The best seat in the house, the toilet, often gets the least publicity compared with its bathroom siblings, the tub/shower and sink. Homeowners pine for the sybaritic pleasures they envision in multiperson showers and spa tubs and they usually can appreciate the cool aesthetics of vessel sinks and sleek wall-mounted faucets. The toilet, on the other hand, sits in neglect, faithfully doing its business as we do ours.
In fact, most of us know precious little of what makes toilets tick.
"Many people don't even know there are both one- and two-piece toilets," said Adriana Miller, product manager at toilet manufacturer Mansfield Plumbing.
"Others are clueless about pressure-assist versus gravity toilets."
We certainly should show more gratitude to this fixture, because we sure use it more than some fancy tub we soak in maybe once or twice a year. According to Toilet Paper Encyclopedia, the average person spends three years of their lifetime on the toilet.
Fortunately for porcelain thrones in America, the toilet is finally getting some respect in the home design department, and plumbing fixture manufacturers such as Mansfield and Kohler are finally giving the humble toilet its due.
Today's toilets are self-cleaning, deodorizing and touchless, all the while looking mighty fine in the process.
Last year, Kohler added a new touchless flush toilet to its lineup and aptly named it the San Souci, French for "without a worry." The toilet features a sensor mounted on the inside of the tank to set off the flush when a hand is waved over it, thus eliminating the handle, one of the least sanitary surfaces in most bathrooms.
Sleek and one-piece in design, the San Souci is easy to clean, a feature most homeowners love.
"The customers gravitate toward toilets that are easy to clean," said designer Traci Riddle of Kitchen Bath and Glass, a full-service remodeling company in Rockledge.
Riddle has found that the Sanagloss feature of toilets such as those manufactured by TOTO USA, the American version of the Japanese plumbing fixture company, make them very attractive, because the extraordinarily smooth glaze prevents particulates from adhering to the ceramic surface. Less cleaning means less chemicals and water used.
"Sanagloss makes it very easy to keep the toilet clean," Riddle said.
The Japanese, by the way, are flushed with success as far as residential toilets are concerned. While public facilities still retain the "squat toilets" once ubiquitous in the country, a majority of Japanese private homes now favor high-tech toilets with heated or air conditioned seats, automatic toilet openers and integrated bidets with customized water temperatures adjusted to the individual user's preference.
Back in the bathrooms of the U.S., Kohler has infused technology into the Karing Integrated Toilet, a one-piece toilet that utilizes a tankless design with built-in bidet.
The Karing's soft curves and simple lines are aesthetically pleasing, but this toilet is more than a pretty face. An intuitive touchscreen remote programs and controls personal settings for up to two users, so they can set the heated seat, dryer and water temperature for their maximum comfort. Beyond an integrated bidet, precision air dryer and deodorizing filter, the Karing also offers a motion-activated hands-free opening and closing cover and LED lights to illuminate the bowl when you stumble into the bathroom at night.
Not surprisingly, all these lights and action come with a price, about $2,850 in the case of the Karing.
For homeowners not ready to throw that much money down the toilet, Kohler offers the Purefresh toilet seat. For a $100 or so, you can own built-in technology that deodorizes bathroom air. The Purefresh contains a fan that is activated when the user sits on the seat; the fan directs filtered air over a scent pack that permeates the space.
"It can improve someone's overall experience in the bathroom, the most personal of spaces," said Jerry Bougher, Kohler marketing manager for toilet seats.
Three available scents— Garden Waterfall, Soft and Fresh Laundry and Avocado Spa — are included with the purchase of the seat. The seat runs on two D batteries for about six months before needing replacement. A dual LED nightlight runs for eight-hours.
At the Hospitality Expo in Las Vegas in May, American Standard introduced its ActiVate technology, developed to provide hygienic, no-touch toilet flushes, plus high performance and water savings, to boot.
To flush this toilet, all users need do is simply wave a hand within 2 inches of the sensor. The ActiVate models also include EverClean, an antimicrobial additive that inhibits the growth of mold, mildew, stains and odor-causing bacteria.
The toilet is powered by four AA batteries that should last up to two years, if the toilet is flushed about a dozen times per day. A low-battery indicator will tell when it is time to replace them.
These ActiVate high-efficiency toilets achieve the highest bulk removal score on the Maximum Performance (MaP) test, an independent report of toilet performance. They can flush 2.2 pounds of waste with just a 1.28 gallons of water per flush, 20 percent less than standard toilets.
But wait, there is more. American Standard's PowerWash bowl cleaning technology provides a bowl that is so powerful that it scrubs the surface with pressurized water from the rim during every flush.
The company's Estate VorMax toilet omits the traditional rim overhang and those nasty tiny holes inside the bowl, where dirt and buildup thrive. With each flush, a powerful jet of water scrubs the entire bowl completely clean.
Mansfield Plumbing with its SmartClose toilet seat has even addressed that age-old battle of the sexes over the toilet: should the toilet seat be up or down.
"With a single touch, this smart seat lid closes gently and quietly, which is a great compromise for everyone in the house
by Maria Sonnenberg