A green product worth recommending

Readers of WUWT know that while I have my doubts about the magnitude of AGW and express skepticism and sometimes outright disdain for certain green schemes and products, some of which work about as well as the photo at left, I’ll push a good idea when I see it.

Readers have also seen when I embrace and recommend practical products, especially when the save energy and resources and can pay for themselves. This is one of those products.

Last year when I was touring Australia, I marveled at a  simple piece of engineering designed to save water, something obviously necessary in Australia as weather/rainfall patterns differ. It was a simple case of “necessity was the mother of invention”. Living in California, that also has water problems (but not this year) I thought to myself, it would be a great thing to bring back to the USA. Unfortunately I had not the time or resources to develop it myself.

What was this that had me so intrigued? Well, to tell you the truth, I found myself taking apart a toilet in a hotel room in Emerald and photographing the workings. Why? Read on.

Where I live in Chico, California, we depend on ground water wells. Unfortunately, the water table has steadily dropped over the last 150 years as the town has grown, and even though there are years of upticks in recharge, the overall trend is down. Water saving plans that have been suggested include the ubiquitous “brick or water bottles in the toilet tank” suggestion as seen below.

But, given that California hasn’t built any new water storage facilities in 30+ years, the suggestions ring hollow.

What I found in Emerald Australia (and all over Australia I later found) is now available here, and not only saves water, but money too. It’s a win-win. I looked for this product for over a year and when I found it this month on Amazon.com I bought one, installed it and  tried it myself, and I’m more than pleased with the result, hence my recommendation.

What is it? A retrofit dual flush system for toilet tanks. Low flow for #1, Full flow for #2.

Yeah I know, it’s hard to get excited about that, except when you do the math and realize how much water and money you are flushing down the toilet needlessly each day. Here in California they get you coming and going. Water use and sewer use, plus loads of taxes and tiers if you go beyond expected usage. Besides watering lawns and taking showers, there’s very little else where water use can be conserved . The toilet is an obvious choice since it gets heavy use.

The problem with the old flush toilet is the mechanism, which is a “one flush fits all” design that hasn’t much changed in the last 100 years. Here’s a typical toilet tank setup.

Note the red flapper, that’s where this new product fits in.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works:

  1. The flapper is removed, the handle and chain are removed
  2. A new all-in-one float valve unit is attached to the flapper post and seated onto the flapper seal.
  3. A new two button flush button replaces the handle, and a remote cable (like an emergency brake cable) goes to the new all-in-one float valve unit.

Install takes under 10 minutes, no tools required, and it works as advertised. The design for retrofit is dirt simple. After getting the first one, and seeing how well it worked, I bought three more for my home and office.

Here’s a pictorial of what it looks like:

Here’s a video from the company about it. There a bit of sensationalism in the imagery, but otherwise it is accurate based on my experience with the product.

Here’s the product flyer:

The kit is pretty simple, and assembles without any need for tools. Pictorial instructions in English and Spanish are provided.

Price? Less than $20, and at that price it will pay for itself in a few months, depending on usage. This system is guaranteed for five years, so I’m pretty sure I’ll not only get my investment back, but a significant return on it. Plus, my kids like it and they were fascinated watching dad replace this thing and now having a pushbutton 1/2 instead of a handle.

Want one? Available here at Amazon Get it, highly recommended.

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dearieme

These things are common in Britain (the east side of which is a dry country).

Alan Ogden

Made in the UK by Fluidmaster. I’ve had one for several years now and the product can be found in most DIY outlets. What I don’t understand is how it works, how does the ‘dial amount’ function on the flap valve? All I know is that it just works very well.

Patrick Kelly

Qquite surprised to learh that this is a novelty in the States. Not only have they been around for years in Australia but they are compulsory for new installations.

Chris Korvin

I have one of these new fangled water saving toilets. It works just fine except for one thing…I have to flush 2 or 3 times to clear the bowl. Not a success.

Shevva

Until he number 2 button breaks and your left pushing the number 1 button until number 2 disappears.

shortie of greenbank

In Oz before the dual flush we also had a saying:
If its yellow let it mellow
If its brown flush it down
I grew up on tank supplied water and given the sometimes less than drenching rain you can get you make do with less as usual. The dual flush has been in Australia since the 70s I believe (it wasn’t until I moved out of home in the 90s that I had a home with one though). There are also those that have hand basins on top of the toilet so you wash your hands after using the toilet and refil the cistern while you are at it… dual use, dual flush toilets!

