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General questions asked regularly.

  1. What is the regular maintenance that should be done on my home?

    Regular Maintenance is the Key

    Inspecting your home on a regular basis and following good maintenance practices are the best way to protect your investment in your home. Whether you take care of a few tasks at a time or several all at once, it is important to get into the habit of doing them. Establish a routine for yourself, and you will find the work is easy to accomplish and not very time-consuming. A regular schedule of seasonal maintenance can put a stop to the most common — and costly — problems, before they occur. If necessary, use a camera to take pictures of anything you might want to share with an expert for advice or to monitor or remind you of a situation later.

    By following the information noted here, you will learn about protecting your investment and how to help keep your home a safe and healthy place to live.

    If you do not feel comfortable performing some of the home maintenance tasks listed below, or do not have the necessary equipment, for example a ladder, you may want to consider hiring a qualified handyperson to help you.

    Seasonal Home Maintenance

    Most home maintenance activities are seasonal. Fall is the time to get your home ready for the coming winter, which can be the most gruelling season for your home. During winter months, it is important to follow routine maintenance procedures, by checking your home carefully for any problems that may arise and taking corrective action as soon as possible. Spring is the time to assess winter damage, start repairs and prepare for warmer months. Over the summer, there are a number of indoor and outdoor maintenance tasks to look after, such as repairing walkways and steps, painting and checking your chimney and roof.

    While most maintenance is seasonal, there are some things you should do on a frequent basis year-round:

    Make sure air vents indoors and outdoors (intake, exhaust and forced air) are not blocked by snow or debris.
    Check and clean range hood filters on a monthly basis.
    Test ground fault circuit interrupter(s) on electrical outlets monthly by pushing the test button, which should then cause the reset button to pop up.
    If there are young children in the house, make sure electrical outlets are equipped with safety plugs.
    Regularly check the house for safety hazards, such as a loose handrail, lifting or buckling flooring, inoperative smoke detectors, and so on.

    Timing of the seasons varies not only from one area of Canada to another but also from year to year in a given area. For this reason, we have not identified the months for each season. The maintenance schedule presented here is, instead, a general guide for you to follow. The actual timing is left for you to decide, and you may want to further divide the list of items for each season into months.


    Have furnace or heating system serviced by a qualified service company every two years for a gas furnace, and every year for an oil furnace, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
    If you have central air conditioning, make sure the drain pan under the cooling coil mounted in the furnace plenum is draining properly and is clean.
    Lubricate circulating pump on hot water heating system.
    Bleed air from hot water radiators.
    Disconnect the power to the furnace and examine the forced-air furnace fan belt, if installed, for wear, looseness or noise; clean fan blades of any dirt buildup.
    Check chimneys for obstructions such as nests.
    Vacuum electric baseboard heaters to remove dust.
    Remove the grilles on forced-air systems and vacuum inside the ducts.
    Turn ON gas furnace pilot light (if your furnace has one), set the thermostat to “heat” and test the furnace for proper operation by raising the thermostat setting until the furnace starts to operate. Once you have confirmed proper operation, return the thermostat to the desired setting.
    Check and clean or replace furnace air filters each month during the heating season. Ventilation system, such as heat recovery ventilator, filters should be checked every two months.
    Check to see that the ductwork leading to and from the heat recovery ventilator is in good shape, the joints are tightly sealed (aluminum tape or mastic) and any duct insulation and plastic duct wrap is free of tears and holes.
    If the heat recovery ventilator has been shut off for the summer, clean the filters and the core, and pour water down the condensate drain to test it.
    Check to see that bathroom exhaust fans and range hoods are operating properly. If possible, confirm that you are getting good airflow by observing the outside vent hood (the exterior damper should be held open by the airflow). See the About Your House fact sheet CMHC Garbage Bag Airflow Test for a simple way to estimate the airflow.
    Check smoke, carbon monoxide and security alarms, and replace batteries.
    Clean portable humidifier, if one is used.
    Check sump pump and line to ensure proper operation, and to ascertain that there are no line obstructions or visible leaks.
    Replace window screens with storm windows.
    Remove interior insect screens from windows to allow air from the heating system to keep condensation off window glass and to allow more free solar energy into your home.
    Ensure windows and skylights close tightly; repair or replace weatherstripping, as needed.
    Ensure all doors to the outside shut tightly, and check other doors for ease of use. Replace door weatherstripping if required.
    If there is a door between your house and the garage, check the adjustment of the self-closing device to ensure it closes the door completely.
    Cover outside of air-conditioning units and shut off power.
    Ensure that the ground around your home slopes away from the foundation wall, so that water does not drain into your basement.
    Clean leaves from eavestroughs and roof, and test downspouts to ensure proper drainage from the roof.
    Drain and store outdoor hoses. Close interior valve to outdoor hose connection and drain the hose bib (exterior faucet), unless your house has frost-proof hose bibs.
    Have well water tested for quality. It is recommended that you test for bacteria every six months.
    If you have a septic tank, measure the sludge and scum to determine if the tank needs to be emptied before the spring. Tanks should be pumped out at least once every three years.
    Winterize landscaping, for example, store outdoor furniture, prepare gardens and, if necessary, protect young trees or bushes for winter.


