Pros and Cons of Low-Flow Toilets

Low-flow toilets have become increasingly popular with homeowners who want to conserve water and limit their impact on the environment. Whether you’re remodeling a bathroom, building a new home, or simply replacing an old, leaky toilet, installing an efficient low-flow toilet can save a significant amount of water and money.

Toilet models made before 1994 used up to 7 gallons of water per flush. Since 1994, low-flow toilets that use 1.6 gallons per flush or less have been the federal standard. The EPA estimates that replacing an old toilet with a more water efficient model can cut water usage by 20-60% and save the average homeowner around $140 per year.

Are Low-Flow Toilets Worth It?

Toilets are the main source of water use in American homes, accounting for 30% of monthly water usage. Replacing an old inefficient toilet with a modern water-saving one can quickly result in significant savings. However, before you go forward, consider the following pros and cons of the low-flow toilets.

Low-flow toilets have improved dramatically since the early models of the 1990s. Low-flow toilets now use more efficient technology to flush with less water and problems are rare. Despite improvements, the most efficient low-flow toilets are often more expensive to purchase, install, and maintain, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons before making a decision.


  • Environmentally Friendly - If you want to conserve water, the best place to start is in the bathroom. Toilets account for 30% of water usage in the United States. In areas where drought conditions require water conservation efforts, low-flow toilets help save a significant amount of water. 
  • Lower Costs to Operate - Low-flow toilets save a lot of water, both by the flush and over time. Since toilets account for the biggest use of water in American households, low-flow toilets can significantly lower water bills for homeowners. 
  • Space Saving Designs - Low-flow toilets use smaller tanks, so they fit better in smaller spaces. They also free up space in larger bathrooms for a sleeker, more modern look which appeals to many homeowners.


  • Price - A WaterSense labeled toilet will likely cost more upfront than other low-flow models. However, the cost difference is usually made up quickly in water savings. In addition, there are often rebates available for WaterSense models, further reducing the initial purchase price.
  • Clogs - Because low-flow toilets use less water, solid waste may be more likely to become stuck somewhere inside the toilet or drain. If a clog goes unnoticed, a low-flow toilet can clog the next time it is flushed. Clogs are more likely to develop if a home has low water pressure or if too much toilet paper is being flushed.
  • Installation Costs - Low-flow toilets may not work with existing plumbing, especially in older homes. Because low-flow toilets operate on pressure and gravity, the pipes to which they are connected must be positioned at a specific angle and slope. The older the property, the more likely the plumbing system may require adjustments in order for low-flow toilets to operate properly.

Most of the problems encountered with low-flow toilets can be avoided with proper installation and maintenance. Using too much toilet paper or triple-ply toilet paper should be avoided. In addition, feminine hygiene products, diapers and disposable wipes should never be placed in any toilet. 

Tips on Choosing the Right Low-Flow Toilet

Buying a new toilet may seem like a simple purchase but there are now so many options, configurations, and styles to choose from, it can be a difficult decision. Consumer Reports regularly updates their toilet buying guide, allowing homeowners to compare numerous models and features before making a purchase. 

Toilets bearing the WaterSense label use even less water per flush than other low-flow options. These toilets meet requirements for both water efficiency and flushing performance, while using only 1.28 gallons per flush or less. Only water-saving toilets that complete the rigorous certification process earn the WaterSense label. 

The most expensive toilet is not necessarily the most efficient toilet so it’s important to compare design features even among low-flow toilets. Low-flow toilets save water through a combination of design features that require less water per flush. They work by using one of two methods to clear waste: gravity or pressure-assistance.

  1. Gravity-driven toilets clear waste when the flapper in the tank moves and water is released. Water flows down from the tank into the bowl, flushing the contents, while gravity carries the waste down into and through the pipes. Gravity-flush toilets are generally easy to repair and require minimal maintenance.
  2. Pressure-assisted toilets have a special air tank that functions like a big water balloon. Water fills the toilet tank and is held there under pressure. When the flush valve opens, pressure and gravity combine for a powerful flush. Pressure-assisted toilets usually require an electrical power source and may require more maintenance.

Is It Time to Replace Your Old Toilet?

There is an initial investment to replacing your old toilets with newer models. But it may be worth the cost if you want to save water and money long-term. The low-flow toilets can achieve those goals, plus you’ll get a more modern, streamlined look in your bathroom. 

toilet lifespan

The best time to replace a toilet is when you are doing renovations or needed repairs. A leaking toilet should be dealt with quickly. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, just one leaking toilet can waste up to 8,000 gallons of water per year. Repairing or replacing a leaky toilet is far cheaper than paying for wasted water and the property damage that can result.

Should You Replace Toilets Yourself?

Old toilets are heavy and can be awkward to safely maneuver. Removing a toilet and installing a new one correctly can be more complicated and time consuming than even an experienced DIY homeowner  is prepared to successfully handle. 

Unless you have the experience, time and correct tools on hand, it’s best to hire a professional. A licensed plumber can safely remove an old toilet, repair any underlying plumbing problems and correctly install a new toilet quickly and efficiently.

Malfunctioning toilets are frustrating and can quickly become a crisis situation. If your toilet is leaking or experiencing frequent clogs, you need an experienced plumber to diagnose and correct the problem. Call Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter at (408) 716-1686 today. Our licensed technicians will quickly evaluate the situation and recommend the right solution. 

Our Los Gatos plumbing technicians have over 30 years of plumbing experience. We understand that plumbing issues can happen at any time,  that’s why we offer emergency plumbing services at no extra cost.

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