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Water conservation and old toilets

I know this is plumbing, but I thought more folks might see this.  I have always been into conservation, not the extreme kind, but were you can live a normal life.  I've got our original 1903 or so toilet (wall hung tank), down to under 2 gallons per flush and....it works just fine.  I really don't know why the American toilet manufacturers have made such a fuss over 1.6 gallon toilets...I can approach that standard with 110 year old technology.  One thing I did learn is that the typical toilet flush valve puts way too much refill water into the bowl after the flush.  I you want to easily cut your water use, partially plug the rubber fill tube (a piece of #10 or 12 wire will  do).   Right now I am putting nothing in and the water level is low, but the trap is well sealed.  If I add another 1 qt of water the bowl is full, 2 cups is probably plenty.  So I need at most 2.2 gallons to make a 110 year old toilet flush just fine.   The tank has 3 bricks in it, a 1 gallon jug of water and some rocks to reduce the tank volume.   I also lowered the water level some ( and cut the overflow to keep the required clearance) , but have tried to keep the water level high for more forceful flushing. 

I've also been working on boosting our vehicles mileage.  I've got our 93 Tracer (Escort) wagon  consistently pulling 33 to 34 mpg at 65 to 70 mph highway speeds with about 800 lbs load.  On the open highway with no traffic jams, but 800 lbs load we are close to 38 mpg.      It's only rated at 30 by the new EPA standards.   A few simple mechanical and aero changes made a big difference, and I have a few more items to do that I expect to see significant gains.  Now to do something about the BEAST (2001 Ford E250).

Just a few words of encouragement to those that like to tinker a little to make things better.  It doesn't seem to take much to greatly improve on what is mass produced.
The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

Chicago's Steam Heating Expert

Noisy Radiators are a Cry for Help


  • vaporvac
    vaporvac Member Posts: 1,520
    Timely post...

    Thanks for this timely post. Just finished fixing my 100yr old bottom lever toilet (gasket and nuts between tank and bowl completely shot), and this sounds like a great thing to try. I remember my Dad doing this when water conservation first came to the fore.

    BTW, what has happened to plumbing parts? They are total c!@p, unless you run around sourcing. Took 3 tries to fix the darn thing between cheap nuts stripping out and gaskets the size of a rubber band. Hopefully, it's good for another 100!

    I'm with you are the car mileage, too, although I don't know why they make such a big deal out of it. My BF's18 yr old Saturn SW gets 38+ mpg and it has over 200K on it. He gave it away a couple of yrs ago to a friend, but it's still going strong. My Hyundai Accent never got over 21mpg, and the supposedly good mileage was the main reason I bought it!
    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • GusHerb
    GusHerb Member Posts: 91

    gain that reputation from several models put out in the 1950s-60s. Around the 50s-60s concern about water conservation seemed to have been at the lowest of any time (same with cars and everything else of the era!) and of course that gets taken and run with and generalized onto every fixture made before 1992.

    I have a 1959 "Standard" Cadet that flushes just 3.9 gallons of water though, after tuning the bowl refill and tank level exactly right so it doesn't run off down the drain. Great for a toilet of that era. Eljers were VERY water efficient back then, and always were, those flush around 2.5 GPF max, and flush well too.

    Oh and Kohler was a terrible offender of water waste back then! I have a 1957 Wellworth with one of the biggest tanks I've ever seen and that thing flushes at least 5 gallons! (American Standard was in the mid 60s through about 1976 about as bad as Kohler)
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,537
    Toilet tank conservation

    I tend to wonder what effect low volume flush toilets may do to say older long run CI sewer lines.

    What may still work great getting things out of the bowl may not be enough to carry it completely down stream. Any thoughts?
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    San Francisco

    had a big problem with this a few years back in their city mains.  Too many low-flow toilets and things got a bit, um, stinky.
  • TonyS
    TonyS Member Posts: 849
    Waterless urinals

    A new local Giant food store decided to go GREEN and install waterless urinals in the store restrooms. Nothing better to cut down on food spending than slipping in the mens room and breathing urine vapor before shopping. A second store was built in a neighboring township a few months later except this township had a plumbing inspector with brains and he shot it down. Personally when I see waterless urinals I use the stall, hmmm big water savings there.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    waterless urinals

    work just fine if they're appropriately serviced.  Typically, that means pouring a quart or two of water in them every time the restroom is serviced (several times per day for a busy RR.)


    Don't even think of connecting them to cast iron pipe, at least before they have a chance to mix with some watery flow from other types of drains.
  • TonyS
    TonyS Member Posts: 849
    I guess the places around here

    that use them could use your advice because I have never seen one that doesnt smell like  old urine.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    We found this out the hard way

    also, the cartridges do need to be replaced every so often.
  • I've wondered that too...

    Hand wash water should get added after each flush, as do daily showers/baths. If this becomes a problem, I would think it may be bigger in commercial applications where there is not additional flow from other sources.   We have a 6 inch clay line to the street, which, with Chicago's combined waste/ storm water sewer probably will be an advantage.   We'll be lining the main sewer soon too.
    The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

    Chicago's Steam Heating Expert

    Noisy Radiators are a Cry for Help
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Waterless urinals

    I recently spent some time at a place that has some waterless urinals. They had recently spent, I think it was, $6 million installing an excellent waste water treatment. It met all kinds of regulations and won some awards


    It uses no PVC pipiing because of chloride leaching issues, it requires no chemicals in the treatment of the waste water. The stuff is so pure the EPA said they could dump the treated water into a nearby lake, but they do not because the neighbors do not wish them to so, and they wish to be good neighbors. I have seen and smelled the water coming out of the plant, and it is perfectly clear and odourless. That does not mean it is safe to drink, though they say it is.


    I asked the technician who was giving a tour of the plant why, if this machine was so great, that they had waterless toilets at some locations on the campus. He replied that, environmentally, it was a mistake, that those toilets should be connected to the system because even though they use no water, the cartridges must disposed of (recycled) and these cause more damage to the environment than the cost of running that stuff through their machine. They intend to fix this, time permitting.

    Of course, if you do not have such an advanced waste-water treatment plant, they may make good sense.

    By the way, the electricity to run the pumps, blowers, controls, etc., is produced by photovoltaic cells on all the roofs. The windows are sited and angled so heat enters the building in the cold weather and is rejected in hot weather. Excess power is sold back to the local power company. When more heat is needed than is generated by the processing, or when cooling is required, a geothermal system sinks the heat into a deep well system in summer and it pumps heat from there when heat is required in winter.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Engineered wetlands rock

    and represent the future of sustainable development IMO.
  • psb75
    psb75 Member Posts: 698
    natural wetlands

    natural wetlands "rock" MORE.
This discussion has been closed.