Mr. Gadget® Tests Toilets – Kohler High Tech San Raphael™ with Power Lite® ELECTRIC Flush, Plus Bidet Seat

When one of our toilets at Gadget Central developed a crack in the tank along with a subsequent leak, it was time to look into a replacement.  Ah, but not just any toilet would do. It would have to be stylish and with the latest technology including efficiency.  So, I started my search.

The Toilet

After researching the topic, I found what I wanted from Kohler, the great American name in kitchen and bath products.  The diminutive one-piece look with elongated bowl of their San Raphael model was of particular appeal, as was the technology in that model.  One piece gravity feed models in this San Raphael style, that is, Kohler’s original low-flow circa 1993 model, was not their best. We have one of these.  The flush is a meandering affair with no oomph behind it.  With the new Power Lite version, all is forgiven.  It’s small AND powerful.

This is no ordinary toilet!

It’s what’s inside that counts.  Talk about high tech!  Instead of a traditional flapper and valve, this toilet is a new “turbocharged” design.  With a .2-horsepower electric motor in the tank and dual flush technology that Kohler calls Twin Touch, flushes are powerful and complete, if you know what I mean.  This toilet is electric!  Really.

Fortunately, in the affected bathroom, there is a GFI-protected power outlet on the wall next to the toiletable. How convenient!

Inside the tank is a sealed pump, valve assembly, dual electric activation switches and hoses.  The mechanism appears to be very simple with the hope that it will provide long service and trouble-free operation.  Should repair become necessary, it looks to be simple enough that even I might tackle it, replacing whatever parts as may be required.

 

Installation was simple and straightforward by a licensed plumbing contractor who was as curious as I about this new toilet.

The two flushing buttons, called trip buttons (as in tripping a switch), on the side of the tank allow for a lower-flow flush for liquid waste and a higher volume flush for solid waste.  This sure is different from the old way in which the handle attached to an arm inside the tank that, in turn, lifted the flapper to empty the tank and flush the toilet. Dual flush toilets have been the norm in some other countries for many years, but it is only in recent years that the technology is catching on in the US.  This new low-flow design qualifies for the EPA’s WaterSense Program designation as having the latest technology and specs for the lowest water usage standards in the nation today.  Liquid waste flush activation uses just 1.0 gallons.  The solid waste flush sends 1.4 gallons down the pipe.  Combined, the toilet is rated at 1.2 gallons per flush.

You have likely experienced the ka-whoosh of industrial-strength toilets with particularly powerful and loud flushes. This San Raphael by Kohler is NOT one of those with loud and obnoxious flushes, yet it is powerful.  Though there is a powerful sound, it is a fraction of the industrial power flush sound.  And, boy, is it powerful.  I do not expect to need the plunger again any time soon!  In fact, I have not needed it once, which is not the norm around here.

Also impressive is the toilet’s ability to clean the bowl when flushing with the solid waste button.  (Just trying to be thorough here.)  While not as good as an old higher-flow model that fills the bowl and powerfully swirls the water around as gravity empties it, our new Kohler’s mechanism draws the water from the bottom with that powerful motor and delivers bowl-cleaning water down the sides to do some bowl side cleaning.  I have to say it again:  It’s one powerful flush, said to be the most powerful residential flush available, and I like that.  I can’t imagine anyone not liking this feature.  You’ll want to read about Kohler’s Power Lite Flushing System.  While at this page, go ahead and click to see the informative video, as well.  Go ahead.  You’re going to want this toilet for your home!

Now in place at Gadget Central for about four months, it has been in use long enough for me to confidently state that it is a fine toilet, indeed, and highly recommended.  List price for this Kohler San Raphael Comfort Height Power Lite Toilet (model K-3393) with Twin Touch dual flush selector starts at under $1,000.  Shopping online yielded a better price of under $800 including shipping.  Higher prices are commanded for colors other than standard white.

I noted NO negatives with this superb toilet.  It is highly recommended.  However, there must be nearby GFI-protected electrical service. If you do not already have a proper dual outlet, consult with an electrician to learn the cost to install one.  There may be one additional consideration.  If there is a power outage, a powered toilet will not flush in the conventional way.  Of course, as with any toilet, pouring a bucket-full of water into the toilet will cause it to flush.  That’s the nature of how toilets work.  If this becomes a concern to us, I can also install a battery backup unit behind the loo, the same type that would power a computer or other electronic component in a power outage.

The Seat

The standard, included seat offers damped, no-slam closing (“Quiet-Close” seat) for a high-quality feel and smooth operation.  It’s a fine seat!  However, Kohler suggested that I try something new.  This is when it became very interesting and fun to get a new toilet.  Kohler suggested I try a bidet seat they refer to as a C3,for Cleanliness, Comfort, Convenience.

