Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Toilet Replacement Lids - Bill Gates Can’t Build a Toilet - This Old Toilet 800-658-4521

IN addition to eradicating polio in India and starting the personal computer revolution, the Seattle Superman of our age has managed to make going to the bathroom a cause célèbre. Five years ago, if I’d told people I worked on toilets, they would have surely assumed I was a plumber. Now, they exclaim: “Oh! Isn’t Bill Gates into that?”

More than one-third of the world’s population, approximately 2.5 billion people, doesn’t have access to a toilet. The Gates Foundation and a handful of celebrities like Matt Damon deserve credit for putting this sanitation crisis on the map.

The trouble is that the Gates Foundation has treated the quest to find the proper solution as it would a cutting-edge project at Microsoft: lots of bells and whistles, sky-high budgets and engineers in elite institutions experimenting with the newest technologies, thousands of miles away from their clients.
Just consider some of the parameters of the Gates Foundation’s first Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: Create a “practical” toilet that is suitable for a single-family residence in the developing world. Make sure it takes in the bodily waste of an entire family and outputs drinkable water and condiments, like salt. And while you’re at it, make sure that the toilet is microprocessor-supervised and converts feces into energy. And all this has to cost just pennies per person per day. That’s some toilet.

The winner of last year’s contest invented a solar-powered toilet that converts poop into energy for cooking. Impressive — but each one costs $1,000.
Other models boasted membrane systems, treatment of fecal sludge using supercritical water oxidation (heating water to 705 degrees Fahrenheit, or 374 degrees Celsius, then injecting oxygen) and hydrothermal carbonization (oxidizing feces at a high temperature and high pressure while under water).
High-tech toilets are exciting, but even the Gates Foundation has admitted that “the economics of such a solution remain uncertain.” In plain English: No one can afford them.
They are beyond impractical for those who need them most: the residents of slums in countries like Haiti, Indonesia and Bangladesh, where people make between $1 and $5 per day.
Just imagine the fate of a high-tech toilet in one of these communities. What happens if the unique membrane systems get clogged? Or if the supercritical water vessel or the hydrothermal carbonization tank leaks, or worse, explodes? Or what if one of the impoverished residents realizes the device is worth more than a year’s earnings and decides to steal it? If the many failed development projects of the past 60 years have taught us anything, it’s that complicated, imported solutions do not work.
The people I’ve met in countries like Peru, El Salvador and Haiti tend to be subsistence farmers in the countryside or residents of big-city slums who do odd jobs to make ends meet. They are survivors. They make use of what they have, and are often very good at fixing things. But don’t ask them to become industrial engineers overnight.
When I listen to Mr. Gates talk toilets, I think of Juana, who lives in Belén, Peru, a city of 65,000 on a tributary of the Amazon River. Her neighborhood is under water half the year. During the other half, the drainage ditches are filled with excrement and rats.
When Juana needs to relieve herself, she walks on a narrow plank for about 30 feet until she arrives at her bathroom — four rotting wooden posts wrapped with a tarp. She stands, precariously, on two narrow slats perched above a ditch and does what she needs to do. She also knows that her kids play nearby and worries about their getting sick, since the waste goes directly into a stream.
Poor sanitation contributes to 2,000 childhood deaths from diarrheal diseases every day. Unfortunately for Juana, and the millions of people who live on marginal, waterlogged land, there are no cheap solutions available. What they need are the kind of toilets that they can buy or build with a few weeks’ savings.
Ecological toilets that use natural composting to break down waste are simple to construct, waterless and are easy to fix. This is the go-to toilet for cottage owners in America who live too close to the water to have a septic system.
The only problem is they’re too expensive, with price tags of over $1,000. In Haiti, an organization called SOIL has successfully brought low-cost composting toilets to over 20,000 people, and my organization is working on developing a more affordable version.
Even simple solutions like the Peepoo bag, which inexpensively (less than 2 cents per bag) sanitizes waste before turning it into fertilizer, are huge improvements. They can also be critical in saving lives after natural disasters.
If we embrace these low-tech toilets, we’ll be on the right track to getting 2.5 billion people one step closer to a safe, clean, comfortable and affordable toilet of their own. That’s something worth celebrating this World Toilet Day.


by Jason Kass

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Toilet Replacement Lids - Their Mission: To Build a Better Toilet - This Old Toilet 800-658-4521

NO wonder they are called conveniences. Flush toilets swirl human waste down the drain quickly and neatly. But the convenience comes with a rising price for all that follows the flush — a cost that is often paid by municipal water and sewage treatment systems.

