Toilets are 1.6 gallons today. The old 3.5 gallons are no longer available. The newer toilets do work well.
The Energy and Conservation Act of 1992 required all new toilets to use 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf). Prior to that, 3.5 gallons (gpf) was the standard. The new law sent toilet manufacturers scrambling to redesign toilets for 1.6-gallon capacity. Unfortunately, for the next couple of years many toilets flushed poorly. A few could barely flush a single sheet of tissue in one flush.
The good news is that most new 1.6-gallon toilets evacuate waste properly. The ones that don’t flush well are now a rarity. You can even get a pressurized-tank toilet. They are more expensive than gravity-tank models, retailing at more than $180.00. They are slightly noisier but have a very short flush cycle. Their mass clearance performance is better than 3.5-gallon toilets and they will almost never clog.
The only problem with 1.6-gallon toilets is having enough water to carry the waste down old sewer lines. Our elected officials, in their infinite wisdom, decided to cut back on the size of the flush, without realizing that this would require a redesign of the whole sewer system for everything to work properly. Sewer mains need to be made smaller with more slope added to prevent blockages.
Congressman Joseph Knollenberg, R-Michigan, is sponsoring a bill, H.R. 859 – the Plumbing Standards Act, to get Uncle Sam out of the toilet business. This bill reintroduces the 3.5-gallon flush toilets back into use.
The situation has become so bad that there is a black market in 3.5-gallon toilets. People are sneaking them into new homes, even though, if caught, they face a $2,500 fine for procuring and installing an illegal toilet.
For this reason I want to try saving your old toilet. There are no laws governing that. If the bowl holds water and there aren’t any hairline cracks in the china, the problem usually comes down to mineral deposits. Short of being the wrong color or design, most toilets don’t go bad.
If a toilet is over 35-years old it could probably use a toilet delimer. A toilet discharges water in the upper rim of the bowl and starts the downward flush. After many years of use, mineral deposits clog the jets in the rim and the toilet will start to reverse flush. The easy test to determine if the problem is in the toilet or in the drain is with the bucket test.
The bucket test is simply to pour 2 – 3 gallons of water into the toilet bowl. If it takes all the water lickety-split that indicates a clear drain. Next check the water level in the toilet tank. Is the water level within one inch of the top of the overflow tube? Lastly, does the flush valve stay open for the entire flush? The flush valve could be a flapper, a tank ball on a rod, or one of many other mechanisms. Yes is good.
If everything seems correct but the toilet flushes poorly, I recommend investing $4 in a toilet delimer. It is easy to use. Just pour a quart of delimer into the overflow tube in the toilet tank and wait 30 minutes. Flush. Some toilets require two treatments, a small price to pay to save over $100.