When it comes to saving money and conserving resources at home, toilets are an underrated source. One person who knows all about the impact of a high-efficiency toilet is Patty Stoffelen, Merchant for Toilets and Toilet Seats at The Home Depot. She shares the latest toilet technology and the best toilets for saving water and money.

EA: Welcome to Eco Actions, Patty. Tell us what you do at The Home Depot, and about how you came into this role.

PS: Well, I’m the merchant for toilets and toilet seats. Unlike a lot of merchants who move between different categories and products, I’ve been in bath products merchandising for 25 plus years, and 11 of that has been with The Home Depot and 6 years in this position. The way I describe it to my son is that I buy more toilets than anyone in the world.

EA: Since you’ve been around toilets for so long, tell us what makes toilets so important to sustainability.

PS: The water conservation story is a huge part of the toilet industry. Whether you are concerned with water conservation from a scarcity or cost perspective, it’s a big deal. Toilets are one of the biggest sources of water in the home, accounting for about 30% of household water use.

When you think about the industries that have evolved in response to sustainability and regulations, bath products were among the first going back to 2006 when the EPA’s  was founded. Six months after the EPA launched the WaterSense program, the first labeled high-efficiency toilets entered the market in January 2007.

To put it into context, the current federal standard for toilet flow is 1.6 gallons per flush (some states require 1.28), and there are a number of toilets that have a 1.28 GPF. When I started in this industry, I recall that 3.5 and 5 GPF was normal. It was a big deal when we went to 1.6 GPF. Now, there is a toilet that performs amazingly at .8 GPF.

It’s astounding how far the industry has come, and how priorities have shifted in the last 25 years. Consumers may recall the early days of high-efficiency toilets when the perception was that they didn’t work very well. Those first-generation toilets reflected the manufacturing scramble to reengineer toilets in a hurry. Now, it’s as if that never happened because water efficiency technology has improved so much.

Today, there’s no excuse not to upgrade your toilet to a high-efficiency model, especially if you live in an area where water is scarce, and the cost of water is high. If you’ve got an old toilet that uses 5 gallons per flush, and you switch to a 1.28 or .8 GPF toilet, think of the water and money you can save. You can easily pay for the new toilet or earn money if you qualify for a rebate.

EA: How has The Home Depot and your team helped change the toilet industry?

PS: The Home Depot does a good job of enforcing performance. As product categories evolve towards sustainability, our expectations for products don’t change. We won’t accept that consumers who want to buy sustainable products or shoppers who want to save energy settle for inferior products. That’s part of the reason that high-efficiency technology has come so far, so fast.

The Home Depot is raising the bar for suppliers consistently, too. For example, about seven years ago, as state regulations began to increase with regards to toilets, we made a strategic decision to only carry WaterSense toilets (1.28 GPF) in The Home Depot stores. Because there are states where you can’t ship higher flow toilets, it only made sense that all our stores get on board and carry WaterSense.

EA: As a merchant, you spend a lot of time in the aisle of The Home Depot talking to customers. What have you discovered is important to them?

PS: Shoppers care a lot about saving on their water bills and about using less water. But most don’t know about the technology or are skeptical about performance. A lot of shoppers only know about toilets by way of their plumber. Plumbers will send homeowners to The Home Depot to pick out a toilet from a particular brand for installation. Professionals are very brand loyal, which limits the exposure of consumers to the category at large. So, we have a lot of work to do to educate consumers and pros on the choices and technologies that are available, and how far performance has come.

EA: Are there any products in particular that homeowners should know about?

PS: Absolutely. I alluded to it earlier, the Niagara Stealth Toilet is a .8 GPF toilet. Niagara is the world’s first ultra-high-efficiency toilet. It uses a patented vacuum-assist technology to ensure that it flushes with extra power. So, considering that this toilet flushes at half the capacity of standard high-efficiency toilets, the Stealth Toilet saves twice as much water as most toilets. Think about the impact this can have on a household with kids.

The Home Depot is the exclusive retailer of the all-in-one Stealth Toilet, meaning that consumers who want the toilet bowl, tank, toilet seat and wax ring in 1 carton will only find it here. Not only is the Niagara Stealth Toilet an ultra-high-efficiency toilet, but it’s also one of our highest-rated toilets. Just look at the reviews:

Best toilet I have ever installed. This is my second one in this home, and I just ordered a third for my other bathroom. Very quiet flush and rapid refill. Almost never have to flush a second time for complete content evacuation. I am surprised how smooth the flush is, and how efficient it is. At .8 gallons per flush, you are really saving water without compromising functionality in any way.

Chris, homedepot.com

I am a licensed master plumber in three states and have been in the business for over 30 years. This toilet, for the money, is well worth it and a great value. The fact that it’s a water-saver and still gives a great flush all the time makes it a great deal. I highly recommend this toilet.

Panda, homedepot.com

I bought one last year. It saves so much water!!! Huge plus. I had to buy another one for my upstairs bathroom. One quick flush, and everything goes down quickly. It’s a big saver on water and money.

Samiam, homedepot.com

As the merchant, I not only buy toilets for The Home Depot, but I also work with our private brand products in this category. And because The Home Depot works with Niagara to make our Glacier Bay line of toilets, we have been able to incorporate Niagara’s Stealth technology into Glacier Bay products to deliver similar efficiency at a lower price point. While the Niagara Stealth Toilet operates at .8 GPF, the Glacier Bay Power Flush operates at 1.28 GPF. The Glacier Bay Power Flush toilet is so powerful that it will flush seven billiard balls in a single flush. I’ve seen it, and I’ve done it!