Many toilets are replaced as part of a bathroom makeover. But if you're simply replacing a broken gravity toilet, consider having it fixed...

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Many toilets are replaced as part of a bathroom makeover. But if you’re simply replacing a broken gravity toilet, consider having it fixed instead — especially if you bought it after 1994. (That’s when U.S. law limited toilets to 1.6 gallons of water per flush.) A new flapper valve (about $5) or a new fill valve (about $15) solves most problems and is easy to install.

For those times when only a new loo will do, however, consider the bathroom’s location. If it’s near a kitchen or other living area — or if your home is small — you’ll probably prefer a quieter toilet, such as a traditional gravity model or a vacuum-assisted toilet. Noisier is a third type: the pressure-assisted model.

Consumer Reports recently rated more than two dozen toilets and discovered that a toilet is one product whose price has little to do with performance. Several very good commodes cost $200 to $300 and outperformed higher-priced models.

The magazine’s tests — in which testers flushed an array of baby wipes, sponges, plastic balls, and tubes designed to uniformly simulate a toilet’s toughest challenge — revealed the following:

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• Pressure-assisted toilets dispatched simulated solid waste with the fewest clogs, thanks to their powerful thrust. (In this type of toilet, pressure created when water displaces air within a sealed tank causes water to expel waste forcefully out through the bowl.) The loudest emitted an emphatic “whoosh,” though.

• Beefier flush valves (3 to 31/4 inches wide) helped the highest-scoring gravity models deliver more thrust than gravity models with 2-inch valves. (Gravity toilets rely on a flush valve to discharge water from the tank and into the bowl, moving waste down the drain.) Ask to see the manufacturer’s specifications for the flush valve if considering a gravity toilet.

• While some vacuum models performed well in the past, the latest tested by CR had far less flushing power than pressure-assisted toilets, yet typically cost as much. (Vacuum-assisted toilets use a chamber inside the tank to pull air out of the trap below the bowl so that it can quickly fill with water to clear waste.) The magazine’s highest-rated model, the $275 Crane Vacuum Induced Power-flush VIP 3999, scored merely “fair” in our solid-waste flush test.

Although most top performers were pressure-assisted models, two gravity toilets combined characteristic quiet with efficiency. Highest rated of all toilets, the Eljer Titan 091-0777 ($350) removes waste capably and provides tall seating. (Added height makes getting on and off easier). Meanwhile, the regular-height American Standard Champion 2018.212 ($290) is especially quiet without giving up much performance. Another high-scoring gravity model, the Toto Carlyle MS874114SG ($500) features a one-piece design that eliminates the grime-trapping seam separating tank and bowl on traditional models.

Among pressure-assisted models, the Kohler Highline Pressure Lite K-3493 ($420) is an excellent — albeit, noisy — performer that features tall seating. The regular-height Gerber Ultra Flush 21-312 ($275) scored only slightly lower overall, but was also slightly quieter. Another Gerber pressure-assisted model, the Gerber Ultra Flush 21-302 ($270) sports a round bowl that takes up less space than an elongated shape. And at just $200, the Eljer Aqua-Saver 091-7025 combines very good performance with low price, earning it a CR Best Buy.

Before buying a pressure-assisted toilet, check your home’s water pressure yourself with a $10 gauge that connects to an outdoor spigot. You’ll need at least 25 pounds per square inch (psi) for the toilet, but allow a little extra to compensate for pressure drops from the spigot to the bathroom.

Copyright 2005, Consumers Union, Inc.

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