Gen Xers, millennnials, and baby boomers routinely mention the kitchen as the center of the smart home, followed by the entryway and living room. What’s missing from that conversation?
The bathroom, an area that’s quickly becoming a design and technology hotspot. Think how touchless faucets, zero-entry showers, chromotherapy lighting, chilled medicine cabinets, waterproof TVs, and other innovations are transforming the washroom experience.
Yet the biggest part of the U.S. bathroom revolution may be next-generation toilets. For example, a new class of toilets have the potential to save nearly 500 billion gallons of water each year. Not only that, hands-free functionality allows the home owner to remain independent in the home long after arthritis or other upper body disability makes traditional cleaning too difficult.
How smart are these bidet-enabled toilets, widely known as Washlets? “They’re smart enough to pre-mist the bowl as you enter the bathroom,” explains Bill Strang, president of TOTO USA Americas’ operations, a maker of Washlets and other bathroom plumbing products. Pre-misting improves bowl lubricity, reducing bowl cleaning and maintenance says Strang.
“Washlets are smart enough to automatically create electrolyzed water which helps eliminate grime and reduces the need for harsh cleaning products,” Strang says. “And bidet functionality gently and hygienically cleans the user, minimizing the need for toilet paper.” Scientific American says the U.S. uses 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper each year, the equivalent of 15 million trees. Making a single roll of toilet paper requires 37 gallons of water, 1.3 kilowatt-hours of electricity, and approximately 1.5 pounds of wood, a steep but unseen environmental price.
Bidet-enabled toilets have been widely specified by architects and designers throughout Asia and Europe for several decades. In Japan, for example, Washlet technology can be found in nearly 80 percent of all homes. (For example, there are more Washlets than microwaves in Japan.) There are about 40 million Washlets installed worldwide.
For aging homeowners, the next-gen toilets represent a proven and powerful aging-in-place tool. “We often hear stories from a customer who may say, ‘My dad was really struggling with arthritis. We lived in Chicago and he lived in New Hampshire. We had to put him in a care facility,’ ” Strang says. “They learn later a product like a Washlet could have allowed him to age gracefully at home longer, sparing the family expense and heartbreak.”
Deborah Pierce, AIA, principal of Deb Pierce Architects of West Newton, Mass., puts the freedom factor bluntly: “How do you monetize dignity and privacy? Comparing this technology to the price of a personal-care assistant is really the question, along with a year’s worth of toilet paper.”
Next-gen toilets are quickly gaining acceptance as more and more individuals experience them overseas and in U.S. hotels and corporations, like Google. Nearly 80 percent of Washlet owners on Amazon give it a five-star rating.
As smart home technology transforms many kitchen and security functions, it makes sense to keep the expanding technology palette of the bathroom in mind. Click here to learn more.