    Check and clean or replace furnace air filters each month during the heating season. Ventilation system, such as heat recovery ventilator, filters should be checked every two months.
    After consulting your hot water tank owner’s manual, drain off a dishpan full of water from the clean-out valve at the bottom of your hot water tank to control sediment and maintain efficiency.
    Clean humidifier two or three times during the winter season.
    Vacuum bathroom fan grille.
    Vacuum fire and smoke detectors, as dust or spider webs can prevent them from functioning.
    Vacuum radiator grilles on back of refrigerators and freezers, and empty and clean drip trays.
    Check pressure gauge on all fire extinguishers; recharge or replace if necessary.
    Check fire escape routes, door and window locks and hardware, and lighting around outside of house; ensure family has good security habits.
    Check the basement floor drain to ensure the trap contains water; refill with water if necessary.
    Monitor your home for excessive moisture levels — for example, condensation on your windows, which can cause significant damage over time and pose serious health problems — and take corrective action if necessary. Refer to the About Your House fact sheet Measuring Humidity in Your Home.
    Check all faucets for signs of dripping and change washers as needed. Faucets requiring frequent replacement of washers may be in need of repair.
    If you have a plumbing fixture that is not used frequently, such as a laundry tub or spare bathroom sink, tub or shower stall, run some water briefly to keep water in the trap.
    Clean drains in dishwasher, sinks, bathtubs and shower stalls.
    Test plumbing shut-off valves to ensure they are working and to prevent them from seizing.
    Examine windows and doors for ice accumulation or cold air leaks. If found, make a note to repair or replace in the spring.
    Examine attic for frost accumulation. Check roof for ice dams or icicles. If there is excessive frost or staining of the underside of the roof, or ice dams on the roof surface, consult the About Your House fact sheet Attic Venting, Attic Moisture and Ice Dams for advice.
    Keep snow clear of gas meters, gas appliance vents, exhaust vents and basement windows.
    Monitor outdoor vents, gas meters and chimneys for ice and snow buildup. Consult with an appropriate contractor or your gas utility for information on how to safely deal with any ice problems you may discover.
    Check electrical cords, plugs and outlets for all indoor and outdoor seasonal lights to ensure fire safety; if worn, or if plugs or cords feel warm to the touch, replace immediately.


    After consulting your hot water tank owner’s manual, carefully test the temperature and pressure relief valve to ensure it is not stuck. Caution: This test may release hot water that can cause burns.
    Check and clean or replace furnace air filters each month during the heating season. Ventilation system, such as heat recovery ventilator, filters should be checked every two months.
    Have fireplace or wood stove and chimney cleaned and serviced as needed.
    Shut down, drain and clean furnace humidifier, and close the furnace humidifier damper on units with central air conditioning.
    Switch on power to air conditioning and check system. Have it serviced every two or three years.
    Clean or replace air-conditioning filter, if applicable.
    Check dehumidifier and drain — clean if necessary.
    Turn OFF gas furnace and fireplace pilot lights where possible.
    Have well water tested for quality. It is recommended that you test for bacteria every six months.
    Check smoke, carbon monoxide and security alarms, and replace batteries.
    Clean windows, screens and hardware, and replace storm windows with screens. Check screens first and repair or replace if needed.
    Open valve to outside hose connection after all danger of frost has passed.
    Examine the foundation walls for cracks, leaks or signs of moisture, and repair as required.
    Ensure sump pump is operating properly before the spring thaw sets in. Ensure discharge pipe is connected and allows water to drain away from the foundation.
    Re-level any exterior steps or decks that moved as a result of frost or settling.
    Check for and seal off any holes in exterior cladding that could be an entry point for small pests, such as bats and squirrels.
    Check eavestroughs and downspouts for loose joints and secure attachment to your home, clear any obstructions, and ensure water flows away from your foundation.
    Clear all drainage ditches and culverts of debris.
    Repair and paint fences as necessary — allow wood fences to dry adequately before tackling this task.
    Undertake spring landscape maintenance and, if necessary, fertilize young trees.


