I discussed the toilet issue with Alan Meier, Home Energy’s Senior Executive Editor, a frequent traveler to Japan, when I got back to work. He assured me that there are strict energy use standards for the bun warmers, even though the majority of Japanese households use them. Alan thinks that it may have something to do with the aging population. When you get old, the circulation doesn't always work so well.
But what about U.S. bathrooms? The average house built today is about twice as big as those built 50 years ago, and the difference may be the bathrooms! Today's tubs are the size of yesterday's swimming pools, and some showers mimic a rain forest during a monsoon. Shower heads manufactured before 1994 in this country tend to use 3–7 gallons per minute, while the more recent models use around 2.5 gallons per minute. But if your shower uses 3 or 4 shower heads...
Jon Harrod and Lexie Hain of Snug Planet, a building performance contracting firm, went looking for the perfect very-low-flow shower head. They know that the best shower heads are the ones that people actually buy and use. They recruited family and friends to "shower for science" and rate their experience. Their research found that there are indeed very-low-flow shower heads, that use as little as 1 gallon per minute, that give great showers. The Niagara Chrome Earth shower head combines the best price with good performance (go to www.efi.org for more information on the Niagara model and other very-low-flow shower heads).
For the best performing very-low-flush-volume toilets (complete flushing of "#2", if you catch my drift), you have to go to the Bible for toilets, the Maximum Performance (MaP) list. You can find it on the Web site of the California Urban Water Conservation Council (www.cuwcc.org/MapTesting.lasso). For more information on bun warmers-- I'm afraid you're on your own.
Jim Gunshinan is Managing Editor of Home Energy Magazine. He holds an M.S. in Bioengineering from Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, and a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree from University of Notre Dame.
latitude: 37.8783, longitude: -122.287