Popular in Europe and Japan, traditional bidets are special fixtures resembling toilets that are used after visiting the toilet to afford water-based irrigation and cleansing.  Here is the full explanation from Wikipedia and Kohler’s line of bidet products.  In most of today’s homes, however, including those in Japan, there is not enough space for a separate bidet fixture. Manufacturers have met the challenge by introducing bidet seats for existing toilets.

Requiring design skill to combine a bidet seat with a standard toilet base, Kohler’s C3 is nothing short of amazing.  There are two models. C3 -100, with elongated toilet seat features two hygienic water-based cleansing mechanisms for anterior and posterior cleansing.  The water can be heated to a wide range of comfortable temperatures with the seat’s built-in heater.

Along with the water itself, the “wands” that extend to deliver the soothing, cleansing water are adjustable from front to back in the distance they span, allowing for all sizes of visitors and whatever is their unique build.  Water may be selected to be delivered with an oscillating or pulsating stream.  According to Kohler, “C3 toilet seats with bidet functionality use the naturally soothing quality of water as a refreshing, hygienic alternative to toilet tissue, offer cleanliness, comfort and convenience for all users.”

The seat is comfortable and constructed of anti-microbial plastic material.  The seat itself can be comfortably heated with three comfort settings.

A seat sensor allows functionality only when it senses someone is sitting on the seat.

Kohler’s Quiet-Close feature means the seat and lid will never slam closed and remain silent in operation.  For quick cleaning, the seat attaches to the toilet with a Quick Release feature that works perfectly.  There is a release button on the side near the rear that disengages the seat from its slide-on base (that is mounted on the bowl).  It’s a quick release for thorough cleaning of the toilet’s top and the underside of the seat where it mounts to the toilet.

This model features a side mounted control panel for access to all the functions’ adjustability.

 

You’ll like the lighted bowl feature as I do.  Automatic illumination occurs when a certain darkness level is reached and pale blue LEDs are activated.  A sensor at the right side near the rear performs this function.  The light spills out from between the lid and bowl and with the lid and seat lifted, the bowl is bathed in light providing a soft night light for visitors as well as a no-excuses target for the men in your home.  It’s very cool.

This intelligent seat also goes into low power mode when not in use, that is, when no one is aboard.  And speaking of power, it should be noted unless it has become obvious to you that these bidet seats must also be plugged in. However, since you need the wall outlet (MUST be GFI) for the toilet, you’ll have that second outlet available for the seat!

The C3-100 is retail priced from $750.  Check online for better pricing, which I found for just a bit over $500.

As wonderful as is this seat, the C3-200 is even better, and is the model I tested.

Besides the functionality of the C3-100, the C3-200 adds warm air with three temperature settings – yes, a warm-air dryer for your bottom!  There is also an air-driven deodorizer to help minimize unpleasant odors.

What’s more, the C3-200 offers continuous hot water with an inline water heater, which works perfectly.  Warm water is better!

Now, guys, here’s what you really want – a remote control for your high-tech bidet toilet seat!  Yes, a remote control for all the major functions – with two presets to store control settings for two users.  Control and memorize anterior and posterior settings, air management and temps, for TWO users!  Come on, guys, you know this is cool.

The C3-200 is retail priced from $1300.  Check online for better pricing as I did to find it for under $900.

How well does this seat work?  It’s quite remarkable.  I had never thought of such a thing in my home, though I’ve seen and used bidets outside the US.  I’m a convert, proud to say I use the features and appreciate the remote control.  Yes, the warm water really is soothing and the air really does dry one’s posterior possibly avoiding the need for paper.  Female hygiene works very well, indeed.  As well as this seat works, it is different from anything we Americans have experienced and it take a mindset change to accept and embrace what it does. It is a necessity to be open minded.  Were I in many European countries, Japan and some other areas of the world, the apparent oddity of this seat would not be at issue, but as an American in America, it’s a hugely different idea.

With one possible exception, the bidet seats are spectacular.  Functionality is superb.  The ONLY comment from other users has been that the seat is not as comfortable as they’d like.  You will notice that the seat looks just a bit odd.  This oddity can be attributed to the fact that the guts, the business inside is, well, inside. In order for  the water wands, heater, and blowers to be there, they have to go somewhere and this means their location cannot be available for other purposes, such as for your bottom. The size of the opening is, therefore, smaller than on standard seats.  Roominess and, to some, comfort, is taken from the back of the seat to accommodate the bidet.  It’s a tradeoff I can live with, however.

You and the other potential uses in your home will have to decide whether it’s right for you to get one of these.  The only alternative would be to get a traditional bidet, such as these from Kohler, but do you have the space?

WHY?

The question becomes WHY?  I say, why not? It’s a luxury we can enjoy and for almost anyone considering remodeling, otherwise upgrading or updating a bathroom, installing a Kohler bidet seat on one of their superb toilets is something special that can be appreciated for many years ahead.

Visit your nearby plumbing showroom to see Kohler’s line or call 1-800-4-KOHLER (1-800-456-4537) for more information.