Can a media that successfully tests and developes1.6 gpf water closets be found?

Most of you noticed what appears to be a constant change in the design and flushing performance of 1.6 gpf water closets for the first few years they've been on the market. However, lately, there hasn't been much of anything new in the way of 1.6 gpf water closets. Everyone has been asking me, "What's up?"

You may be wondering whether the manufacturers have decided that they finally got it right and they don't need to change the design of their water closets. Well, in many respects, the quality of the 1.6 gpf water closets has greatly improved. I am convinced that we don't need any more than 1.6 gallons of water to flush a well-designed water closet. I wasn't sure about that 10 years ago.

If you think that manufacturers are just sitting on their duffs, pounding their chests, saying, "We have solved the mighty 1.6 gpf dilemma!" then you are wrong. In this day and age, manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve. They want that edge over their competitors to make their water closet the best on the market.

So why, then, does it seem like nothing has been happening lately? Because nothing has. Every manufacturer is in the same quandary. All of it relates to the question of an acceptable water closet media.

The media is not the television, newspapers and magazines, although many of us have thought about flushing them down the toilet. The media in question is the stuff you throw in the water closet to test its performance.

Yucky Stuff

Of course the ideal method of testing a water closet is to use the real stuff. Laboratories can actually buy human waste.

There's an interesting market! But, as you can imagine, nobody really wants to be testing with real human waste. The preferable method of testing a water closet is with a re-useable media the replicates the real thing.

The arguments over test media started more than 20 years ago when the industry switched to using polypropylene balls. The current flushing test requires 100 balls to be thrown in the water closet bowl. To pass the test, the water closet must remove at least 75 balls during the flush.

There are additional tests using polyethylene granules to simulate a case of diarrhea. Again, the water closet must pass a certain percentage of granules.

Of course, the battle cry has been, "We don't crap polypropylene balls!" Which then raises the next question of, "Then what do we use to simulate crap?"

The reason polypropylene was selected many years ago was because the density of polypropylene it about the same as human waste - just in case you were interested.

Drainline Carry

More recently, a drainline carry test was added to the water closet test protocol. This test basically requires the polypropylene balls to travel an average of 40 feet in a 4-inch drain pitched 1/4-inch per foot. One of the complaints regarding this test is that the balls will roll down the drain to achieve the 40-foot mark. In defense of this test, however, we have seen a marked improvement in the quality of water closets after the test was mandated. (Some of the earlier 1.6 gpf water closets could not pass the

drainline carry test.)

Some of the manufacturers would like to eliminate the drainline carry test; others are more concerned with developing a better media.

Believe it or not, we sit around in meetings and talk about this all day.

I remember a meeting about 12 years ago when Bill Robinson of Gerber brought in a sample of an alternative media he developed.

(Bill retired a number of years ago, so I hope he doesn't get mad at me for mentioning his great invention.) Bill strung the polypropylene balls together in a nylon netting. He had been using this media in Gerber's plant to test the water closets. The idea was to simulate the human waste that did not break up as it went through the trap of the water closet. We nicknamed this new media, the "Robinson Balls."

What was most interesting in this discussion was that certain manufacturers were using media, other than the media required by the standard, to test their water closets. This higher standard for testing often resulted in a better quality of water closet for flushing performance. The Robinson Balls never caught on with the standards committee.

The latest debate has been the use of what is known as a bulk media. This test media uses a series of sponges and kraft paper to fully load the bowl. The idea is to simulate the worst case of a heavy load going through the trap.

The only problem with this bulk media test is that it is based on eliminating the drainline carry test. Of course, to remove the bulk media, all you have to do is increase the trapway of the water closet. However, that can result in the waste just plopping into the pipe and going nowhere. The perceived attitude is, "We get it into the drain. It's the plumbing's responsibility to get it through the drain, not the manufacturer's." Mind you, not every manufacturer has this attitude.

Along with this change in media is a sliding test scale for water closets. Each water closet would have a different level of performance that they would have to meet. Already, some manufacturers are recommending that commercial establishments use either a flushometer type water closet or a flushometer tank type water closet. These locations have a higher probability of being subjected to abuse by the users. (But, then again, every plumbing contractor already knew this.)

The plumbing engineers got involved with the new media when they voiced their opposition to using a bulk media with the elimination of the drainline carry test. As they pointed out, there is inadequate data to support the switch at this time. Hence, their comments have held up the implementation of any new test media.

The result of all of this is that the manufacturers are standing by. They need to know what media they will have to flush before they can develop a new series of 1.6 gpf water closets. In the meantime, we will have to continue to use the fine quality of water closets out there. If you don't know which ones I am talking about, then you need to do your homework. Don't base it on price or what a salesman tells you. Some of the lower cost bowls flush the best, while some of the higher-priced bowls aren't worth a darn.