilet loose. Getting the old caulk out was the hardest part of the whole project. It took a lot of time and elbow grease to get the caulk out.
The actual toilet installation probably took about 15 minutes. We assembled the toilet and got it bolted down with no problem. I had to run to the hardware store again because I got the wrong water supply line. So that’s 5 hours of work. I’m sure the next one will be much quicker, hopefully 2 hours at the most.
Nice touches from American Standard
- No tools required – This package includes the wax ring and various nuts and bolts. You can hand tighten the bolts with the included plastic tool so you don’t even need a wrench. Well, you need tools to remove the old toilets. Water supply line not included.
- Comfort height – 16.5” height. A bit higher than the old standard 15” seats. Most new toilets are 16.5” now. This is a bit too high for our little guy so we’ll keep the other less problematic 1.6 gpf toilet for now.
- Slow lid closure – No more slamming the lids.
- Clean curve rim design – The toilet doesn’t have those small water holes and hidden curve. It looks good and should be easier to clean.
- Comfortable seat – Don’t have to buy a new seat.
- 10 years warranty
So did the toilet work as advertised? The answer is YES! It’s only been two days, but we loved it. The flush is much better than our old toilet and I don’t foresee a lot of action for the OXO plunger in the future. American Standard has a winner here.
If you’re thinking about replacing the old throne with a new HE model, check out the American Standard VorMax. The next project will be to replace the old 6 gpf toilets at our rental duplex. It should pay for itself in a few years. Water efficiency is a good thing.
Do you have any upcoming DIY projects?
Video from American Standard below.
For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.
Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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