Water and sewage costs are rising across the US. Flushing our toilets account for 30% of total indoor water usage in the average home - the biggest individual contributor to the total.
But what is the actual cost of flushing a toilet? Should we be flushing less often, or are there any other ways to reduce the amount of water our toilets use?
We've compiled key industry data to answer these questions in easy-to-understand charts, infographics, and statistics.
There are a number of factors that influence the specific cost for any given individual, which we will now explore in more detail.
This figure varies dramatically depending on how old your toilet is.
Older toilets relied on the sheer volume of water to flush the waste away. They could use anything up to 6 gallons per flush.
A 1992 law, the "Energy Policy & Conservation Act" stated that new toilets made after that time must not use more than 1.6 gallons per flush.
More modern toilets concentrate on using velocity, not volume, and can achieve better results using far less water. The new EPA Watersense label is given to toilets that meet new standards for water efficiency. They can reduce water usage by as much as 60%.
So if you want to know your personal cost per flush, first check what model of toilet you have.
It is worth noting that there are many factors that affect the cost of water in the US, and hence the cost each time you flush your toilet will vary.
We can calculate average or typical costs, but they may not be representative of your individual circumstances.
The cost depends on:
It is important to remember that the total cost per flush must be adjusted to include sewage charges. These are charged at a fixed rate, which is normally proportional to your overall water usage.
Sewage charges also vary across the country, but again for the sake of simplicity we can take an average, based on data from the Department of Energy, and estimate that the cost per gallon, including sewage charges, is around 0.8c
Therefore, taking the different toilet types into account, we can calculate an average cost based on water used.
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The average US person flushes the toilet 5 times per day.
Again we must allow for the huge variance in this data. Your precise number will be determined by:
However, for the purposes of our calculations, we will work on the basis of 5 flushes at home, per person, per day.
Using the above data, we can therefore estimate the annual cost of flushing your toilet.
Remember these are costs per person. To get a total estimate, you will need to multiply by the number of people in your household.
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It is obvious from the figures above that one of the best ways to reduce the amount of water used, and therefore the cost and environmental impact of your toilet, is to use one with the EPA Watersense label.
You can also install a dual flush toilet. Using the half flush option after you urinate will result in a considerable saving overall - up to a 67% reduction in water usage compared to a single flush model.
If you have an old (pre-1992) toilet, you may want to upgrade to a more eco-friendly bathroom. You could consider replacing it with a new WaterSense label model. This could save as much as $69 per person per year.
Typically, a new toilet would cost between $500 and $600 (fully installed) meaning that in a family of 4, it would pay for itself in around 2 years.
If you can't afford the upfront cost of a new toilet, you could retrofit an upgrade such as a tank displacement bag, which reduces the amount of water your tank holds. They're available for less than $10 on Amazon.
As well as the monetary saving, using less water also has considerable environmental benefits.
Every gallon of water you use has to be treated before it gets to your home, and again when it leaves your home as sewage.
All of this uses energy and chemicals. So it stands to reason that the less we use, the better.
There are also many areas, both in the US and internationally, where there is not enough water to satisfy the needs of a growing population. Climate change is only likely to exaggerate this problem.
So the cost of flushing a toilet is much more than just what you see on your utility bill. Saving water saves money, it can also help save our very way of life.