1 Flush, 2 Flush, How to Make a Dual Flush

American Standard 2480.216.020 FloWise Dual Flush Right Height Elongated Toilet, White
Update 11/118/203 – removed the last of the dual-flush conversion kits when we replaced our toilet with a new 1.28 gpf model from American Standard.
UPDATE 3/23/2012
Two years later, 2 of the 3 HydroRight Dual-Flush conversion kits have been removed and replaced by standard flush mechanisms and the third frequently fails to stop running after a #2 flush.  I love the concept of the product, but have not had much luck even after talking to their support.

Toilets typically consume 27% of household water usage according to the EPA.  For an average family of four that’s 75 gallons of water being flushed down the drain per day, literally.  The best thing to do for the environment is to replace older toilets (those manufactured before 1993), which use 3.5-7 gallons per flush (gpf), with modern WaterSense (the H20 equivalent of EnergyStar) toilets that use 1.6 gpf.  An even better choice is the dual flush toilets that use only 0.8 gpf for #1 and 1.6 for #2.  Replacing a toilet isn’t always practical once you factor in the cost of  the toilet and hiring a plumber. Here is how we turned a regular toilet into a water saving dual-flush toilet in just about 30 minutes.
MJSI HYR270 HydroRight Drop-in Dual Flush ConverterOur parents have older 1989 high volume toilets in their house that use about 5 gallons per flush (gpf).  While the long term solution should be to replace these toilets with modern dual flush WaterSense toilets at 0.8/1.6 gpf like the American Standard Dual Flush model pictured, at $300 each plus labor, that was not in the budget.  For less than 1/10th of that, we gave them a dual-flush conversion kit for Christmas and included installation as part of the gift.  For those that find the if it is yellow, let it mellow method too high on the ick factor, this is a great alternative and it can be done in addition.
We chose the most frequently used toilet in the house for converting since it would save the most water.  The installation went smoothly and took about 30 minutes from start to finish.  We estimate that for every flush they are saving 2-3 gallons of water.  It took a bit of adjusting to ensure it actually flushed for the partial flush, but once adjusted it has been working great.  Now instead of the handle, they have a push button – one drop for #1 and two drops for #2.  They are so happy with this that they’ve asked us to convert the remaining two toilets in the house the next time we visit. Included at the end of this post are the steps that I went through to give you a better sense of how involved the installation is so you can gauge if they’re up for doing it yourself.

So if you are not interested in spending $300+ per toilet replacing them, but still want to save water with modern dual flush technology, consider getting a conversion kit like the HydroRight Drop-in Dual Flush Converter.  As we always recommend, before spending money to convert all of the toilets in your house, buy one and see if it works for the style toilet you have and that you are happy with the solution before investing in the entire upgrade.

Happy Greening,

Basic Installation Instructions

Use the instructions provided with your kit, this is here to provide a sense of what is involved.  It took me about 30 minutes to install and adjust, which is more than the 10 minutes advertised, but still totally reasonable.  You should have some tools on hand in case you need them.  I needed a set of pliers to turn the shutoff valve.
  • Step 1: Gather supplies
    • Channel lock pliers or adjustable crescent wrench
    • Flat head screw driver (needed for removing this old style flapper valve)
    • Old towels or rags (the old rubber and plastic made my hands messy)
  • Step 2: Prep the area
    • Clear stuff off the back of toilet
    • Clear stuff from around the base
    • Place old towels under the tank just in case you have leaks
  • Step 3: Turn off the water
  • Step 4: Empty the holding tank – i.e. flush the toilet
  • Step 5: Check manufacture date on tank lid. This one was made on July 28, 1989, which means it is NOT a low flow toilet and uses well more than 3.5 gpf (my guess is 5 gpf)
  • Step 6: Disconnect chain and remove flapper valve
  • Step 7: Remove handle
  • Step 8: Install dual-flush valve (slips on the fill pipe)
  • Step 9: Screw on flush button
  • Step 10: Connect hose to flusher
  • Step 11: Turn water back on
  • Step 12: Flush and Adjust (repeat as necessary)
  • Step 13: Put everything back
  • Step 14: Give quick lesson in how to use

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