    Monitor basement humidity and avoid relative humidity levels above 60 per cent. Use a dehumidifier to maintain relative humidity below 60 per cent.
    Clean or replace air-conditioning filter, and clean or replace ventilation system filters if necessary.
    Check basement pipes for condensation or dripping and, if necessary, take corrective action; for example, reduce humidity and/or insulate cold water pipes.
    Check the basement floor drain to ensure the trap contains water; refill with water if necessary.
    If you have a plumbing fixture that is not used frequently, for example, a laundry tub or spare bathroom sink, tub or shower stall, run some water briefly to keep water in the trap.
    Deep clean carpets and rugs.
    Vacuum bathroom fan grille.
    Disconnect the duct connected to your clothes dryer, and vacuum lint from duct, the areas surrounding your dryer and your dryer’s vent hood outside.
    Check security of all guardrails and handrails.
    Check smooth functioning of all windows, and lubricate as required.
    Inspect window putty on outside of glass panes of older houses, and replace if needed.
    Sand and touch up paint on windows and doors.
    Lubricate door hinges, and tighten screws as needed.
    Check for and replace damaged caulking and weatherstripping around mechanical and electrical services, windows and doorways, including the doorway between the garage and the house. See the About Your House fact sheet Attached Garages and Indoor Air Quality for more information on preventing garage-to-house air transfer.
    Lubricate garage door hardware, and ensure it is operating properly.
    Lubricate automatic garage door opener motor, chain and other moving parts, and ensure that the auto-reverse mechanism is properly adjusted.
    Inspect electrical service lines for secure attachment where they enter your house, and make sure there is no water leakage into the house along the electrical conduit. Check for overhanging tree branches that may need to be removed.
    Check exterior wood siding and trim for signs of deterioration; clean, replace or refinish as needed.
    Remove any plants that contact — and roots that penetrate — the siding or brick.
    From the ground, check the general condition of the roof and note any sagging that could indicate structural problems requiring further investigation from inside the attic. Note the condition of shingles for possible repair or replacement, and examine roof flashings, such as at chimney and roof joints, for any signs of cracking or leakage.
    Check the chimney cap and the caulking between the cap and the chimney.
    Repair driveway and walkways as needed.
    Repair any damaged steps.
  2. Should i install a programable thermostat or setback thermostat?

    Setback Thermostats

    What is a Setback Thermostat?

    Thermostats control heating and cooling appliances in houses. A setback thermostat gives the user the option of changing the temperature setting automatically at night and also during the work day when the occupants have left the house. A setback thermostat can help reduce overall household energy consumption.

    A conventional thermostat simply regulates house heating at one temperature. For instance, in the winter, if you set the thermostat to 20°C (68°F), it will activate the heating system when the house temperature drops below 20°C and will shut the system off when the house air warms up past 20°C.

    A setback thermostat contains an electronic clock. It can automatically turn down the temperature setting at night, when you are asleep, or during the day, when you are at work. It can also return the temperature to a more comfortable level before you wake up or arrive home from work. That way, you can have the energy savings of a lowered thermostat setting without the discomfort of having to wait for the house to heat up again.

    The setback thermostat can also be used as a set-forward thermostat for an air-conditioning system. It can allow the house to heat up when it is unoccupied and return it to a comfortable temperature before occupants return from daytime activities.

