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Survey finds those 'New' toilets do hold water.

Mary Umberger
Published: Saturday, October 16, 1999

Those of you who lament that not enough bathroom news shows up in venerable American newspapers are in for a treat today: These two bulletins have just come in.

- Last summer I wrote about a survey of attitudes toward the so-called low-flush toilets that were mandated for new homes by Congress in 1992. The toilets are supposed to accomplish with 1.5 gallons what 3.2 gallons used to do, thus conserving water. To make a long (and joke-susceptible) story short, many consumers have complained that the devices not only are inefficient, but tend to clog, even leading to plumbing disaster. A Michigan congressman says he aims to repeal the law.

So the National Association of Home Builders Research Center set out to determine whether the problems are as widespread as reputed. The group's survey found few surprises, with the bottom line being that no, homeowners and builders really don't like these toilets, though they say that the newer ones have design improvements that appear to improve performance.

The survey confirmed that consumers in general perceive that the toilets don't really save water because they often require multiple flushes. But the research facility also reports that another study by the American Waterworks Association does, indeed, show real water conservation from using the toilets.

The research facility did its own tests of several kinds of toilets -- two-piece, one-piece, gravity-flush and pressure-assisted flush, and found a lot of variation. "By far the most efficient toilet tested to date is a pressure-assisted model, which scored 2.5" on a scale where "perfect" is a zero, the report noted. The tests also indicated that cost isn't necessarily an indicator of good performance.

The full report is on the research center's Web site -, which, if you've ever been on the losing end of a fight with one of these toilets, turns out to be rather interesting.

- Giving new meaning to the "Where do you want to go today?" ad slogan is a survey by Dell Computer, which polled 2,000 people who use the Internet with some frequency.

About 77 percent of the respondents said high-speed access was "essential" or "important" -- no surprise there. Nor am I startled to hear that when it comes to designing their dream home, this group covets high-speed access more than having an extra bathroom, walk-in-closets or whirlpool tub.

The survey predicted the emergence of "personal trainer" -- not for physical fitness, but for the Internet. Such "person'net trainers" would teach clients to integrate their PCs and the Internet in order to do "more interesting and helpful things," according to Dell.

I suppose this means that, as with home gyms, we'll soon have to have houses with designated "computer training rooms" built for two surfers. OK, fine. But I draw the line at the 20 percent of the survey respondents who said they want Internet access in every room of the house, including the bathroom.

Power up

In other news gleaned from surveys on things we didn't even know we were interested in, we find the following: For those of you who inhabit a world where cigar rooms have become passe and indoor pools are just so -- you know, ordinary -- the Next Great Thing to acquire could be a backup power generator.

Initially, they might seem to lack cachet, but think of the summer of 1999. Maybe there is some appeal in being able to brag to the neighbors about one's amperage. A new study of affluent homes (we're talking the top 15 percent of income brackets) suggests that one in 10 of such households already has an emergency generator, and I've seen a handful of them in my rambles. About 15 percent of all owners of such homes say they'd at least be interested in acquiring one.

The study, by RKS Research & Consulting in North Salem, .Y., indicates that people who are interested in the generators have experienced higher-than-average rates of power interruption and also have larger homes with multiple computers.

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