Yvonne Lehnhard/Eawag
A new model at Eawag, the Swiss institute, that simplifies waste water management.
Mariella Furrer/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Katherine Foxon, right, a chemical engineer in South Africa, with Bill Gates, left. In a new competition, the Gates Foundation is challenging researchers like her to create inexpensive toilets for use in areas without access to traditional water systems.
Now some groups are rethinking the venerable technology of the flush toilet, particularly for regions that lack such systems or for places where waste water treatment plants, many of them aging, are overburdened by the demands of fast-growing populations.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has begun a“Reinvent the Toilet” competition and awarded $3 million to researchers at eight universities, challenging them to use recent technology to create models that needn’t be connected to sewers, or to water and electricity lines, and that cost less than pennies per person a day to use. Later prizes will include financing for one or more winning prototypes to be tested and produced commercially.
“The present toilet is a 19th-century device that does not meet the needs of a vast part of the world’s population,” said Frank Rijsberman, an executive at the foundation. Instead, he said, about 2.6 billion people without access to sewer-linked systems must use simple latrines, holes in the ground or just the nearest available spot — a situation that can lead to many health problems, like acute childhooddiarrhea.
One of the new toilets being financed by the foundation is a compact chamber that runs on solar power from a roof panel and uses built-in electrochemical technology to process waste.
“We can clean the waste water up to the same level as would come out of a treatment plant,” said Michael R. Hoffmann, a professor of environmental science at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who received $400,000 to develop this solar toilet. It uses the sun’s energy to power an electrode system in the waste water; the electrodes drive a series of cleansing chemical reactions, converting organic waste in the water into carbon dioxide and producing hydrogen that can be stored in a fuel cell for night operation.
The cost of each unit, which can be used up to 500 times a day, may initially be as high as $5,000 for a prototype but would drop with commercial production. Operational costs will be only a few cents a day, Dr. Hoffmann said.
Dr. Rijsberman said chemical engineering might provide the route to inventing many future toilets. Rather than composting waste for six months, as many waterless composting toilets do, the new versions could heat the waste quickly, killing pathogens, he said.
One of the funded projects taking this approach is a design for waste disposal at community bathrooms in South Africa, said Katherine Foxon, a member of the team that is working on the technology. Dr. Foxon is a chemical engineer and senior lecturer at theUniversity of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. “We’ll process the waste chemically, combusting the feces and using that energy to drive the evaporation of urine,” she said.
Even in countries with extensive sewer systems, researchers are testing toilets that still flush but will divert urine before it gets into the sewer.
“Most nutrients from human metabolism are excreted in urine and must be degraded at treatment plants,” said Tove A. Larsen, a senior scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, or Eawag, in Dübendorf.
Dealing with urine separately, by siphoning it off to local storage tanks, simplifies waste water management. The urine can then be collected, treated and recycled as fertilizer. Dr. Larsen was a leader of a six-year project at Eawag on urine separation, known as No Mix technology.
The toilets at Eawag’s office buildings are No Mix models. Each has a built-in urinal at the front that drains into storage. The back compartment works like a conventional toilet as waste is flushed into the sewer.
The technology is in its infancy and has drawbacks, Dr. Larsen said. Children have difficulty aiming correctly between the compartments, for instance. And the toilets can cost twice as much as conventional models and require steady maintenance to prevent the build-up of pipe-clogging scale that is deposited by urine.
Dr. Larsen, who is also one of the Gates Foundation winners, will lead an interdisciplinary team in developing a nonflush toilet. It will have separate compartments for urine and feces, she said, along with a third compartment for water that is used to keep the toilet clean. After filtering, this water can be reused in the cleaning process.
Peter P. Rogers, a professor of environmental engineering at Harvard who has long researched water and energy resources, applauded the efforts of the foundation but said the problems that the competition is addressing are monumental.
“You need toilets that are inexpensive and can be used by more than two billion poor people,” he said. There are many potentially good solutions, he said, though, they have not yet been economically feasible.
“But it is worthwhile to pursue solutions,” he said. “Life would be so much better for a lot of people.”
by Anne Eisenberg