    Although this About Your House deals with setback thermostats and forced-air heating systems generally, you can apply some of the advice to electric baseboards or to summer usage.

    You can use a standard thermostat to set your house temperature lower during times when the house is unoccupied. This will lead to similar energy savings as with a setback thermostat but without the convenience.

    What Is a Normal House Temperature?

    CMHC randomly surveyed Canadian houses. Thermostat settings in the winter tend to be quite closely grouped around 20°C – 21°C (68°F – 70°F). Summer temperatures range much more widely, depending upon whether the house has air conditioning.

    To What Temperature Should I Set Back the Thermostat?

    The more you reduce the thermostat setting, the greater the possibility for savings. Generally, a drop of 2°C (3.6°F) will lead to some savings and little risk. Some householders reduce temperatures 4°C – 6°C (7°F – 11°F). However, temperature differences this large create potential comfort and moisture problems that are discussed below.

    Does Setting Back the Temperature Save Energy?

    Yes. Research from the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology shows that winter setbacks for the houses tested would result in heating cost savings of five to fifteen per cent. The highest savings came with a setback of 6°C (11°F). See CMHC’s Research Highlight: Effects of Thermostat Setting on Energy Consumption.

    Savings for the summer were about the same, although simply raising the thermostat set point in the summer from 22°C (71°F) to 24°C (75°F) led to more significant savings than the set-forward strategy and also offered better indoor humidity control.

    Note that these savings are for two airtight, well-insulated, unoccupied houses. The savings in your home may vary but are likely to be in the same range.

    What Can Go Wrong?

    There are several potential problems.

    The first one relates to comfort. A cool house can be uncomfortable in the winter. If you wake up at night before the time the thermostat resets to 20°C or 22°C (68°F or 71°F), the rooms will be cooler. The same applies if you have a setback daily when you leave for work, but you return home earlier.

    A setback schedule works best for people with predictable work and sleep periods. If your schedule is completely irregular, you might as well simply turn down a conventional thermostat when you sleep or leave the house, rather than trying to anticipate it with a setback thermostat.

    A second problem is the possibility of high humidity in the winter.

    Cool air can hold less moisture than warm air, so the relative humidity (RH) rises as the air cools. For instance, house air at a reasonable 35 per cent RH at 22°C (71°F) will see an increase to 50 per cent RH when the same air is allowed to cool to 16°C (61°F). This can lead to condensation on windows and walls (for instance, in closets or behind furniture).

    Basically, you are creating a more humid environment, all things considered, when you allow the house temperature to drop significantly. This may not be a problem in a dry house or one where you can modify the humidity, for instance by turning off a humidifier. House humidity should be monitored, especially in the winter. For more information on how to measure humidity in houses, see CMHC’s About Your House fact sheet Measuring Humidity in Your Home.

    Window condensation will be the first sign of excessive house humidity. Blinds and curtains usually increase the occurrence of condensation. If condensation is taking place, make sure that you wipe it up diligently or raise the temperature setback (for example, from 16°C to 17°C [61°F to 63°F]) until you have lowered house humidity levels and condensation is no longer a problem.

    A third potential problem is a sustained lack of air circulation as the house cools down.

    If you set back your thermostat in the evening from 20°C to 16°C (68°F to 61°F), the house may not cool to 16°C until 5 a.m. During that time, there will be no furnace circulation fan operation, unless you set the fan to run continuously. For houses where bedroom doors are kept closed, this could lead to stuffiness in those rooms and a lack of fresh air.

    There are ventilation devices and furnace fan cycling controls that can compensate for this, if you find bedrooms and other rooms underventilated during setback periods. Setting back to a higher temperature, such as 18°C (64°F), will reduce the period of furnace inactivity (and your consequent savings). Setting the furnace fan to run continuously will help, but this will increase electricity consumption. See About Your House: How to Get the Ventilation That You Need in Your House for more information.

    The final potential problem with setback thermostats is the time required to regain temperature, or to heat the house up once more.

    An oversized furnace will return the house to the higher temperature quickly, but a properly sized furnace can take a long time — as much as one hour — to bring the house back to a comfortable temperature. You have to experiment with this, as it will depend on the type and relative size of your heating equipment and your home’s energy efficiency, as well as other factors.

