Dual Flush Toilets: Pros, Cons, and Considerations

toilet-dual-flush-GBEConsidering a dual flush toilet? You’re not alone. Water conservation is top of mind for many these days, what with record heat waves, massive wildfires, and a state-wide drought officially in progress in America’s largest state. As one of the biggest water users in the home, toilets are an opportunity to cut water usage by upgrading or retrofitting. But how does one decide what to do with their existing toilet: upgrade? Retrofit? Brick in the tank? (That’s a terrible idea by the way…more on that in a minute).

No worries–GreenLivingIdeas to the rescue. First, let’s discuss dual flush toilets. In principle, dual flush toilets are a great idea. Flush with lower amounts of water for a liquid flush, higher amounts for a solid flush. However, installing a dual flush toilet may not be a good environmental or financial choice for you. Here’s some reasons why:

  1. It’s still not “polished”. The technology for dual flush toilets is not new. Our sister site that covers water conservation topics, Blue Living Ideas, covered dual flush toilets back in 2010, and whether they’re a better choice than a low flow toilet in Jennifer’s Lance‘s op-ed “Low Flow or Dual Flush Toilets?” Her conclusion and home test found that the dual flush toilet was somewhat preferable to the low flow toilet, but she lacked enthusiasm for the product. Knowing Jennifer, who loves all things green, her lack of enthusiasm for her dual flush toilet speaks volumes. Reviews on dual flush toilets on the market these days are lukewarm at best,
  2. Consider the carbon footprint. Most folks would never think about this, but porcelain materials need to be extracted, refined, fired in a kiln, and shipped (usually thousands of miles). Their end-of-life disposal options are extremely limited. So if your toilet works, and you’re considering swapping it out for a dual flush just for environmental reasons, considering the life cycle impacts of the product may make you reconsider.
  3. Not easy. Replacing a toilet is difficult, costly, time consuming, and, well, gross. You have to find one that fits the same footprint as the toilet you have (or you might have to retile your bathroom). You will likely need a good plumber to do the job, and, all told, you’re looking at a big job. All of which would be worthwhile, except for the fact that…
  4. The return on investment is not good. It may take 4-8 years to get your money back. Compare that with other green initiatives, and you might consider the cost of solar a much better option, energy efficiency to be a no-brainer, and reducing meat intake to be the best decision you’ve ever made, both financially and for your health.
  5. There’s an easier way. The great news is that you don’t need to buy and install a dual flush toilet to achieve the same water savings. The smartest way to conserve water, remain carbon neutral and quickly put money saved into your pocket is to convert your existing toilet with a dual flush conversion kit. The Tap-N-Flush, currently the #1 best selling and highest rated dual flush conversion kit on Amazon is the only dual flush toilet converter that is guaranteed to fit any toilet. I have one at my house, and absolutely love it. It installs in minutes (even I can do it…and that’s saying something).

Tempted to just say “screw it” and put a brick in the back of your toilet? Don’t! That brick will degrade over time, and bits of the brick will get lodged under the flapper, CAUSING LEAKS! If you’re going to put something in the back of your toilet, use a jar with rocks and water in it with a tight fitting lid, or a toilet tank insert bag.

Want more on water conservation? Check out Planetsave’s 10 simple ways to conserve water.

Photo courtesy of mrpbps on Flickr Creative Commons


About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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