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Toilet Replacement Lids - What to Do When a Beloved Porcelain Throne Needs Parts (This Old Toilet in the NY Times) - This Old Toilet 800-658-4521

Gary Tjader, owner of This Old Toilet, with a kidney-shaped tank lid from the 1920s. He has about 2,000 lids in stock.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

Vintage Toilet Parts Are the Basis of Thriving Online Businesses

THERE you are, performing one of the most mundane of household chores: lifting the toilet tank lid to see why the toilet won’t flush. You casually lean it against the wall, and suddenly — disaster — it slides down and your lid is in several unsalvageable pieces.
As you stare at the unsightly innards of the toilet, it becomes clear there are few options: For a replacement lid for a newish toilet, you can check online. But if your toilet is more than about five to 10 years old, you can either pay to have an entirely new one installed or begin the great toilet tank lid hunt.
And it’s not just lids. If you happen to have a toilet and matching fixtures in, say, the color Orchid of Vencencia (1929-1941) or Clair de Lune Blue (1929-1957 except for the war years), you’ll have to search farther than the nearest Home Depot or Lowe’s to find the right-colored seat when the old one gives out.
But there is a whole subculture out there to service such needs., based in Chico, Calif., is the largest supplier of new and old plumbing supplies in the country; its inventory includes about 8,500 used tank lids.
It started as a brick-and-mortar store in Chico in 1979, catering to local plumbers and the community, then went solely online in 2005, said its president, Aden Cullens. And business has grown as the economy picks up and people are working on their homes again, he said.
The company receives about 100 emails and fills 100 to 200 orders daily, 10 to 20 for toilet seats alone.
“And whenever we can’t find the original product, we try to find a modern brand that’s equivalent,” he said.
Most tank lids run in the $60-to-$80 range, though at the high end, a kidney-bean-shaped French vanilla lid from 1931 costs $697.30. The seats can go as high as $180 (colored, 1960s), but they average $20 to $60, Mr. Cullens said. The tank lids are mostly used, but the seats are newly manufactured to match old colors.
Perhaps because those who run such services are dealing with a particularly intimate, yet necessary, part of life, some suppliers offer not just products but also jokes, advice and insights on their websites.
Gary Tjader, of Los Altos, Calif., founder of, for example, has a page devoted to toilet trivia tips and myths. Here he debunks the myth that Sir Thomas Crapper invented the toilet.
Mr. Tjader has been in the business of plumbing supplies all his life. About 15 years ago, he was helping out with plumbing advice on several websites, and “a recurring question was, Where do I get a tank lid? I knew where stacks of these were. I responded to one, asking the brand of the toilet, and he came by and bought it for $100. And it just rolled on from there.”
He sells only the porcelain parts of the toilets, not the innards. He figures he now has about 2,000 tank lids in stock, and is regularly resupplied by plumbers, salvage places and once in a while, a lucky find by the side of the road.
“I was driving to the hardware store and someone put out a pedestal tank and tank lid,” he said, noting that it was a particularly desirable model from the 1990s. He also runs a side business, (closed until September), where local people pay him $17 per toilet (additional toilets get a discount) to recycle toilets instead of having them dumped in landfills.
“I harvest the parts and then take the rest to recycling,” he said.
If he doesn’t have a part, he knows where to look, but even with all his sources, he’s not always successful. Bill Janssen, of Fairfax County, Va., turned to Mr. Tjader in his search for 1950s Ming Green toilet to replace one that developed a leak.
His plumber warned that the toilet might break if he removed it. But Mr. Janssen needs to fix the problem and has been scouring the Internet for an appropriate model. “There was one on eBay, but it was already sold by the time I looked,” he said. Mr. Tjader estimated that the fixture he needed would cost almost $800.
