If you’re interested in smart home technology, upgrading your toilet is an accessible option with major impact. When thinking of luxury, your toilet probably doesn’t come to mind–but smart toilets aim to change that!
Whether you’ve got a big family or just love good technology, smart toilets elevate the bathroom-going experience. In fact, you really might be surprised by all that they can do.
But all these features and functionalities can make smart toilets difficult to shop for.
Key Point: Fortunately, we make it simpler to understand with our smart toilet buyer’s guide for first-time buyers!
Table of Contents
- The History and Invention of Smart Toilets
- The Future of Smart Toilets
- The Difference Between Smart Toilets and Regular Toilets
- Smart Technology in Smart Toilets
- Who Should Buy a Smart Toilet?
- The Best Features and Innovations in Smart Toilets
- How to Buy the Best Smart Toilet for You
- Things to Watch Out For
- Frequently Asked Questions
The History and Invention of Smart Toilets
In the early 1960s, Arnold Cohen designed an innovative toilet seat bidet system with a nozzle that sprayed warm water and emitted hot air.
This was the humble beginnings of what would become the intelligent toilet or smart toilet, which was designed for hands-free washing and drying. Known as the American Sitzbath, it was manufactured and sold by Cohen’s American Bidet Company.
The first smart toilet was originally intended for use in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes.
The target users were individuals who experienced mobility issues, particularly in reaching around to wipe their bottoms. This was also designed for people who were averse to using toilet paper.
But smart toilets weren’t a hit with American shoppers
Cohen licensed his patent to the TOTO Company that, in turn, sold it as “Wash Air Seat” in Japan in 1967. But the Japanese were just as unenthusiastic about the bidet system, partly because the bidet function was an unfamiliar concept in their culture.
It wasn’t until the 1980s when the TOTO Company launched the Washlet G with its dryer, heated seat and rear cleansing functions that the smart toilet concept became more familiar.
By the 1990s, smart toilets were becoming popular abroad
Between the 1990s and early 2000’s the Japanese continued to innovate and iterate on smart toilet technology. Specifically, they were installed in public restrooms where the public began to appreciate their features in convenience.
In 2011, Kohler opened a new chapter when it released Numi, a $6,400 smart toilet with many of the modern features we know today. These included ambient lights, water temperature adjustments, and a built-in radio.
While the high-end price turned off many consumers, it did introduce the smart toilet to American markets. And today, dozens of brands offer smart toilets with various features, technology, and price ranges.
Today, smart toilets are much more affordable. Though it will be up to you whether smart toilets are worth the cost.
Summary: Smart toilet technology began with bidets and air drying technology, and slowly evolved into the feature-rich fixtures we know today. While popularity only took hold in America over the last ten years, they are now becoming increasingly popular.
The Future of Smart Toilets
Despite being around for more than a decade, the modern smart toilet is still considered new technology by many.
And manufacturers continue to innovate and upgrade smart toilets with new features and interesting functionalities. But what does the future look like for the smart toilet?
Well, it might surprise you to learn that researchers see smart toilets as having huge potential in the medical field. Specifically, innovators believe smart toilets will eventually be used to track an individual’s health by monitoring their bathroom experience.
In other words, imagine a world where your smart toilet provides feedback and insights on your health by monitoring your waste. This future might be closer than you think.
While it’s a longer video, this Tedx Talk explores the amazing potential of smart toilet technology:
The Difference Between Smart Toilets and Regular Toilets
The main difference between smart toilets and traditional toilets is the use of technology in smart toilet design (consider our guide to the modern toilet for more information).
Where traditional toilets use mechanical principles, smart toilets have multiple smart technologies (even artificial intelligence) behind their features that usually incorporate a smart phone app, remote control, and customizable options to match personal preferences. Learn more about smart home technology in our ultimate guide to smart homes.
The use of data and integrated technology is the foundation upon which smart toilets are able to connect and interact, in a manner of speaking, with users. Foremost is the use of artificial technology in nearly everything from its sensors to its customizable features.
Bottom Line: Smart toilets differentiate themselves from regular toilets through the incorporation of technology using machine learning that enables features such as hands-free voice operation and self-cleaning.
How Smart are Smart Toilets?
Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines, particularly in computer systems.
