Should you Upgrade your Bathroom with a Smart Toilet?

smart tilet

The pros and cons of smart toilets, smart toilet seats, and bidets

The basics of taking care of bathroom business hasn't changed much since 1596 when a flushing lavatory with a built-in cistern was invented. But starting in 2011, toilets took a huge leap forward—they became smart. That's when Kohler introduced Numi, the world's very first smart toilet.

For $6,300, you could have:

  • Adjustable, heated seat
  • Foot warmer
  • Self-cleaning bowl
  • Automatically opening and closing lid
  • Customizable, water-saving flush amounts from .6 gallons to 1.28 gallons
  • Water temperature control
  • Ambient lighting
  • FM radio and 3.5 mm audio jack for MP3 player

Who was the target audience for Numi? David Kohler, President and CEO, was quoted at the time as saying: "those [consumers] who want the best, want the latest in design and technology and want a fashion statement in their home."

Today, smart toilets are much more practical, affordable, and mainstream. Plus, they have even more features than the first Numi had.

But does that mean you should buy one?

Let's look at the features found on many of today's smart toilets as well as their overall pros and cons. Plus, we'll examine other popular alternatives such as smart toilet seats and bidets.

Features of smart toilets

Not every smart toilet will have the same features, plus brands offer different pricing points, which also impacts feature selection. Additionally, there may be differences between oval/elongated toilets, round ones, and those that look out of this world.

Features to look for include:

  • Automatic lid open/close for touch-free use
  • Slow-close lid
  • Night-light
  • Seat warmer
  • Touchless flushing via sensor or hand wave
  • Low-flow/water saver; flushes right amount every time, based on need
  • Self-cleaning; might also incorporate special finishes for less sticking; might want to avoid those that use chemicals you must constantly replenish
  • UV sanitizing
  • Deodorizer; although you may not want those added chemicals in your air
  • Overflow protection
  • Remote control
  • Compatible with smart home assistants for voice commands
  • Bluetooth speakers and Wi-Fi
  • Integrated sink; takes sink wastewater and puts it in toilet bowl for flushing

Pros of smart toilets

  • Low water consumption
  • Can be smaller than typical toilets, especially if buttons and water tank are wall mounted
  • May be more hygienic
  • May be better for seniors and those with disabilities
  • Modern and upscale resell factor

Cons of smart toilets

  • Higher purchase price; can be at least triple the amount for a standard toilet
  • Adds to electric bill; plus, may need to install an outlet nearby
  • Costs more to repair and maintain
  • Accessing some features may befuddle users

One intriguing development out of the COVID pandemic is the rise of wastewater testing. Although done on a community-wide basis, as well as through your doctor's office, it does highlight that what we flush provides clues to our general health.

So, it should come as no surprise that scientists have been working on toilets that sample our waste to detect disease markers. In 2018, Panasonic released one in China that tested urine and tracked body fat. And in 2021, TOTO showcased a wellness toilet at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

These developments do raise ethical questions if they become widespread. Who gets the info? Doctors? Insurance companies? Employers? Police?

Smart toilet alternatives

If a smart toilet isn't for you, you might explore smart toilet seats, sometimes also called bidet toilet seats, a Washlet (TOTO branding since 1980), or a SpaLet (coined by American Standard).

These seats do more than cover the porcelain. They offer the benefit of personal cleansing without toilet paper, but without having to purchase a separate bidet.

So, at the very least, smart toilet seats offer a bidet-like water spray, albeit a cold-water one. Some can come built into a smart toilet. Others are add-ons.

Beyond the water spray, other possible smart toilet seat features include:

  • Adjustable water temperature
  • Adjustable water pressure
  • Adjustable or multiple water sprays
  • Motion sensor lid
  • Auto-flush when lid closes
  • Heated seat
  • Warm air drying
  • Self-cleaning
  • Deodorizer
  • MP3 player capability

Pros of smart toilet seats

  • Cheaper than a smart toilet
  • Provides a bidet-like experience
  • DIY installation; can take it with you when you move
  • Greatly reduces or eliminates (sorry for the pun, not sorry!) the need for toilet paper

Cons of smart toilet seats

  • Probably requires a nearby GFCI AC outlet
  • Heater that warms up the cold water feed may malfunction
  • Adds to a toilet's height; not necessarily a con but it should be kept in mind
  • A SpaLet only works with elongated toilets so make sure to match your toilet seat shape
  • Unlike a smart toilet, a smart toilet seat does not add resale value

Bidets vs smart toilet seats

A bidet is a standalone fixture that takes up floor space. Code typically requires a total of 60 inches for both bidet and toilet.

As they are the cleaning-only follow-up to toilets, bidets are not designed to handle bodily waste or toilet paper. They must be plumbed for hot and cold water as well connect to your sewer system. They can be uncomfortable to use as they are lower in height. And they need cleaning and sanitizing after every use.

So, the choice of using a bidet vs. a smart toilet seat is based more on space, costs, and personal preferences.

Smart hookups

If you want to bring the smart home into your bathroom, you have plenty of choices. So, take into consideration how much space you must work with as well as your budget. Don't let space-age coolness tempt you into making an impractical choice for your household.

And should your bathroom venture whet your appetite for appliance upgrades in other rooms of your home—like the kitchen or laundry room—be sure to check out the electrical, gas, and water connectivity solutions available from Certified Appliance Accessories.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Certified Appliance Accessories is not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.