Ken Hall

The problem I have found is not how much water is used in a flush, but the design of bowls which leave a “dead” area in the middle of the bowl where water merely rotates like a ball and anything caught there does not get flushed away. I am exasperated at the number of times I have used toilets and when I flush having to wait and watch a ball of paper go round and round and round and not go anywhere. This requires several flushes or the application of a bucket of water down the bowl.
You can have all the clever technology in the world, but if the water does not flush the effluence away, what is the point?

Les Johnson

This is very common in Austria, Germany and the former Yugoslavia. I did not realize how easy it was to change, though.
Thanks, Anthony, I will buy some for my house, as I am flush with cash right now…
ouch….

I have one in UK but my very young children can no longer use the flush because it takes a huge amount of finger pressure, so I give it a fail.

JK

I can’t believe you haven’t heard of these in the USA. These are common in normal toilet seats in Finland, two buttons on top for different amounts of water. No need for any DIY stuff.

Leon Brozyna

Well, that’s a sight better than that California motto, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” Who thought that one up? A man? His wife probably just loved him for that one, as she probably got stuck with cleaning the never clean toilet bowl.

James of the West

My dual flush toilet was installed in 1998 and I havent had to take the lid off my cistern yet and i have 4 people using it daily…I’d say they are quite reliable.

Steve H

Anthony – it’s a good idea if used correctly. Problems do arise when you see that a number 1 flush can remove a number two! Solids NEED a much larger volume of water to travel down the sewer and not stop – leading to blockages in the future and the services of a plumber.

David, UK

Yeah, these things are commonplace in the UK. Must admit, I always just use the larger flush. The smaller one seems a bit wimpy, and I don’t want my bathroom stinking of urine. Maybe this fear is unfounded?
What a lovely thread to read whilst eating my breakfast.

Bloke down the pub

Versions I have seen work on the syphon principle and just have an extra vent hole in the side of the unit to break the syphon earlier when short flush is selected.

Jack Savage

Amusing, is it not?
Swathes of green legislation are proposed but simple devices that actually work are for the most part ignored.
Not that we should ever really suffer from a shortage of water in rainy England, even in the crowded South East where I live.
I would however like to mention that these devices (although not necessarily the brand you are showing, with which I am unfamiliar) are frequently quite fragile compared with the sturdy copper float and brass fittings I grew up with…or better still the now vanishing mighty clanking cast iron overhead masterpieces devised by the great Thos.Crapper.
Technology and foresight ought to be able to bring us over-abundant supplies of clean water by now.

jamie

Pretty much all new toilets in the UK have dual flush capability. Not sure if the mechanism is the same in all, but very similar.

John B

Have these in my loos in France.
Note: over (not very long) time the O ring at the bottom of the flush mechanism can allow water to leak away – imperceptibly at first and defeating the object of the installation.

We recently redid our bathroom and spent an awful lot of time sitting on toilets in shops. Unfortunately, as soon as you start looking, you realise that some idiot (in Brussels no doubt) has decreed that all new toilets will be “narrow throat” designs. Without putting too fine a point on it, these are far more likely to block that the tranditional wider mouth U bend with a smooth interior and a large flush.
Eventually, we decided that our original 1960s toilet was perfectly up to the job … although I could never persuade my wife to replace the toilet seat with a blue LED illuminated device …. !!
RECYCLING
Whilst on the throne … I once applied for a job at a sewerage plant and was fortunate enough to get a tour around the plant. What struck me was that despite the huge amount of heavy equipment, they were a large exported of electricity. Apparently all that waste was a huge contributor to “renewables”.
So, ever since I’ve got into the habit of throwing lots and lots of food waste into the loo on the basis that (assuming our local sewerage plant also has the sense to generate electricity from waste), the food would do a lot more good composting at the sewerage plant and producing electricity, than composting in our garden and … producing worms and flies.
Now, I’ve absolutely no authority for suggesting that food waste should be flushed down the loo … but it clearly does make sense … and must be the simplest way possible to recycle. I SUPPOSE IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE BASIC LAW OF “GREENWASH” …. THE SEWERAGE COMPANIES HAVE A MONOPOLY AND SEE WASTE AS A HASSLE …. AND NO ONE ELSE CAN MAKE MONEY OUT OF IT …. SO AS NO ONE MAKES MONEY THERE’S NO COMPANY THERE TO TELL US THAT IT’S “GREEN”!

