Hidden water waster and did you know you have a weir?

I read recently that the three biggest water wasters in the home are leaks and drips, toilets, and lawns.  Now, I haven’t yet coughed up the bucks to replace all my toilets with the  low flow variety (I’m working on it!), but I thought I had at least minimized the water waste, by adjusting the tank levels.  Last week, I discovered another hidden water wasting feature built right into our toilets.  Coming into the bathroom, I could hear the telltale sound of water slowly trickling.  Being the resident Eco-Fascist (and, by majority vote, the home maintenance guy), I took the top off the tank and found that the valve was not quite turning off, so the water level was reaching the top of the fill pipe, continuing to slowly spill over into the bowl.  No big deal, time to get a new fill valve assembly.

IMAG0193Off to the local home improvement store I went.  I wasn’t surprised to see a multitude of choices and manufacturers, but I did discover there are newer types available now for about $6 more than the basic, familiar model.  These newer types not only allow you to control the Tank Water Level, they have also added a valve that allows you to adjust the Bowl Water Level.  I didn’t even know that was possible or necessary.

I’m assuming most of you know how to reduce water usage by adjusting the tank water level.  Cool.  But, according to the manufacturer, because of the way the refill mechanism works on a toilet, as much as 5 quarts of water can be wasted every time you flush due to overfilling of the bowl after the flush.

toilet diagramHere’s what I learned.  In the photo, you can see that the bowl water level is determined by the height of the weir.  The goal is to ensure there is a water seal between the outlet and the bowl so smells can’t come up through the trapway to the bowl.  The problem with the standard water valves is that they are preset for the worst case (largest) size bowl to ensure the water level reaches the top of the weir.

tankwatercontrolThe new style assemblies have an added adjustment to control the amount of water flowing to the bowl fill tube that tops off the bowl.  The process is pretty simple.  After flushing, you slowly add water to the bowl from a bucket until the water level in the bowl stops rising.  (If you listen carefully you can hear the water spilling over the weir.)

DSC06470After waiting a minute or two, take a pencil and mark a line about 1/8″ below the water level.  Flush a few times, adjusting the bowl water level valve until the water only refills the bowl to the pencil line.  Once set, you have an optimal  water seal without allowing any water to spill over the weir.

There you have it!  The average number of flushes per day is five per person.  For our family of four, assuming we had the worst case scenario (5 quarts overflow), we have reduced our water usage by 25 gallons per day with the new valves installed,  over 9,000 gallons per year.

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7 responses to “Hidden water waster and did you know you have a weir?

  1. wow! thanks for doing all this research so i don’t have to. i’ve had “put a brick in the toilet tank” on my to do list for awhile. but now i know that’s old school – from the last drought. sounds like this method minimizes both kinds of water waste. excellent! (do you mind sharing which brand you bought?) thanks!

  2. The fill valve I bought was made by MJSI Inc.

    There were several other manufacturers that had a version of this extra control and I’m sure any of them would be just fine.

    Chad M. Wall

  3. Excellent excellent excellent and I love your diagrams! I think you should be on Planet Green network.
    Helen

  4. Andrea, while I typically don’t allow advertising comments to go through to my blog posts, the dual flush toilet is a pretty cool idea. I have stripped out the sales pitch portion of your comment. If my readers want to know more, they can click on your name and inquire. Thanks for understanding.

    Chad M. Wall
    Eco-Trash Solutions

    ——————————————-
    From Andrea

    Very interesting, thank you!

    Toilets account for approx. 30% of water used indoors. By installing a Dual Flush toilet you can save between 40% and 70% of drinking water being flushed down the toilet, depending how old the toilet is you are going to replace.

    If you are serious about saving water, want a toilet that really works and is affordable, I can recommend [one for you].

    Best regards, Andrea Paulinelli

  5. Good tip, but if you’re really serious about saving water, you need to switch to low-flow 1.6gpf toilets. What’s stopping you? They only cost about $100-150 each. Be careful, though, because they’re not all made the same. They’ve gotten a bad rap because the crappier models (excuse the pun) tend to stop up a lot. This isn’t a problem with all low-flow toilets, however, just the poorly-designed ones. Get one of the better ones which cost a little more, perhaps look for online reviews too. But you don’t need to spend $400-600 on a toilet either; those are just the overly-fancy ones with special colors. You’re not getting better quality for that price, just a non-standard color or style.

  6. Liegh, I’m feeling the slippery slope of people advertising on my blog…so I have removed the sales pitch from your comment (and Andrea’s). If my readers want to know more, they can click on your name. Thanks for understanding.
    Chad M. Wall
    Eco-Trash Solutions

    ———————————————

    Chad,

    Great article. I have seen this product exhibited at several apartment conferences that I have attended. Most people have no clue that this is happening in their toilet.

    BTW, I saw your comment to Andrea and thought it would be only fair to mention another dual flush solution.

    Although you can buy a brand new dual-flush toilet, did you know it was possible to retrofit your existing two piece toilet and make it a dual flush toilet? Retrofitting your existing toilet with a dual flush conversion kit definitely makes more economic, as well as “green” sense. Type in the word “Dual Flush” into a search engine and you will find several different products.

    Thanks you Chad and for everyone’s time.

  7. Chad, Good information. I must really like your blog, because this is the longest article I’ve ever read on the subject of toilets. Flush on!

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