These technologies are programmed to think like the human brain and imitate human actions. Specific AI applications include machine vision, speech recognition, and expert processing.
Generally speaking, AI systems take in large amounts of data, analyze the data for patterns and correlations, and use them to make predictions of future conditions.
In the case of smart toilets, AI can be used in the analysis of bowel health through stool samples.
A good example is Duke University’s WaSH-AID smart toilet (while not available to the public, it is a sign of things to come).
But not all smart toilets are created equal!
Some have basic features like automatic flush, open-and-close lid, and heated seats, which are more affordable and easier to install.
Some have high-tech features like self-cleaning, health tracking, and user memory resulting in higher prices.
Bottom Line: “How smart” a smart toilet is really comes down to the specific model and manufacturer of toilet. Features like biofeedback and health monitoring are emerging technologies that aren’t as readily available as more basic smart toilets.
Smart Technology in Smart Toilets
The matter of how smart toilets work boils down to a few smart technologies that are also used in other smart home devices.
Let’s look at the most important technologies at work in smart toilets.
Smart toilets are designed with different sensors with multiple functions that go beyond automatically flushing water and waste. These sensors use ultrasound and infrared rays in various ways.
These include detecting motion in the room, determining the period when an individual has been sitting on the toilet seat, and raising the toilet lid. And other sensors detect and remove any lingering waste after a flush.
Many of these features are designed to improve hygiene and convenience when using the toilet. The automatic flushing, for example, means a no-hands approach.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Connectivity
These sensors are also equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to other devices, such as smartphones and smart home controllers.
The connectivity means users can access real-time data about their smart toilet’s functionality.
For instance, you could program your toilet seat to begin warming in the morning so that it’s ready for you during your morning routine.
The main idea of smart technology is this:
Everything in the palm of your hand.
This is the general idea behind the design of smartphones and smart technology in general. And as such, home fixtures with smartphone integration now includes the use of the toilet!
Because smart toilets can be connected to your smartphone, their features can be activated even when you’re not in the bathroom. You can, for example, turn on the heated seat even before you sit on the toilet. Or start the self-cleaning function if you know guests are headed over.
Getting in-depth health information from your smart toilet to your smartphone will also be a focus of future smart toilets! For now, though biofeedback technology is somewhat limited.
Your temperature and oxygen level can be measured while you’re sitting on the toilet and the data sent to your smartphone. Some smart toilets even provide a health journal function where you can make notes about your health during your bathroom visit.
Summary: Sensors and bluetooth, wi-fi, and smartphone integration enable a new level of toilet automation and user control.
Some high-tech smart toilets are designed with user data memory.
In other words, you can pre-program several personal preferences and choose a specific mode before using the toilet.
Each preset mode has its own water pressure, water temperature and seat temperature that can be activated with a single click.
Children and elderly individuals particularly benefit from the customizable features! They don’t have to reset the features every time they use the toilet – they just click on their setting and voila!
Other smart technology features in smart toilets are voice activation control and touchscreen remote control navigation. With the ever-evolving technology, however, we can expect to see more innovations in smart toilets in the future.
Who Should Buy a Smart Toilet?
Men, women and children will benefit from the use of smart toilets!
But we think that smart toilets will be a good fit for the following individuals.
- People who cannot use toilet paper for medical, cultural and hygienic reasons. Individuals with irritated, sore or tender anus are well-advised to avoid toilet paper for wiping their bottoms. Some cultures also don’t use toilet paper, such as most Asian cultures.
- Disabled individuals and elderly people with mobility issues will also benefit from the use of a bidet in a smart toilet. Instead of reaching around to reach their bottoms, they can let the bidet do its work.
- Large families who want to save money on unnecessary rolls of toilet paper will want to consider smart toilets, too.
- Busy individuals who don’t have time to restock toilet paper or who often forget to bring it should also consider installing a smart toilet. Self-cleaning smart toilets also provide a reprieve from toilet cleaning duties, which busy people will appreciate.
- Technology lovers who want to be at the forefront of smart home technology will relish the tech-driven features on smart toilets.
Of course, smart toilets aren’t for everybody. If you want the simplicity of features in a traditional toilet, then you can skip a full-featured smart toilet and might want to consider a more affordable smart toilet seat conversion kit.
