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Water-saving toilets reduce cost of ownership and are good for the environment

As water becomes an increasingly scarce resource, low-flow toilets are becoming more popular -- and are required in California and Texas. These High Efficiency Toilets (HET) typically operate at 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf), using about 20 percent less water than standard 1.6-gpf toilets. A low-flow toilet may qualify for a rebate from your local water authority. You can search for public utilities that offer rebates at the EPA website.

The challenge for this type of toilet is to still be able to thoroughly clean the bowl of solid waste without needing a second flush, and, among low-flow toilets, the Toto Drake II CST454CEFG (Est. $330 and up) boasts a number of features that make it a standout in this regard, and in this category. This WaterSense-certified toilet features Toto's SanaGloss finish, an ion-barrier glaze that keeps bacteria at bay and prevents debris from adhering to the bowl. Combined with a large water surface that helps keep water cleaner and Double Cyclone technology, which cycles more water around the bowl with each flush, the CST454CEFG requires less frequent cleaning than most toilets.

The Toto Drake II has a MaP score of 800, quite good for a low-flow toilet, and it excels in other testing, earning Excellent ratings in both solid waste removal and bowl cleaning. Owners concur, giving it very high ratings across the board for its flushing and cleaning performance. They say that in spite of its miserly water consumption, the toilet has a powerful flushing action that rarely leaves "leftovers" and that it very rarely leaks or clogs. The Toto Drake II is backed by a one-year warranty and Toto gets uncommonly good reviews for customer service.

With a 16-inch bowl height, the Toto Drake II meets ADA standards and is a comfortable height for most users. However, small children and people of shorter stature may find the height awkward. The Drake II with SanaGloss comes in four colors; black is available without SanaGloss.

If you're looking for a more affordable toilet that offers the same water-efficient features, consider the American Standard 2586.128ST.020 Champion 4 Max (Est. $200). It has a MaP score of 1,000, even better than the Toto Drake, is WaterSense-certified, has a 16.5-inch bowl height for ADA compliance and uses just 1.28 gpf. In one professional review, the American Standard earns Excellent scores for both solid waste removal and bowl cleaning.

The American Standard 2586.128ST.020 features its own antimicrobial surface, called Everclean, to inhibit the growth of bacteria, and owners say it works well. What keeps this low-flow toilet out of our top spot is that it gets quite a few more complaints of defective units -- and for noise. It does include a slow close seat, but, as we often see with toilet seats that are included with the toilet, reviewers say it seems cheap and flimsy.

For an even less expensive option in a water saving toilet, the Glacier Bay N2428E Toilet (Est. $100) may be worth a look. Although it's not much for looks, with a very utilitarian design that sets few hearts aflutter, it does do well in professional testing, earning an Excellent rating for solid waste removal, and a Very Good for bowl cleaning in one review. It also earns an outstanding MaP score of 1,000. Owners overall also say it works well in flushing performance, but a few disagree, saying it's not nearly powerful enough. Like the American Standard, the Glacier Bay also gets more complaints of leaking and seeming very cheap. We also saw a few complaints of missing parts, even if the box had never been opened. Still, plenty of reviewers say this toilet is a great value -- saving them money both initially and in the long run in water savings.

Bidets becoming a popular retrofit for regular toilets

Bidets aren't toilets; rather, they're an adjunct to a toilet. This separate basin or toilet attachment is used to wash one's nether regions after using the bathroom, before or after intimacy, or whenever you feel the need for extra cleanliness. Stand-alone bidets can also be used to wash feet or for a sponge bath, almost like an extra sink.

Common in Europe, bidets can help save both water and paper. They eliminate the need to shower just because you don't feel fresh, and you use less toilet paper since you clean first with water. Cleansing with a bidet is also thought to be more sanitary than just wiping with dry paper. Bidets are becoming increasingly popular in America and are often featured on home-renovation shows.

The Astor Bidet Fresh Water Spray (Est. $30) is a simple toilet seat attachment that installs in minutes. It has no fancy features, drying functions or water-heating mechanism, but it does the job and does it well, reviewers say. It requires no electricity and is made of heavy-duty plastic to resist rust.

Amazon.com owners say you don't need a plumber to install this bidet, but you do need a screwdriver. It attaches to any standard toilet seat and is unobtrusive when not in use. Simply turn a knob to activate the water stream to the desired pressure, but be aware that it uses only cold water. Some find this a bit shocking, but most say the cold water feels refreshing and isn't at all bothersome. Owners call the Astor Bidet a great alternative to moist wipes, which can damage septic systems and even standard plumbing. After using this bidet, you need only a small piece of toilet paper to dry off.

It's a bit pricier than the Astor Bidet, but users love the self-cleaning, retractable nozzle feature on the Luxe Bidet Neo 120 (Est. $45). This not only makes it less obvious next to the toilet seat but also reduces bacterial contamination and improves overall hygiene. The Luxe is also a cold water only bidet, but it does have a pressure-control knob for maximum user comfort.

Both the Astor and Luxe bidets come in white and are backed by a one-year warranty. Although they won't blend in with bathroom fixtures of other colors, they're a great way to test out what some experts think might be the future of the American toilet without a huge monetary investment.

However, if you do have the money and want the ultimate in comfort, the Toto Washlet SW502 (Est. $350) is the toilet seat for you. It gets close to perfect reviews from hundreds of owners who love the luxury touches that such a deceivingly simple product brings to the bathroom. The Washlet features adjustable water pressure and temperature, as well as a seat warmer. Like the Luxe bidet, the Washlet has a self-cleaning function that makes it very sanitary. The seat also has a soft close feature that owners love to avoid that "slam" that can wake you up at night.

The Washlet is reported as extremely easy to install and most reviewers say it's well worth the high price. There are several different Washlet models that range in price from the $350 of this model up to $850, depending upon features. All get excellent reviews from happy, clean owners.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Toilets | Best Dual Flush Toilets | Buying Guide | Our Sources

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TOTO CST454CEFG#01 Drake II 2-Piece Toilet with Elongated Bowl and Sanagloss,1.28 GPF, Cotton White
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from Amazon.com
New: $569.00 $329.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Astor Bidet Fresh Water Spray Non-Electric Mechanical Bidet Toilet Seat Attachment CB-1000
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from Amazon.com
New: $84.99 $26.95   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Luxe Bidet Neo 120 - Self Cleaning Nozzle - Fresh Water Non-Electric Mechanical Bidet Toilet Attachment (blue and white)
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from Amazon.com
New: $109.98 $42.89   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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TOTO SW502#01 B100 Washlet for Elongated Toilet Bowl, Cotton White
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from Amazon.com
New: $649.00 $347.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

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