The cost — plus shipping and installation — is sobering. But Mr. Janssen has lived in his 1950s house for about 30 years and “we’ve sort of grown to like” the green, he said. “And besides, the sink is Ming Green, the tub is Ming Green.”
Fortunately, his other bathroom has white fixtures.
Another option is, which sells parts and also has an extensive database for consumers and plumbers to search for particular items for showers, tub and sinks as well as toilets. The site is free for limited use, but membership costs $15 for three days up to $100 a month.
“A lot of people are trying to maintain continuity with design,” said the site’s founder, J. P. Shields, who grew up in a family that was involved in the plumbing business. “If you have a pink bathroom and put in a white toilet, when you go to sell the house, you’ll need to redo.”
Aesthetics aside, many people will argue that instead of looking to replace that old toilet with the same model that may use seven gallons of water (those made in the 1920s-1950s) five gallons (1960s-1970s) or 3.5 gallons (1982-1994), one should install a low-flow toilet. The federal Energy Policy of 1992 required that by 1994, all new toilets for consumers could use only 1.6 gallons. California, Georgia, Texas and New York City mandate 1.28 gallons.
Saving water is good. But the cost of swapping out an old toilet and perhaps other fixtures that match — or the floor if it doesn’t fit the footprint of the new model — might be more than some people want to invest.
It’s possible, Mr. Cullens suggested, to install some kind of dual-flush valve that, as he delicately put it, “uses a small amount of liquid to clean away a little and a large amount of liquid to clean away a lot more.”
But James Walsh, vice president of residential chinaware and commercial products at American Standard, didn’t advise putting such flush valves in old toilets.
“You can’t just cut water usage down,” he said. “It has to be engineered. I think you’re asking for a lot of trouble. You really need to get a new toilet.”
Mr. Walsh, also known as Professor Toilet at, acknowledged that the low-flush toilet had an image problem, but said it stemmed from outdated information.
When the Energy Policy Act was passed, toilet manufacturers weren’t prepared, and the low-flow toilets that were manufactured didn’t work that well, he said. But by the early 2000s, technology had progressed, he said, and now low-flow toilets no longer deserved a bad name.
Replacing an old toilet with a new one can run as low as $150 and as high as $4,200 for the “spa” toilet that includes a seat that heats up, raises and lowers and that offers lots of bodily cleaning features.
But options exist for those simply wanting to keep their old model going — and looking as good as possible. And there’s no need to be embarrassed. Just check Mr. Tjader’s website to see the explanations customers have given for needing a new tank lid.
His favorite: “This is the last time I let my sister paint my bathroom while drinking.”
by Alina Tugend

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Toilet Replacement Lids - Toilet Tips - This Old Toilet 800-658-4521

~ If your toilet tank lid has broken or chipped edges, take a fine file and carefully smooth down the sharp edges. Or remove the lid and do not use it.

~ Secure toilet tank lids in public or institutional environments with silicone. Apply clear silicone caulking between the bottom of tank lid and the face of the tank. When access to the inside of the tank is required, cut the silicone with a razor or knife.

~ If you have a five year old living with you, show them what's inside the toilet tank before they try to look on their own. Yup - sold another lid today to replace one broken by a curious toddler
~ If your toilet seat won't hold in the up position, try these two remedies: Gently slide the toilet tank lid back on the tank as far as it will go and/or loosen the toilet seat mounting nuts and move the seat as far forward as it will go...retighten nuts.

~ Do not sit on the closed cover of your toilet seat. It was not designed to be a chair or stool. Do not stand on the cover or rim of your toilet seat. (Unless you want to buy a new one.) They were not designed nor intended for that much weight. Plus the risk of injury from slip-and-fall.