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A black, plastic toilet flapper with a chain attached to the top, sitting against a white background.

How Replacing Your Toilet Flapper Could Improve Your Water Bill

Did you know that toilets are responsible for 30 percent of our overall water use in North American homes? Surprising but true, especially if you consider that many people treat that necessity like it is a luxury. Many people in your household probably aren't aware of how much water gets flushed away. You might not even be aware of just how much water your toilets use, especially if some of it is being wasted by a faulty toilet flapper.

Advances in technology have redefined how we view hygiene, cleanliness and safety. The history of toilets didn’t even involve water to start with—from chamber pots to deep holes in the ground to castle moats—toilets began as an architectural structure that later revolutionized the world of plumbing. We can no longer imagine a sanitary world without them.

When advanced, flushable toilets became popular in the 1950s and 1960s, they would use an unimaginable five to six gallons per flush, which equals 18 to 26 litres. Nowadays, they use less, but they don’t use an insignificant amount. There are many essential components that exist in order to keep all that water under control, and your toilet flapper is one of the most important.

If the sight of your high water bills gives you a weak bladder, don’t despair! You may be able to improve your average water usage by replacing your toilet flapper. Plus, there are many other options available for reducing the amount of water used by your plumbing fixtures. Modern technology has improved a lot, and your local plumber at Mr. Rooter Plumbing is your go-to person to ask about efficient solutions for water conservation.

What Is A Toilet Flapper?

A toilet flapper is a device located at the bottom of your toilet tank. It’s typically attached to your flush handle lever by a chain to control the amount of water used during a flush. That simple valve seal helps reduce waste, but it’s also one of the common causes of a leaky toilet. Yet they remain a crucial and reliable component that’s still widely used. If you plan on better managing your water usage, inspecting your toilet’s flushing mechanism would be one of your first places to start.

They are usually made of rubber and plastic materials but come in different types, sizes and frames, which means it’s important to identify which is the correct one for your existing toilet. Typical flapper sizes range from two to four inches. There are also some types that include a seat disc and tank ball.

All-rubber types tend to be more flexible than hard plastic ones, but both serve the same purpose. While rubber flappers can stretch to fit some odd sizes, a plastic flapper (also called seat disc) relies heavily on the ball to adequately centre the drain and seal it once the flush is done. The latter comes with an inflexibility that’s more difficult to work with, which also makes it difficult for buyers to make the correct decisions when it comes to purchasing replacements. Therefore, we recommend only buying one if you have an existing hard plastic frame to compare it to.

How Does It Work?

When you push on your flush handle, the chain attached to its lever pulls up your flapper, opening the seal it creates and letting water rush down into the bowl below. When you let go, the seal closes, and your tank refills until it’s reached the level set by the float ball or adjustable float system attached to your fill tube.

Which Flapper is Correct?

More modern toilets have a set litres per flush (LPF) or gallons per flush (GPF) standard, where you have to figure out which flapper size is the right fit. We recommend researching your toilet brand and model to determine the accurate size. Alternatively, you can measure your flush valve drain diameter at the tank’s bottom. For example, if it measures three inches, you will need a three-inch flapper. Note that many modern drain openings have unique sizes, making it difficult to choose a decent flapper size. If you are unsure, you can contact your manufacturer or your local plumber for more details and advice.

Flappers have to keep up with modern toilet types and new flushing mechanisms. As such, there are both adjustable and non-adjustable flappers, which makes it even trickier to choose the correct size. But there is no reason to lose your nerves. With your expert local plumber’s help, you won’t have to worry about purchasing or installing any incorrect parts.

  • Modern toilets that are made from 1994 onwards primarily operate with adjustable flappers, suitable for toilets that use about 6 litres per flush.

  • Any toilet that was manufactured before 1994 and has a higher LPF usually has a non-adjustable flapper.

What Are The Signs I Need A New Flapper?

How often do you open your toilet tank lid cover to inspect the innards? Probably not all that much, but if you do, it’s important to understand that your toilet has two crucial mechanisms—flush and refill. Both mechanisms are accompanied by relevant parts. The flapper is part of the flushing mechanism, along with lever, lift chain and flush valve.

Signs of a bad or warped flapper include:

  • Toilet is constantly running

  • It flushes by itself

  • Worn out rubber on flapper device

To further investigate these signs, open the tank lid cover to see what might be causing the leak. Other than the flapper itself, other flush operators like the chain or flush valve could be the culprits.

The Dye Test

If you have a running toilet, or suspect that your flapper might be failing, this is a simple test you can do on your own to confirm your suspicions. Simply place a few drops of food dye into your tank, and wait. If the colour slowly starts to leak into your bowl, then you know there’s a problem with your flapper.

Replace Your Toilet Flapper To Reduce Your Water Bill

Every homeowner wants to reduce their utility bills, not only for economic reasons but also to preserve our environment. It’s sometimes scart to see the costs related to water supply and wastewater treatment, not to mention stormwater and drainage management. If upgrading your toilet is too big of a step yet, and your existing one appears to be just fine, you can ask a local plumber for helpful advice. They will inspect your fill valve and flapper and likely suggest that you replace these parts if they are faulty. Some homeowners don’t know that they’ve been using a wrong-size flapper for years and have wasted endless litres of water that way. It’s hard to spot fixture inefficiency sometimes, unless it’s a more obvious defect like a leaky shower head.

An inspection appointment would be a reasonable start and could provide the information—and services—you need to increase your utility savings.