Espen

Our modern European toilet at home has an even simpler mechanism: Push to flush, push to stop.

Dominik

We’ve had those in Germany for many years and except some really old installations, a “save water” option is standard in our toilets. Seems America is pretty good at ignoring certain issues. As you said, there are actually good “green” inventions.

stephen richards

France has had them for a long time certainly before les britanniques. We get long periods without any rain at all and a lot of our water comes from the rivers. Where I live in SW France the soil is a clay-sand mix which seriously damages pumps trying to lift water from the nappe. They do have a tendency to fail regularly although mine have been good fro some 9 years.

Les Francis

Australia not only has compulsory dual flush cisterns but now a government mandated bowl swilling system.
The flushing system has been designed to flush the bowls in a Whirlpool” effect.
Many high rise building managements in an effort to “appear” to have green credentials are now using “no flush” urinals. (of course the laws of unintended consequences have been in action and sewage systems that rely on a designed amount of water flow are causing problems with the reduced flushing).
AGW proponents are fully alive and kicking in all Australian levels of government. (As is Agenda 21).
And as an aside. Australia has plenty of water, it’s just badly mismanaged and distributed

Noelene

Blocked pipe is what I ended up with after installing a dual flush toilet(it was the cheapest available,so that may have made a difference)I just use the heaviest flush now,as the light flush does not clear everything away.I think I use more water now,as I quite often have to flush after others have used the toilet.

Coldish

Mm, OK, but you’ll use less water and if you are charged via a meter reading your water bills will drop. Maybe not so good for the water companies. Here in Germany I can’t recall seeing a single-flush toilet since many years. But then our water is supplied by the city council who have an interest in conserving the resource.

Philip Bradley

something obviously necessary in Australia as weather/rainfall patterns differ.
Its a common misconception that Australia lacks water. A misconception actively propagated by the media.
In fact Australia has more water available per capita than all but 2 countries in the world (Russia and Iceland from memory).
A few years back I flew over the Fitzroy river here in the north of Western Australia during the rainy season and I estimate it was at least 3 kilometers wide.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

This reinforces my long-held belief that if people were really serious about water conservation, houses would have both toilets and urinals. Not only is water saved (and waterless urinals are available), but there’s little debate about who in the family has to clean the urinal. Although, according to the Wikipedia urinal entry, functional urinals for women are available, it’s basically a cultural issue to get women used to using them. Since men can piss into a tin can on a chair, the “female” urinal should work for both sexes.
Instead, as found in places “facing future dramatic global warming-caused water shortages” like the People’s Republic of California, a “modern and upscale” addition is a water-using bidet, or a fancy computerized toilet with a built-in bidet function. Gee, between the warnings of (C)AGW-induced droughts and Greens decrying the loss of trees, I would have expected the emergence of the Environmentally Correct ™ solution of scrubbing your butt clean with “recyclable” sand. Of course that comes with the problem of convincing the cats that’s your tray on the floor, not their’s.

ozspeaksup

Stephen richards says:
June 14, 2011 at 2:47 am
France has had them for a long time certainly before les britanniques. We get long periods without any rain at all and a lot of our water comes from the rivers. Where I live in SW France the soil is a clay-sand mix which seriously damages pumps trying to lift water from the nappe. They do have a tendency to fail regularly although mine have been good fro some 9 years.==========
steven try another REAL Aussie invention.called a Brumby Pump no parts to clag up even in strong saline bore waters. uses compressed air
On the LOO issue, I asked adelkaide water why? they didnt promote WaterLESS loos more,
answer..
their system needs water to work, if you dont keep pumping water in they cant keep pipe pressures up.
stupid!
I save laundry wash water in buckets and use that, not paying insane prices for purple pump(recycle) systems.
whats loopier is the requirement for clean Rainwater to be used for ;loos and lawns and laundry,( you only get the “rebate” if its plumbed to such use) while we are supposed to drink Fluoride and chlorinated gunk.

