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Dual Flush Vs. Low Flow Toilets

One of the biggest questions we get is “What can everyday folks do to make our homes more environmentally friendly?”

I get that not everyone can move into a tiny home or convert an Airstream trailer into a living space. There are lots of good reasons to live in cities, and the excellent public transportation systems–among other city-living aspects–often make urban living extremely environmentally friendly. It doesn’t all have to be farming and homesteads!

That aside, there are several ways to minimize your impact on the environment, no matter where you live. Today, we’re going to talk about helping the environment via your toilet!

Since we transferred from the Airstream to a tiny home in Alameda, we don’t have a lot of choice regarding toilet options (at least no legal composting/alternative toilet options). In general, there are MANY toilet options out there – for RVs or converted campers/buses,  low-flush toilets, composting toilets, etc. Read this excellent post from Clothesline Tiny Homes if you’re interested in learning more about alternative toilet options.

Homeowners with homes connected to a city sewer system of course are asked to stick to what is legal.  And since we are going to use our tiny house as a display home and offer free open houses in the future, we want to keep it to what is legal or we will find ourselves in trouble.  Whether that’s fair or not is a whole other conversation that I won’t go into now.  Every toilet company is going to claim it saves you water, but there are two toilet innovations that actually work: the dual flush toilet and the low flow toilet.

Dual Flush: Options #1 and #2

Dual flush toilets are only starting to become common in America, although they are standard in many other countries across the globe. Whenever we travel to Canada, for example, we encounter dual flush toilets in many public restrooms.

How does the dual flush toilet work? It understands that not every toilet visit is created equal. Some types of toilet waste take a lot more water to flush through than others. So the dual flush toilet gives you two settings: a small flush and a larger one. Every time you use the toilet, you choose the flush you need.

If you want a dual flush toilet in your own home, finding one is relatively easy. Some of my favorite water saving toilets have great names, like the dual-flush “Stealth” toilet by Niagara Conservation. Do some searching until you find a dual-flush toilet that suits your needs and your budget.

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Low Flow: How Low Can You Go?

It’s no coincidence that when you type “low flow toilet” into Google, it auto-completes your search with “low flow toilet problems.” When low flow toilets were first introduced, they were extremely frustrating, as the flow was so low that it often failed to remove the toilet waste. There’s a particularly memorable episode of King of the Hill where Hank and Peggy Hill force their zoning board to legalize high-flow toilets by tricking them into using a low-flow one.

Notice that bit about “legalize.” Though the legal jurisdiction of toilet models has always been a bit up for grabs, in 2013 California became the first state to legally require low-flow toilets in all new or remodeled homes. Luckily, the newer models have greatly improved upon the original low flow toilets, and they are no longer the butt of jokes.

Dual Flush vs. Low Flow: Which Should You Choose?

If you’re looking to do your part and help the environment, which type of toilet should you choose? I’m always in favor of the dual flush toilet, because it lets you manage the amount of water you send through the bowl after every use. Chances are any toilet you buy these days will already be low flow, so take it one step further and let the dual flush toilet give you the lowest flow of all — but only, of course, when you need it.

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