If you’ve ever been to Japan you should already be familiar with the “bidet toilet seat,” an all-in-one toilet seat that has a heated water spray and often also a heated seat as well as an air dryer. These bidet toilet seats, also referred to as “washlets,” are common in almost every hotel and office in Japan, and emerging in many higher-end hotels throughout Asia. In America, while high-end and luxury homes and hotels may have separate bidets, it’s still unusual to find these “washlets” in every day homes, hotels and offices. “Washlets” in the U.S. are considered a luxury, but it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to get one in your home.
When my daughter was around 3 or 4 we started having problems with her diet, or in other words, like any other little child, she refused to eat vegetables. The lack of fiber in her diet led to constipation, and lots of discomfort. A doctor we spoke to (who happened to be my cousin), recommended we try a bidet to help our daughter’s discomfort, so I decided installing a “washlet” was going to be my next DIY (do-it-yourself) project. I had been to Japan many times for business so I was already familiar with the all-in-one unit. The hard task was going to be finding one to buy here in the United States that would work with U.S. plumbing and electrical.
Like my previous DIY project on kitchen exhaust fans, the reasonable cost solution turned out to be ebay. If you’ve got the money, you can probably go to a high end plumbing retail outlet and buy a Japanese-made Toto washlet, but if you’re like me, and trying to save a buck, you’ll probably go for a Chinese or Korean off-brand washlet. I was able to locate a Chinese model made by Xime for under $200 on ebay. The model I picked up featured a heated seat, heated water spray, and movable spray action.
If you decide to tackle a project like this one, there are few things to keep in mind. A heated seat and heated water are a nice touch on a unit, but require an electrical hookup near the toilet. If you don’t already have an outlet near your toilet, you’ll need to wire one up or hire an electrician to get one installed. Don’t forget that for a bathroom the outlet will require a GFCI circuit. For the water, you’ll be tapping into the line that feeds the toilet, and it’s unlikely that the toilet seat will come with the correct sizes needed for an American plumbing system. The unit I bought was expecting the hookup at the wall to be a 1/2 inch pipe connection. That’s not the standard in most U.S. homes, which typically use a 3/8 inch compression fitting. So be prepared to be standing at the local home improvement center looking for the right adapters to get your hookup to work. You may also want to consider moving where the “tee” fitting is located in the installation. In my case I moved the “tee” from the water valve to the toilet fitting, and found the right adapters easier to locate in that configuration. See the diagram below for examples of the two scenarios.
It may take a little MacGyvering to figure out how to get the puzzle pieces together and find the right adapters. If you’re truly flummoxed by the installation, then it’s time to get a plumber involved. If you’re putting it together yourself, don’t forget the teflon tape on all the plumbing connections.
The reviews on washlets are pretty consistent, and range from “I never knew how I lived without one before”, to the “best thing ever”. If you’ve never tried one before, you’ll probably want to try one before getting one for your home, but it’s probably a decision you won’t regret.