Installing or Replacing A Flapper

This is a suitable project for almost anyone and only takes a few minutes if you can identify certain parts correctly. Here’s a small installation or replacement guide:

  • Turn off your water supply or shut off valve and give it a flush just so you have an empty tank to work with.

  • Remove your tank lid cover and ensure you can distinguish the parts responsible for flushing and refilling.

  • Carefully detach the lift chain from the handle and remove it from the flapper.

  • Detach your old flapper from the sides of the flush valve

  • Attach your replacement flapper to the flush valve.

  • Re-hook the lift chain and ensure the length provides enough slack.

Once everything is back in place, turn your water back on and see if it flushes properly. Check if the symptoms have gone away completely. It shouldn’t be running or flushing by itself, and there should be no leaks.

Other Ways to Reduce Your Water Bill

Some of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of water per day that you use is to change your habits. Taking shorter showers or using less water when washing dishes can make a noticeable difference over time. If that’s not enough, or if you’d prefer to keep your long showers for now, then there are still options available to you.

In that case, it’s always worth considering upgrading your plumbing fixtures, such as your shower, faucets and toilet. There is a wide variety of advanced, water-saving devices available that could benefit your wallet and your home.

Upgrade Your Toilet

It’s always good to know how old your plumbing fixtures are because they will be more prone to problems that result in inefficient and higher utility costs. While cosmetic issues might not bother you as much, the functionality should. While a standard toilet can last over 25 when they’re well-maintained, they’re not always as efficient as you want them to be—especially with new modern types coming out that offer water-conserving possibilities.

Many homeowners have replaced their older, inefficient toilets with new low-flow toilets, which are designed to help with water savings. Note that not every plumbing system is equipped for this type, but your local plumber is happy to take a look at this for you. There are always cost-effective options.

Install a Low-Flow Showerhead

Unlike a standard shower fixture, low-flow showerheads can save you up to 40 percent of water, which brings savings across multiple areas of your utility costs, including how much fuel you use to heat hot water. Low-flow doesn’t mean low water pressure; instead, it’s calculated by flow rate, which means it’s designed to adequately distribute the right amount—no more and no less.

Upgrade Your Faucet

A leaky faucet is a common nuisance for homeowners. When parts like valves or the cartridge are damaged or need replacement, it’s sometimes best to replace the entire fixture. Ball faucets are known to cause leaks sooner than later, so it’s worth looking at other more water efficient options that will last longer. Inspect your current faucets for defects or wear and compare it to what is currently trending in the market.

Check if your existing faucets have an aerator installed at the mouth of the spout too. They help control water flow by mixing air into it. This could help you use less while still receiving a strong flow.

If you’re a business owner looking for ways to reduce your water footprint, and your utility costs, replacing your public, standard faucet with a motion sensor faucet is an easy way to reduce the amount of water per month flowing out of your public fixtures.

Don’t Forget Maintenance!

Of course, taking care of routine maintenance will also help you reduce costs that appear because of something like hidden water leaks or broken pipes. It doesn’t take long for even common leaks to create high costs.

The best solutions for maintenance come from the pros, but there are also things that you can do on your own to keep up with maintenance. Your local plumber can certainly share some helpful advice and plumbing maintenance tips, along with preventative measures that will keep your home safe and your utility bill stable.

FAQ – All About Toilet Flappers!

We hope that we were able to educate you on the benefits of replacing your toilet flappers, among other useful tips. There is always room for interesting questions since every household, plumbing system and fixtures are different. Luckily, your local plumbers have all the information you need.

How Can I Make My Old Toilet More Efficient?

If your toilet is still in good shape, we recommend inspecting the parts, checking for leaks and considering installing additional parts to optimize it, such as:

  • Toilet tank bank: A pouch placed in your tank that reduces its internal capacity, and therefore reduces your overall usage.

  • Fill cycle diverter: A device that directs more water into the tank and less to the bowl to help control the refill mechanism

Why Is My Toilet Using So Much Water?

You may have a slow leak that is letting water out into the bowl, or on the floor nearby. Check the parts responsible for the refill mechanism, such as the fill valve, refill tube and overflow tube, as well as your flush components and the sides of the fixture for any cracks, gaps or signs of a leak.

Do Dual-Flush Toilets Have Flappers?

Dual-Flush, operated by two buttons, doesn’t usually have a flapper. Instead, they have a rubber gasket. When you flush, the seal opens up to release water into the bowl. It still has the same functions as a traditional flapper.

Do You Recommend Flapperless Toilets?

Flapperless toilets have gained popularity over the years, redefining modern flushing mechanisms. Knowing that flappers suffer from wear after a few years of use, technicians discovered that gravity could also enable a successful flush, resulting in the development of flapperless alternatives. When you push the lever, the water tumbler flips, allowing water into the basin. The idea is to eliminate the need for future part replacements. Flapperless units are low-maintenance, water-conserving and minimize the chance of leaks.

What Does Ghost Flushing Or Phantom Flushing Mean?

Ghost flushing describes the phenomenon of the toilet flushing by itself. The cause is almost always water leaking from the tank into the bowl due to a defective flapper. Similarly, phantom flushing describes a leaking tank that leads to it refilling itself.

Need An Expert to Install A Toilet Flapper to Reduce Your Water Bill?

Whether you need a toilet installation pro or someone to replace your faulty flapper, Mr. Rooter Plumbing provides quality service with effective results, using high-end technology and tools for your plumbing solutions. Your expert plumbers are available 24/7 for emergency needs, so you can rest assured that you won't ever have to wait in line for service. Rely on plumbers that care about your wellbeing and take good care of your plumbing system.

Call now to get the services and information you need from a local, licensed plumber.