Sunday, 15 September, 2019

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Why You Might Want A Bidet-Style Toilet


Perhaps you experienced a bidet while traveling in Europe or Asia, where they’re fairly common. On first glance at your hotel’s bathroom, you might have wondered why there seemed to be a second, mini  toilet in the room. (That was my befuddled reaction as a recent college graduate visiting Italy in the early 1980s.) These fixtures are used for personal hygiene, and many healthcare professionals consider them superior to toilet paper for thorough, gentle cleaning.

American homes aren’t generally plumbed for a separate bidet, and it can be difficult to add one during a remodel unless you’re expanding the room’s size. However, there’s an alternative that is growing in popularity. It’s commonly called a bidet-style toilet.

This new fixture combines a bidet’s intimate washing capabilities with a standard toilet’s functions, and will generally fit in the same rough-in. There are also numerous wall-mount versions available. Either way, you will need to add adjacent electrical power to get the water jets heated – and you definitely want that – along with some other features like air drying, so installation is more complicated than a standard plumbing job. A licensed general contractor who takes on small projects might be your best resource for this job.

As with many fixtures and appliances, you can get as basic or elaborate as you want, spending less than $400 on a bidet-style seat with warm water that fits on your current toilet, or splurging for a wifi-connected luxury bidet-style Kohler Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet with voice control by Alexa at $7,000 to $8,000. (No, she won’t deliver reading material to your bathroom, but you can get serenaded by your favorite tunes or updated with the latest traffic or weather reports upon request.)

Upscale home products retailer Ferguson reports that its highest-priced bidet-style toilet is a self-cleaning, wall-mount Toto Neorest with an MSRP of $12,230 (retail price $11,855).

Costs are going to vary by feature and company. The absolute most affordable option is a bidet-style seat that attaches to your existing toilet that doesn’t require electrical power. This can be a fairly DIY-friendly installation for round or elongated bowls that will cost less than $300 from well-known brands like Kohler or American Standard, or for specialty manufacturers like Brondell or BioBidet. There are also very basic models for less than $100 from a variety of companies. At the most affordable level, you’ll be cleaning yourself with cold water and not getting the drying capabilities of a more advanced seat. That may not make sense for many users; however, if you’re training for a trek along the full Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trail with lots of stream bathing ahead, this might be perfect for acclimating!

Moving up to a bidet-style toilet seat with an electrical connection gets you adjustable water temperature and heated drying. These features can take you from $400 to $900 or more quite easily. Add automatic seat opening and closing, and possibly a remote control you can mount on a nearby wall, (rather than awkwardly reaching down to the side of the bowl for functionality), and you’re largely in the $1000 to $2000 range.

If you’re looking to add a bidet-style toilet from a well-known brand, rather than just a seat, you’ve mostly moved up to the $3,000 to $9,000 range. There are a few exceptions: Ferguson reports that it sells a Toto Legato with a Washlet bidet seat for $1869, (MSRP $2670) and Duravit offers its wall-mount Viu Toilet with SensoWash Slim seat for a combined $2665. With increasing popularity and availability, it’s likely that costs in this category will come down over time.

What do you get at the premium price point? Kohler’s Numi, with its $8,000 list price, provides a heated seat and foot warmer, as well as the ability to play your favorite podcasts or music, hands-free opening of both the seat and lid and emergency flush capability if the power goes out. Toto, one of the earliest brands to introduce bidet-style toilets and seats to the U.S. – not surprising, given the company’s Japanese roots – began offering automatic flushing on many of its one- and two-piece toilets in the U.S. this year.    

If you’re remodeling, you’ll be deciding whether you want a wall-mounted or floor-mounted bidet-style toilet. Wall mounts can be easier to clean and offer some height flexibility, which can be helpful for taller or mobility-challenged users. They will also take up less space in a compact bathroom and offer sleek, contemporary styling. On the other hand, they’re more complex to install and may not be right for the heaviest users. A floor-mounted bidet-style toilet will almost always fit into your existing rough-in, making replacement easier and more economical even if you’re not remodeling the entire bathroom. 

Who might want a bidet-style toilet or seat? Given its gentle cleaning power, anyone who spends hours on a bicycle or equestrian saddle will find a bidet’s gentle cleaning style appealing. So might anyone who spends hours in athletic wear, which can be chafing. Parents who have young children might find that the novelty of the jets makes personal hygiene more fun to learn about and a convenient shortcut between bath times.

Bidet-style toilets’ greatest appeal could be to elderly or mobility-challenged users who might otherwise need a caregiver for light daily hygiene. The jets and dryers on these fixtures enable someone who might have limited reach or difficulty getting into and out of a tub or shower remain independent at home longer, and with the potential for greater safety.  

When considering the cost of a bidet-style toilet, consider the offsets:

  • You can reduce or eliminate your toilet paper budget;
  • You can reduce your use of wet wipes;
  • You’re reducing your risk of plumbing problems and clogs;
  • Both men and women can avoid discomfort and related treatments thanks to improved intimate hygiene;
  • For older users, you may be able to reduce your reliance on home care aides for bathing, potentially saving thousands of dollars a year.

You don’t need the “Lexus” of bidet-style toilets to enjoy these benefits, though you might enjoy their bells, whistles and great looks. Even an electric bidet-style seat added to your existing toilet can deliver better hygiene, and may make one affordable for each bedroom in your home.

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