Check out our guide on the differences between smart toilets and smart toilet seats for more info.
Bottom Line: The customizability, convenience, and automation of smart toilets will appeal to many different types of people.
The Best Features and Innovations in Smart Toilets
Smart toilet technology continues to evolve resulting in more innovative features. The most common features we see in smart toilets include the following functions.
This is undoubtedly the most hygienic toilet innovation since it eliminates the need to touch a lever or press a button for flushing. The less touching of objects, the less risk of transmission of pathogens.
Sensors are used in touchless flushing in two key ways:
First, a sensor will detect when you have moved away from the toilet and automatically flush. Some smart toilets use motion detection in flushing – wave your hand in front of the sensor and automatic flushing starts.
Second, a sensor will determine the amount of time you’ve been sitting on the toilet. The smart toilet will then choose from two modes – a full flush or an eco-flush that uses less water – based on your sitting time.
Takeaway: Smart toilet sensors enable hands-free flushing and the ability to use an optimal amount of water during the flush which ultimately saves on water-use.
Water Saving Feature
Smart toilets are water-efficient toilets for two main reasons:
First, it has two modes of flushing, as previously mentioned.
If you just peed, then the eco-flush is activated. If bowel movement has been detected, then a full flush is automated.
Note: Smart toilets may also be able to differentiate between solid and liquid waste. The amount of water used to flush the waste can then be adjusted accordingly. Plus, only a single flush is required, thus, preventing overflushing and water wastage.
Second, some smart toilets have a 3-stage flush system. The centrifugal flush has a cyclonic rinsing action that reduces waste.
The induction flush detects water wastage and flushes water in-line. The automatic flush has a pre-set limit on the amount of water used.
Bottom Line: The environmentally friendly water-saving feature is one of the main selling points for smart toilets.
Sensors in a smart toilet also automatically raise and lower the lid of the toilet seat.
When you approach the toilet, motion detectors sense your presence and activate the feature. Some smart toilets allow users to use a remote control for activating the automatic lid.
Adjustable Heated Seat
Most smart toilets go beyond just warming the toilet seat!
You can be specific in your preferred temperature and sit on a heated seat that truly warms your bottom to your ideal specifications.
Adjustable heated toilet seats are a great feature for people living in cold climates, particularly during the winter season. You can sit on the throne at any time of the day and night without your bottom being shocked by the unpleasant chill.
Some smart toilets even have a preheating function courtesy of AI! After a few times of using a smart toilet, it will figure out the best times to preheat the seat.
Health Data & Biometrics
Yet another smart toilet technology with practical applications is healthcare biometrics, or the measurement of bodily functions for medical diagnosis.
When you pee or poo, your waste specimens are collected by a smart toilet and analyzed for certain markers. The data is sent to your doctor for further analysis and diagnosis.
Stanford University’s smart toilet technology, for example, automatically scans human waste for possible signs of disease including cancer.
Plus, you can install it on an existing toilet, that is, when it is released commercially.
Since smart toilets use electricity, it makes sense to incorporate a power-saving feature. Once you have stopped using a smart toilet, it will automatically turn off.
Pre-misting the toilet bowl will prevent anything from sticking to its surface, such as dirt and detritus from your skin.
Even when the bowl is already dry, less dirt will stick to it. This helps in keeping the toilet bowl cleaner, meaning less cleaning to do and less use of harsh chemicals.
If you’ve ever groped for the light switch or stumbled into the bathroom, then you know that the struggle is real!
But with built-in LED lights automatically turning on when you’re in the room, it’s one less thing to think about.
Night lights can be activated in many ways, too. These can be turned on by motion sensors or by using a remote control or via a central controller.
This is the toilet innovation that made the bidet more popular among the American public!
You can adjust the angle of the spray of the bidet depending on your needs.
You can also adjust the water temperature and pressure using a remote control. The no-hands approach in adjusting the bidet’s settings is also for hygienic purposes.
The smart toilet innovation that people obsessed with clean and hygienic toilets love the most is the set of self-cleaning features. But if you ever find yourself having to clean a toilet the old-fashioned way, consider our guide to toilet bowl cleaning hacks.
Every smart toilet has its specific set of self-cleaning features but these are intended to reduce cleaning time.
