Who would have thought that the humble toilet would be the high-tech appliance of the century? We can now choose from cozy heated seats, no-slam lids, chair-like comfort heights and hygienic built-in bidets. And if you're really flush, there are ultra-luxury commodes that feature all of the above plus wireless music streaming, foot warmers, smart phone-activated lid openers and illuminated panels with a choice of colored lights to suit the user's every mood.
Which is why it's not really surprising that the Kohler Company — always on the cutting edge of plumbing trends — has recently introduced a toilet with hands-free flushing technology for the home market. Yes, motion-sensor toilets have been in public restrooms for years, and their performance is often less than perfect. But Kohler says that unlike these sensors, in which a beam of light must be broken to trigger the flush, their new toilet utilizes emerging technology that projects an electromagnetic field, a system that the company claims is both extremely accurate and reliable.
Okay, so the Touchless Toilet works. But is it necessary? I'm betting that many folks, especially parents with young kids, will think it is. Apparently, so does Kohler. In a study the company conducted of 800 U.S. consumers, 51 percent were concerned about germs in the bathroom. That figure jumps to 65 percent when narrowed down to moms with children, says Kohler marketing manager Brian Hedlund.
"Homeowners are of course worried about the hygiene and health of their family members, and the toilet trip lever is an obvious area of hygienic concern," he says. Instead of grasping a potentially germ-laden handle, users flush the Touchless simply by holding a hand over the sensor located in the tank lid.
There's a selection of toilets in the Kohler line with built-in touchless technology. The comfort-height San Souci is a one-piece contemporary style with a powerful AquaPiston flush engine and water-saving 1.28 GPF (gallons per flush). The traditionally styled, two-piece Cimarron, available with an elongated or rounded seat, comes with similar options. All require 4 AA batteries to operate the electromagnetic module that detects your hand.
If you don't want to install a whole new toilet, Kohler also sells a retrofit kit that works with most standard models — although it's not compatible with dual-flush, top-mount flush, pressure-assist or ballcock valve commodes. The kit also includes a decal you can apply to the tank lid that indicates where to wave.
Like the hands-free faucet, the Touchless Toilet may actually reduce the number of colds and flu bugs that pass between family members. Now, if it could only get kids to wash their hands!