New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue




On the Money: Stop Flushing Dollars Down the Toilet

Andrew Padian in Legal/Financial

New York City

New Toilets Can Save You Money

Try the toilet, which on average is flushed five times per person per day. At 3.5-gallons of water per flush (gpf), that's 43.75 gallons for your average 2.5 person apartment every day. Because residents have no incentive to flush less, or to use more efficient toilets, taking on a toilet retrofit program in your building might be daunting, but the payback is pretty quick.

In fact, back in the 1990s, owners were enticed to try a retrofit program by earning $200 per toilet that used 2.5 gpf or less. Trouble was, there were no performance specifications for toilets, so the low-flush toilets didn't work, and you had to flush twice, using more water. But toilet technology has changed.

Two engineers, John Koeller and Bill Gauley, found that toilets didn't move "material" so these two invented the Maximum Performance (MaP) testing protocols. To quote Koeller and Gauley as well as numerous reports on their website: "Since its development and release in 2003, MaP has been a major driving force in the improvement of toilet flush performance in North America. In 2003, the average MaP score of all tested toilets was 336 grams (12 ounces or three-fourths of a pound), while by September 2012, the average score of 1,860 different toilet fixture models had more than doubled to 799 grams (28 ounces or 1.75 pounds)."

The publications on their website are incredibly informational and functional (like the toilet specification part where you tell them color, size, height, length for replacement), as well as tongue-in-cheek hilarious at times. A big part of savings in new toilets is that old flapper valves develop slow leaks while new pressure-assist toilets don't have those leaks, so sometimes changing the toilets saves a lot of leaks as well. Toilet flapper leaks can be some of the most prevalent leaks in your building.

Imagine, if each apartment changed their water-guzzling toilets for a more efficient and better-performing 1.2 gpf, the savings per 2.5 person apartment would be about $135 per year. If you have 100 apartments in your building, your water bill would be reduced by $13,500. The bestselling efficient model sells for about $163 while the high end ones sell for $500; adding $100 for installation, the payback is 2 to 4.5 years.

New power-flush toilets don't have flapper valves, which are notorious for leaking, so the savings are typically better than listed above. For example, in one building where I worked, the management company sent a letter to all 17 apartment residents (there are roughly 2.5 residents/apartment) telling them water was leaking and instructing them to call the super and have the leaks fixed. I convinced the management company to change the toilets in the building, and went to the very helpful toilet replacement part of the MaP website and specified replacements. The building went from a 2013 usage of 2,872 gallons per day to today, using 1,698 gallons per day (40 percent reduction) or $5,528 in savings per year. As their toilets cost $275 per apartment, it was a less than one-year payback — a great success story.


Andrew Padian is a private energy and financial consultant with 35 years and more than 3,000 buildings of experience under his belt.

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