    If it takes an unacceptably long time for your house to heat up again, consider a smaller setback or start the high temperature setting earlier so that it is comfortable for you when you get out of bed or return from work.

    Related to this problem is the length of time required for the room enclosure and furnishings to heat up. If your bathroom has cooled to 16°C (61°F) overnight and the furnace has kicked in at 6 a.m. to bring up the heat, your bathroom walls will still be cool when you start a shower at 7 a.m. Testing in the research house at the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology showed that it takes up to several hours for wall temperatures to return to their highest levels. Cool wall surface temperatures can lead to comfort and condensation problems.

    What Houses Have the Greatest Risk for Problems?

    Many houses will not see significant problems with the use of setback thermostats, but some are more at risk.

    If you have a house with moisture problems in the winter (mold, condensation on windows, and so on), get those problems fixed before you consider installing a setback thermostat or set back your conventional thermostat.

    If you have a forced-air furnace and closed bedroom doors, you will need to ensure adequate ventilation of bedrooms at night, one way or another.

    If you already keep your house at an unusually low temperature (such as 18°C [64°F]), then a temperature setback is more likely to get you into the high humidity danger zone.

    So, How Do You Set These Things Anyhow?

    You may find electronic thermostats confusing, especially when compared to the simplicity of an older dial thermostat. Because each system is different, we can’t help you with this. Check your manual or ask someone who is familiar with setback thermostats to help you.

    All These Problems — Is It Worth the Trouble?

    Yes, it can be worth the trouble. If your house is in good condition, if you do not have excessive moisture problems, if you have a fairly regular schedule, then by all means use a setback thermostat. It will save energy. Just be aware that all energy-saving activities can have unexpected results, such as those outlined in this article, and be sure to take steps to avoid these problems.

  3. I have heard buying a water-efficient toilet is a good idea,is this true?

    Buying a Water-Efficient Toilet

    What to Look for When Buying a Toilet

    Whether you’re buying a new home, updating an existing property or just finally taking the plunge and carrying out that bathroom renovation you’ve always wanted, choosing the right toilet can be one of the most important — and most often overlooked — decisions you will make.

    A high-quality toilet can help you save money, protect the environment and conserve water, all without sacrificing performance or peace of mind. Choose the wrong toilet, and you could wind up flushing your hard-earned dollars down the drain.

    But with more than 1,000 different models on the market to choose from, how do you know what to look for — and which toilet is right for your family?

    Figure 1 — Parts of a toilet
    Figure 1 — Parts of a toilet

    The MaP Report: Get the Facts Before You Buy

    To help consumers make a more informed decision, in 2003, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) joined the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) and nearly two dozen other housing and municipal partners across Canada and the United States to create the Maximum Performance (MaP) Testing Program.

    The goal of the MaP initiative was to test a wide range of popular toilet models under realistic conditions. Then, each of the models tested was given a grade based on its overall performance.

    The resulting report contains a wealth of information to help consumers compare different toilets and decide which model is right for them. The report is updated on a regular basis to reflect the latest models and changes in performance standards. The most up-to-date edition is available free of charge from the CWWA website at

    Some municipalities across Canada now offer toilet rebates for models that have been rated under the MaP’s rigorous testing and received a high score.

    How to Read the MaP Tables

    For consumers, the most useful information in the MaP report is likely contained within the tables of the report’s appendices, where more than 600 popular toilet models are ranked by both the manufacturer’s name and the rated performance of each model. To make them easier to follow, the performance ratings are colour-coded according to the type of toilet and level of performance. As well, one of the appendices lists models in order of performance.

    Consumers can use the MaP tables to simply find out which models received the highest overall scores. Or, if they already have a specific manufacturer or model in mind, they can look it up by the make and model number to find out which features it offers and see how well it performed compared to similar models.

    At first glance, the MaP tables can seem somewhat daunting. But for the average consumer, there are just a few key things to keep in mind to help you find the information you need quickly and easily.

