Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for a little potty talk. No, not the kind you hear on the kindergarten playground, but a grown-up conversation about your toilet's features and functions. Can't think of anything exceptional to say? Then you probably don't own one of today's so-called "super toilets." These modern marvels — available in a range of prices and styles — are engineered for comfort, convenience, cleanliness and, sometimes, just plain fun. But while a built-in sound system or automated lid lifter may seem like sufficient selling points for some folks, most of these new commodes also feature the EPA's WaterSense label. This means that your super toilet is not only a dazzling performer but uses less water to maintain peak efficiency.
Here are five innovative features to look for when you're shopping for a new toilet:
1. Dual-Flush Toilets
While eco-conscious Europeans have been using dual-flush toilets for the last couple of decades, Americans have only recently gotten a handle on their money-saving benefits. Two buttons on the tank give you the option for either a full flush (recommended for solid waste) or a lighter flush for liquids. Some high-efficiency models, including American Standard's FloWise line, go even further, offering water savings that are well under the government's 1.6 gallon-per-flush standard.
2. Heated Seats
If you've ever sat on a traditional toilet seat on a frigid winter morning, you'll appreciate the simple luxury a little warmth can provide. Lots of new toilets come equipped with an electrically warmed perch, and some high-end models, like Kohler's $6,000 fully-loaded Numi, will even warm your popsicle toes while it plays your favorite playlist and treats you to a colored light show. Fortunately, there are also a number of affordable after-market options you can add to an existing toilet. For $99, Brondell's LumaWarm not only kills the chill but beckons you with the soft glow of its blue LED nightlight.
3. Integrated Bidets
The mysterious purpose of the porcelain fixture located next to the toilet in European hotel bathrooms has puzzled countless American tourists. But now that many high-tech toilets incorporate a bidet function, this excellent personal hygiene tool may finally gain some ground in the American john. Japanese manufacturer Toto's Washlet toilet with integrated bidet promises a "natural, purifying experience that will leave you clean and happy," thanks to its remote-control operation, heated seat and soothing aerated spray. The lower-priced Brondell Swash 1000 offers a bidet seat that can be attached to almost any toilet. It's packed with features that promise a "home spa" experience, including a heated seat, two self-cleaning nozzles, and an adjustable warm air dryer.
4. Comfort Height Toilets
So-called comfort height toilets are about two inches higher than standard models, making it easier for aging baby boomers or anyone with mobility issues to sit down and stand back up. Models range from about 17 to 19 inches high (similar to sitting in a chair) and are usually compliant with ADA standards. Major manufacturers including Kohler, American Standard and Toto all feature comfort- height models in a range of styles and prices.
5. Motion-Activated Seats
Install an automated toilet lid and you'll never get scolded for leaving the seat up again. Available for around $160, the iTouchless employs infrared sensors that raise the lid as you approach (the seat rises with the wave of a hand). When the toilet is unoccupied, both seat and lid automatically lower. The device is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which lasts up to three months.