How Can I Make My Toilet More Efficient?

Written by Sylvie Branch
Updated September 14, 2015
Save water and money with these steps for toilet efficiency. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

Save water and money with these steps to improve toilet efficiency.

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You can quickly detect a leaky toilet with the help of food coloring. Squeeze a few drops into the tank and wait about 15 minutes. If color has entered the bowl without being flushed, you likely have a leaky valve. (Photo by Dior Stephens)

Toilets are a part of almost every modern American home's bathroom, so learning more about how one works can come in handy and save you a few bucks on your water bill. A toilet that doesn’t flush properly, runs constantly or flushes on its own, it’s almost certainly wasting water.

A toilet that continually allows water to flow into the bowl usually indicates a bad or faulty seal at the flapper or ball valve inside the tank. If the toilet bowl itself fills to the point of being full or nearly full, this can also trigger phantom flushing, where the toilet flushes on its own. According to the EPA, a leaky toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons of water each day, so fixing a leaky toilet is great way to reduce water consumption and your water bill.

If you’ve noticed higher water bills or usage, but can’t pinpoint the problem to the toilet alone, try using food coloring to test your toilet for leaks. Place a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait about 15 minutes. If the food coloring has entered the toilet bowel without the toilet being flushed, there’s definitely a leak at a faulty flush valve, which allows the water in the toilet tank to enter the toilet bowl, causing the toilet to flush.

To replace a faulty flush valve, also known as a flapper first turn off the water supply to the toilet. There should be a water line at the back or base of the toilet that runs up into the toilet tank. On that line there should be a handle that can be turned to turn the water supply off.

Wear latex gloves when removing the old flapper, and then put it in a small container to take with you to the hardware store. Since the plumbing supply aisle is usually very large, it's easier to find a replacement part when you have the original in hand.

If the problem you are having involves either an overflowing toilet or one that does not effectively flush, the problem may be the water level in the tank. Adjusting this can be a do-it-yourself project.

The water in the tank should not be too low or too high; it should stop a half-inch from the overflow pipe. To fix this problem, you can turn the screw on the top of the fill valve to either reduce or increase the amount of water in the tank. Turn the screw until the water hits the proper level. Although it's commonly recommended, it's best to not bend the rod to adjust the height of the float unless you are using this method temporarily until you can buy replacement parts.

Have you improved your toilet's efficiency? Share your tips in the comments below.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Oct. 25, 2012. 

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