Girma

Here is a nice schematic diagram on how a toilet works: http://bit.ly/mjEOjD

I put 4 dual flush toilets in my new house in 2007. I have had to replace 3 of the 4 with toilets with a regular single flush design because they failed – the filling got incredibly slow. The fourth is a seldom used toilet in a spare bedroom en suite. They probably were cheap Chinese toilets, but nonetheless I am a bit suspicious of the technology for reliability. I’d echo the point that the kids have a hard time pressing the buttons.
Anyway, in Ireland saving a few litres of water per flush isn’t the issue it is elsewhere and thankfully the EU law banning other than dual flushers has not yet come into effect.

dave ward

I also get exasperated by modern toilets failing to flush the more “Stubborn” deposits in one go. The reason is quite simple – insufficient head of water. We still have an old fashioned wall mounted cistern in our utility room toilet, and the 5 foot drop produces a torrent of water at the bowl. There is no comparison with any modern “low level” unit!! It only has a single flush mechanism – a dual flush conversion would be useless as it’s far too high to reach. However it has the cheap and easy brick installed to reduce water usage…

Kelvin Vaughan

Most rural French men save even more water by using the hedge in the garden.

Chilli

Or alternatively, you could just piss in the sink.

Mike McMillan

Ah, that must be why the Western-style toilets in Japan have the Kanji symbols for ‘big’ and ‘little’ next to the flush handle.

Brian R

I first saw these at Costco about 2 months ago. As I don’t have the required parts inside my tanks, I haven’t bought any. Seems like a good idea. Here in the Denver area, we have often had water rationing. Not to the same level and southern California, but rationing non the less.

John Marshall

Well, all the blogs above just show how far behind the US is with toilet design.
You can also work on the principle- If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down. This saves water without buying the selectable flush.

Jenn Oates

Every toilet I saw in Norway last year was of this type. Some had large buttons, which might help out with the small child problem?

Stacey

Anthony
I am glad to see that in future you will be flush with cash? 😉

alex

I haven’t seen single-handle flushers in Germany for ages. I believe, they were forbidden long ago.
There are two-button flushes here at least since the wall broke.

Dave N

Another idea in the toilet…

derspatz

Meh to dual flush. You know why ? Coz in my experience women seem to think that nothing they “do” out of their delicate little lower area deserves a “full flush”. Result ? Sewer system regularly blocked (especially at certain times of the month) and not at just one property. Solution ? The cunning use of a self-tapper screw underneither the “dual flush” button so no matter what is pushed, a full flush always happens.
It aint a saving when multiple flushes are required, and it is an utter madness if regular use of a plunger is required or even worse, the prying up of the sewer pipe cap and a garden hose fed down on full pressure to “clear the way”.
I wish I’d never swapped the single flush for the dual flush. Would rather pay the $50 a year in so called “savings” than to put up with all the grief it has caused.
Better to pay the extra $50 than try and convince women in the household to push the Big Button for a change, yes ?
regarDS

Alexander K

Dual flush toilet cisterns have been available in New Zealand for thirty or so years , at least. On our rural bush block there, we were reliant on our own rainwater tanks fed from our roof for drinkinging, washing, etc, plus a ‘greywater’ system which saved and stored water from dishwashing, showering, etc and used the ‘waste’ water to flush toilets, which were dual-flush anyway. ‘Greywater’ systems are also great for watering home gardens as the small amount of soap, etc in the water is excellent for killing aphids and other leaf-eating pests. In dry seasons it was possible to have water tankers top up the rainwater tanks with water drawn from artesian bores or springs, but we avoided that as far as possible due to the high cost.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

From Ulick Stafford on June 14, 2011 at 3:49 am:

I put 4 dual flush toilets in my new house in 2007. I have had to replace 3 of the 4 with toilets with a regular single flush design because they failed – the filling got incredibly slow.

Are you on a municipal water system? I’ve found that slow fills are a sign of small rust pieces interfering with the fill valves, with the rare larger piece partially blocking the small supply line (we’re not plumbing toilets direct to 3/8″ copper anymore). The new plumbing shouldn’t be a problem already unless you have very hard untreated water. If you have a new well with a pressure tank then that shouldn’t be a problem, but you might want to drain off the tank to check for sediment.
With the common Fluidmaster replacement fill valve (as seen in the third pic, which might be a “private label” version for the toilet maker) there are directions for popping off the top and cleaning out such particles. Such cleaning for whatever valve you have is a smart addition for your “homeowner repairs” repertoire, and saves a lot on plumbing bills.