    First, consumers should look only at those toilet models in rows that are colour-coded either pink (for 6-L, pressure- or power-assisted toilets), light green (for 4-L, pressure-assisted toilets) or white (for gravity-fed and vacuum-assisted models). All dark green and yellow-coded rows are strictly for commercial-use models only. It is the intention of the publishers of the MaP report to eventually produce two separate reports — one for residential fixtures and another for commercial fixtures.

    The next thing to look at is the column titled “MaP Flush Performance.” This column identifies how many grams of solid waste are removed from each toilet with a single flush. From the MaP testing, it has become apparent that, for the vast majority of consumers, any toilet with a MaP score of 350 g or more should be more than sufficient to handle almost any household need.

    The next two columns indicate whether or not a toilet meets the specifications of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Supplementary Purchase Specification (SPS) and WaterSense (WS) programs — two leading indicators of toilet performance and efficiency. The SPS and WS requirements are virtually identical, except that all 6-L (effective flush volume) toilets are tested to SPS requirements and all 4.8-L toilets are tested to WS requirements. Both sets of requirements ensure that the toilet model is fitted with high-quality trim components (including the fill valve and flapper) which should help the toilet continue to flush with the same volume of water over time.

    Any toilet with a SPS or WS rating is likely to be water-efficient and have satisfactory flushing performance. A “NE” in these columns indicates that the toilet is currently Not Eligible for SPS or WaterSense testing — usually because it is intended for commercial rather than residential use.

    The remaining columns offer more detailed information about such features as:

    • whether a toilet is a one- or two-piece model,
    • the size of the flush valve,
    • whether it has a round (R) or elongated (E) bowl,
    • whether the toilet is standard-height or comfort-height (indicated by the symbol ADA for Americans with Disabilities Act),
    • the type of flush technology or mounting it uses, and
    • several other features.

    Typically, most residential toilets have round (R) bowls, though elongated (E) bowls are becoming more common, as are comfort-height bowls.

    The light-blue shaded columns identify which models are considered to be high-efficiency toilets (indicated by the designation “HET”). High-efficiency toilets generally offer significantly better water savings than other toilets, without compromising flushing performance. HETs must flush with no more than 4.8 L. Dual-flush models, that is, toilets that offer the consumer the choice of using a full 6-L flush to remove solid waste or a half flush to remove liquid waste, also qualify as HETs (since the average flush volume of a dual-flush toilet meets the 4.8-L requirement).

    Last but not least, it is important to always be sure that the model number of the toilet you are looking at exactly matches the model number in the MaP tables. New toilet models are being introduced constantly, so if the model number does not precisely match the combination of terms and numbers provided in the MaP report, then the toilet may not have been MaP-tested and its performance level may not have been determined.

    WaterSense: It Just Makes Sense!

    The MaP report is a handy reference guide for consumers who are interested in doing a little research before they make a buying decision. Another option is to choose any toilet model that has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense program for high-efficiency toilets.

    To earn the WaterSense label, a toilet must be able to flush at least 350 g of waste in a single flush. This is generally more than sufficient for the vast majority of households, as the average waste volume most toilets handle can be less than 150 g.

    Additional Considerations

    There are a number of additional considerations besides flushing performance that you should think about when buying a toilet. These include the following:

    Rough-in Dimension

    The vast majority of North American homes have a rough-in dimension (the distance from the wall behind the toilet to the centre of the floor flange) of 305 mm (12 in.). However, you should measure your rough-in distance before you buy to ensure your new toilet will fit the existing space.

    One-Piece vs. Two-Piece

    One-piece toilets (where the tank and bowl are purchased as a single unit) can be easier to clean and may have less opportunity to leak at the junction between the tank and bowl than two-piece models. However, one-piece toilets can also be more expensive, as well as heavier and harder to install.

    Bowl Height

    Toilet bowls generally come in one of two heights: regular or “comfort-height.” Comfort-height bowls are slightly higher than regular bowls, which many people find makes them more comfortable to use. If you are tall, have bad knees or have a disability, you may want to consider a comfort-height bowl. Toilet bowls qualified by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), for example, must measure between 430 and 480 mm (17 and 19 in.) from the finished floor to the top of the seat.

