Saturday, January 3, 2004

Winner Loos

Toilet makers battle in their own bowl game

By Lisa Hutchurson
Gannett News Service

Makers of new power loos are fighting for our, uh, business.

These proud new privies, their creators say, are the solution for all our low-flow headaches.

"A lot of people have to flush two or three times to really get stuff through," says Alex Strasenburgh, a mechanical engineer who helps find products - potties included - for industrial, institutional and commercial building projects.

"I know myself," says Strasenburgh. "I've gotta plunge my toilet a lot."

That's because in 1992, the National Energy Policy Act cut the number of gallons allowed per flush from 3.5 to 1.6. After this, says Strasenburgh, toilets just tanked. They frequently clogged and didn't save water, what with all the extra flushing.

The Champ chomps waste

A decade or so later, manufacturers have responded. In their rush to provide the best flush, they're touting their breakthroughs in gravity-fed toilet technology, launching online interactive demonstrations and even hitting the road on toilet tours.

Here are some toilet prices to consider, bearing in mind that your basic white model costs a little more than $100:
• The Champion: $408.
• TOTO's Ultimate Elongated Bowl: $332-$519. That doesn't count such upgrades as a heated seat with temperature control.
• Two-piece, classic Kohler round-front Memoirs model with the Ingenium Flushing System: $323. That's before you buy the seat.
This is how we found ourselves at Flush Fest this fall. Held by American Standard, this potty-themed party parked itself in Pittsford, N.Y.

The guest of honor: the Champion Toilet, featuring "America's Best Flushing System."

Kneeling by a model with a see-though tank, the company's regional manager, Mike Murcell, showed off the toilet's features - a patent-pending "Flush Tower" capable of releasing 1.6 gallons from the tank in 0.75 seconds, a 3-inch flush valve (50 percent larger than the industry standard), and the largest siphon trapway in recorded toilet history.

"Add it all up," said Purcell, "and we have a dynamite flush."

A pretty entertaining one, too - with a demo involving the flush of 24 golf balls at once.

The Champ ate 'em all. Well, except for one.

Doesn't matter, anyway.

According to American Standard's 2003 study by an independent market research firm, the Champ beat TOTO and Kohler in flush tests of toilet paper, cloth napkins, sponges and rubber tubes.

American Standard calls it "News so good, you may want to sit down."

Just don't get comfy, its competitors say. Their premier potties prevailed in other trials.

Others claim the throne

Lenora Campos, spokeswoman for TOTO USA, cites a 2002 study in which TOTO topped the charts among 108 toilets.

In this Super Bowl of sorts, conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (see full results at www.saving, TOTO's gravity models came in first, second and third.

Meanwhile, Kohler lays claim to the true throne.

Reps note a recent nationwide study by an independent market research firm in Milwaukee.

In that test, plumbers consistently ranked Kohler two-piece gravity-fed toilets as "best performing," "best quality," "most reliable" and as having the "best waste removal."

So how do you find the best seat in the house?

Price and availability might help you decide.

First, keep in mind that a plumber will charge you about $400 to install one of these new, tougher toilets (versus the basic $105 installation, according to one company) because the construction of these models makes them more tricky.

On the Web: www.americanstandard,, www.kohler .com.

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