Andy G55

To Philip Bradley,
Yes, there can be heaps of water, particularly up in that area in the wet season, but I can assure you that Australia does have significant water issues, particularly for its major cities, and even more particularly for some of the major inland cities.
The problem is that even with large storages, we still get very long periods of time where rainfall can be significantly low, leading to very low dam levels.. we call it drought !!
In 2007, Sydney’s dam levels dropped to 32% capacity, Brisbane was at around 17% as was Melbourne, and Goulburn, in the central west of NSW actually RAN OUT of water, and had to have it trucked in. Goulburn is NOT a small town either.
Perth and Adelaide also had very, very major issues with water supply. Do some research !!
Mind you, at the beginning of this year, Brisbane’s Wyvenhoe Dam filled up pretty quickly !! Warragamba (Sydney) is now at about 74%, but Melborne’s main resevoir (Thomson) is still only at about 35%. You can look up Perth and Adelaide yourself.
Yes it would be nice if we could get water from the Ord River scheme down to our capital cities, but its not really feasible.
So, until you understand the Australia climate and water supply systems, please don’t make silly comments.

Wife and I have used the yellow-mellow-brown-down for years. We almost never exceed our 3000 gal/month minimum.
When I suggested it to my science students, I got a universal “eeeeuu that’s gross”

Tom Bauch

Thanks for posting this… You just saved my thousands of dollars. My wife has been planning to replace ALL our toilets with dual flush versions and this simple retrofit will mean we don’t have to…
THANKS!

Adrian

There is a “Green” store in the UK that has for years advised against flush valves and recommends a 4 litre siphon used with a Swedish water efficient toilet:
http://www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk/page–water-saving-toilets.html
They have said that 6 month studies show that dual flush rarely saves water compared to a standard UK siphon mechanism due to leakage, incorrect usage, necessity to flush more than once etc. However
IRC the UK had valve cisterns in Victorian time until there was water shortage at which point and the siphonic cistern was adopted to prevent wastage. As has been mentioned above, they initially used smaller high level tans to take advantage of gravity, but were commonly known as “thunder boxes” due the cacophony they produce.
Also, don’t get me started on siphonic traps, my last house originally had 1960’s vintage toilets of this type. They are now banned due to their supposed high flush volumes ( 9 litres?) but in practice ours continued to work even though the aged porcelain siphon mechanism (in the cistern) rarely flushed more than half the available water (i.e. 4.5 litres). I think I can state that it never failed to remove the ‘doings’ at first attempt and do it very quietly compared to the flush down models. For the uninitiated, a siphonic trap at first appears to do nothing, but a vacuum built up in special chambers causes the contents of the trap to be sucked downwards with some force. Plumbers hate them because they are difficult to install and maintain. We really missed them when they finally had to be replaced.

When I lived in Tokyo 20 years ago dual flush toilets were already standard practice, with the added feature (on some toilets) of a spigot on top of the tank and a drain hole in the lid. When you flushed (big or little) the water that refilled the tank came through the spigot and was available to you for handwashing before it disappeared through the drain hole into the tank. Simple, no moving parts.

Jeff Wood

Here in Italy we also have problems arising from the low flow of water through the drains caused by first, the dry weather and second, the mandated low flow plumbing.
Just a couple of weeks ago the plumber and I were staring with numb horror at the outside drainage node, after he had lifted the lid. We got it clear, but the upstream blockage cannot yet be found – it is probably in a vacant property – and the village still whiffs a bit.
I would rather pay higher water bills. Did I not read somewhere (here?) that San Francisco has serious problems from limiting the water being fed into the drains?

We have a similar thing in our basement washroom, except instead of two buttons, water flow is determined by how far you press down on the handle. Having had a lot of experience with low flow toilets, I was less than pleased when the landlord put it in, but this thing works amazingly well. We almost never use the full flush, even when the “load” deposited would clog another toilet for a week. I’ve puzzled over what makes it so powerful, but without taking it apart (and when I take things apart, they STAY apart) I just can’t figure it out.