Imagine it. A black market for working toilets that spans from Canada to all of America. And it’s all because a creep is concerning himself with what you do in your bathroom. No, it’s not a peeping Tom. It’s Uncle Sam.
Creepy federal regulations have made it harder for you to keep yourself and your bathroom clean. Neither your sink nor your shower nor your toilet function as well as they could and should. Back in 1994, the Energy Policy Act went into effect. In the name of conservation, the law mandated low-flow (1.6 gallon) residential toilets.
Prior to that, toilets typically used at least 3.5 gallons of water per flush. It turns out that extra water volume makes a big difference in keeping a toilet bowl clean. Sometimes that extra water is needed to force waste and toilet paper fully down the trap way. The 1.6 gallon toilets are more prone to requiring multiple flushes – and to clogging.
Not Even a Plumber Can Fix What’s Wrong with Today’s Toilets
Today’s government-mandated 1.6-gallon toilets area downgrade from what your parents had. According to a commenter on a do-it-yourself forum:
“I recently had to remove one of those old boys (circa 1955) that had a huge tank by today’s standard. NEVER had to flush more than once. I suspect it could have flushed a whole roll of paper – while still on the cardboard tube!”
The newest models are at least better designed and more effective than the ones that hit the market in the mid 1990s. So if you’re using an older model low-flow toilet, you might want to think about replacing it. Unfortunately, any of the conventional, gravity-powered toilets that are legally available will be inferior to the 3.5-gallon and 5-gallon tanks that are now banned. You could try to obtain a pre-1994 high-capacity toilet used.
Or find one from a building salvage company. You could also try to “import” one from a foreign country where 3.5-gallon toilets are still being sold. In fact, some of the major toilet bowl manufacturers still produce high-flow toilets for foreign markets where they are still legal. There is something of aback market for these toilets coming out of Canada.
Legally Work Around the Low-Flow Government Mandate
If you don’t want to break the law (and we certainly don’t advise doing so), the good news is that there are some legal fixes to government-created bathroom deficiencies. First, make sure your toilet is running at full capacity (such as it is) by adjusting the float inside the tank to raise the water level all the way up to the overflow valve. If that doesn’t help, consider replacing your toilet. You can increase the power of the flush on a low-flow toilet somewhat by opting for a Victorian-style high tank. A higher tank means more energy gets released with each flush. It may not be a real solution to the problem, though. The most effective way to compensate for an inadequate rush of water is to employ air pressure. Vacuum suction systems of the sort used in airplane and cruise ship toilets work, but they’re noisy and aren’t very practical for homes. A siphon-jet or pressure-assist toilet may be a more practical way to upgrade. Pressurized toilets contain a bladder that holds water under pressure, delivering a more powerful flush. It’s one of the only ways to legally get the benefits of a banned high-capacity toilet. It functions as well the old toilets while staying within the 1.6-gallon limit. Of course, a pressurized toilet will cost more.
“Smart” Toilets Could Flush Away Your Privacy
Some high-end toilets now come with bidets, heated seats, electronic controls, and even wireless connectivity. Beware of these “smart” toilets! As CNET reported of the Lixil Satis smart toilets, their “Android app lets toilet aficionados trigger activities such as flushing and playing music. If a malicious hacker got in Bluetooth range and took control of your toilet, all sorts of havoc could ensue. “If there’s anything worse than a toilet clogging, it’s a toilet that’s been hacked. Why opt for a toilet that even has the potential to be remotely commandeered? Or to store and wirelessly transmit data about your flushing habits? Creepy.
Speaking of creeps, Uncle Sam’s presence in your bathroom can be felt most directly in your shower. That’s because he has restricted the amount of water that can flow from your showerhead.
Does Your Shower Produce More of a Trickle Than a Gush? Guess Who’s to Blame…
According to the Energy Department, “Federal regulations mandate that new showerhead flow rates can’t exceed more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) at a water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch (psi). New faucet flow rates can’t exceed 2.5 gpm at 80-psi or2.2 gpm at 60 psi. “The flow rate you’d be able to enjoy from an unregulated showerhead would depend on your home’s water pressure. But it could be expected to be double (or more) the 2.5 gallons per minute the government arbitrarily says you can’t exceed. That would make for a more thorough, more invigorating body wash. Petty restrictions on water flow have little to no effect on aggregate water usage. People are taking longer showers to compensate for the fact that it takes longer to rinse shampoo out of their hair. Moreover, domestic uses of water are a small percentage of total water use. About 80% of freshwater supplies go toward agriculture, with most of the remainder being used by industry.
Un-Mandate Your Crummy Showerhead
People have been getting around this restriction by installing multiple showerheads. The government doesn’t say how much water can flow into a shower, just how much can come out of any one showerhead. A simpler and cheaper fix is simply to remove the water flow restrictor built into your existing showerhead. With some models, it’s a simple task; with others it’s more difficult or in some cases, impossible. First, unscrew the showerhead off its arm. Pull out the washer and look inside for the reducer. You may need a small knife or a drill to remove the gasket that holds the reducer in place. Regardless of whether you choose to modify your showerhead, it’s still a good idea to remove it periodically for cleaning. Over time, deposits can restrict water flow, and bacteria can colonize inside. Soak the showerhead in warm vinegar for several minutes. Scrub, if necessary. These strategies can help you foil Uncle Sam’s efforts to deprive you of the water flow you need to keep clean.