    Bowl Shape

    Up until a few years ago, almost all residential toilets had round bowls with doughnut-shaped toilet seats. Toilets in office buildings, airports and other commercial spaces, on the other hand, tended to have egg-shaped or elongated bowls. Today, many homeowners are opting to install elongated bowls in their homes. The choice is primarily a matter of personal preference, though toilets with elongated bowls may not fit easily in some smaller bathrooms.

    Single- or Dual-Flush

    Dual-flush toilets were originally introduced to help conserve water. But with the development of single-flush models that use only 4.8 L of water or less, the comparative water savings of dual-flush toilets has eroded somewhat. The choice between single- and dual-flush toilets is now related more to personal consumer preference than to any real water savings.

    Flushing Performance

    Toilet models with the highest MaP performance scores can flush between 800 – 1,000 g of waste. But for most consumers, any toilet model (preferably WaterSense-approved) with a MaP score of 350 g or more will likely meet or exceed their flushing performance needs.

    Gravity or Pressure-Assisted

    Most residential toilets work by means of simple gravity — water is stored in the tank at a higher level than the water in the bowl. When the toilet is flushed, water flows by gravity from the tank to the bowl. Water is then pulled from the bowl into the drain by a siphon effect, then down the drain to the sewer. With pressure-assisted models, the water is stored in a canister inside the toilet tank, where it is kept at the same pressure as the water that is supplied to the toilet. When the toilet is flushed, the pressurized water forces a power flush action through the bowl. Up until 2003, pressure-assisted models generally offered better performance than gravity models. Today, however, gravity and pressure-assisted toilets both offer relatively equal flushing power, making the choice between them more a matter of personal preference than performance.

    Flapper Size

    Flappers (or flush valves) on nearly all North American toilets are either 50 mm (2 in.) or 75 mm (3 in.) in diameter. Generally speaking, a 75-mm (3-in.) flapper will allow water to discharge from the tank to the bowl much faster, resulting in better performance. While a 75-mm (3-in.) flapper is not a guarantee of more flushing power, nearly all high-performance toilets produced by major manufacturers are now equipped with a flapper of that size.

    Trap Diameter (Siphonic vs. Washdown)

    Until recently, virtually all residential toilets in North America were siphonic, meaning they used the natural siphon created by the flushing water in the toilet trap to “pull” waste from the bowl. The smaller the toilet trap, the easier it is to create the necessary suction. But smaller traps can also make it more difficult for the waste to pass through. Washdown toilets, on the other hand, use the water entering the bowl to help “push” the waste through the trap. Because they don’t need to rely only on a siphon, washdown toilets can have a considerably larger trap diameter. But, because of the way they work, they also tend to have a much smaller water surface area in the toilet bowl. As a result, washdown toilets generally tend to clog less often than siphonic toilets, but they may also require more frequent cleaning.

    Drainline Carry

    Despite some early concerns, extensive testing has shown that water-efficient toilets provide more than enough water to transport waste through your home’s drainpipes to the sewer. If you find your toilet is frequently plugged, it is more likely a sign that your drainpipes are partially or fully blocked than your toilet is not functioning properly.

    Lined vs. Unlined Tank

    Toilets come with lined (insulated) or unlined tanks. The lining helps prevent the condensation, or “sweating,” that can form on the outside of the tank during hot, humid summer months due to the presence of cold water in the tank. A lined tank may not be necessary if your home is air-conditioned, your indoor air is relatively dry and your municipal or well water is not too cold. If unsure, consult with a local toilet installer or retailer to find out what is recommended for your area.

    Supplementary Purchase Specification (SPS)

    Another performance criterion that can be used to identify high performance toilets is the Supplementary Purchase Specification (SPS), created by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to measure the performance and durability of toilets over the long term. To meet the SPS standards, a toilet must have chemically resistant trim components that won’t be damaged from exposure to chlorine. It must also have a pilot fill valve (or equivalent) to ensure that the water level in the tank remains at the proper level over time, regardless of changes in the water pressure. Furthermore, it must not permit any adjustment that would allow the toilet to flush with more than 7.6 L of water. To find out if a toilet meets the SPS requirements, look up its name and model in the MaP report tables, or purchase a WaterSense-certified toilet, which guarantees the same stringent requirements.

    With these considerations in mind, you should be ready and able to choose a toilet that’s right for your home, your pocketbook — and the environment.

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