The TOTO Washlet G400 Integrated Toilet, for example, uses ultraviolet rays to kill germs and remove dirt inside the bowl. Water is then flushed before warm air blowers remove excess moisture from the bowl area. These steps are done with a single push of a button, too.
Smart toilets also have a non-porous finish that prevents grime from sticking to the surface. The idea is to prevent waste from clinging to the bowl.
The self-cleaning wand also ensures that the spray is always sanitized.
Deodorizer and Air Purifier
Many smart toilets also have built-in deodorizers and air purifiers with automatic activation. As soon as you sit on the toilet, the air deodorizer is activated.
You won’t smell unpleasant odors coming from your poop because of this feature.
Then, the air purifier will be activated when you leave the toilet or a few minutes afterwards. The next user will appreciate that the bathroom doesn’t smell bad.
This is an excellent feature for big families and for bathrooms which guests will use.
The overflow protection feature prevents a user from flushing when it detects a clog. The water level is kept low for this purpose.
Listening to your favorite tracks can be relaxing when you’re doing your business in the bathroom! You can use a remote control or your smartphone to activate the music feature, too.
How to Buy the Best Smart Toilet for You
Keep in mind that the best smart toilet is the one that best fits your needs and wants in it!
Consider our guide to the benefits of upgrading to a smart bathroom to get an idea of big-picture plans for a full bathroom design.
You must then determine your needs and wants in a smart toilet before canvassing the stores.
Set your Budget
With smart toilets being more expensive than traditional toilets, it makes sense to determine your budget. How much are you willing to spend on the smart toilet itself?
You may want just the basic smart toilet seat or the whole shebang, which means more money. Consider our guide on the costs of upgrading to a smart bathroom for more information.
Ask yourself these questions when setting a budget:
- How are you going to install it?
- While a DIY installation is possible, you may want to consider a professional plumber since pipes and wires are involved.
- How are you going to pay for its maintenance?
While smart toilets are low-maintenance products, things can break and maintenance becomes necessary.
For any idea of what’s required to install a toilet, check out our guide to toilet installation.
Measure your Bathroom
You should not only ensure that the smart toilet will fit inside your toilet area but that it will also be functional and aesthetically pleasing.
NOTE: While smart toilets often come without toilet tanks, they can end up taking up more space than traditional toilets for other reasons.
You should also check the electrical hookups and their compatibility with the smart toilet you’re planning on installing.
Again, you may or may not need a professional’s help.
Choose your Most Important Features
You may not need all the smart features on an intelligent toilet either.
Besides, the more bells and whistles there are in a smart toilet, the more expensive it will likely be.
You may want to take a closer look at the abovementioned features in typical smart toilets. Then, make a list of the features that you will actually use and look for smart toilets with corresponding features.
You can then look at rankings of the best smart toilets on the market. There’s no need to try every smart toilet that catches your attention either. You can read our reviews, other user reviews, and use them as your guide.
Things to Watch Out For
High-tech toilets are investments, in a way, meaning you must be careful when buying them for your home.
You must not only look at the quality of the materials, design and construction. You must also ask about the accessories to the product including:
- The warranty, a written guarantee of quality by the manufacturer and/or service provider made to a customer.
- With it, you can demand after-sales services stipulated in the terms and conditions. A common example is the replacement of defective parts and related services.
- The money-back guarantee, a promise that you will get your money back – less fees and other charges stipulated in the contract – in case of major product defects.
You should also discuss with the salesperson (or research yourself) about the water usage and electricity requirements that a smart toilet has once installed.
Customer Service and Quality Materials
Don’t forget that the joys of owning technology are influenced by the quality of customer service. Ask relevant questions and expect clear answers. Because you might encounter technical issues with a smart toilet, customer service is even more important.
Of course, check the quality of the materials and the smart toilet’s overall construction. These aspects of production have a significant impact on the durability and functionality of a smart toilet.
In general, metal parts are more durable but more expensive. When a manufacturer is using plastics, be sure that user reviews don’t reveal any issues with durability or lifespan.
Bottom Line: Smart toilets are unlike traditional toilets in many ways, and so they require special consideration when shopping. Good customer service, quality guarantees, and transparent marketing are the hallmarks are a good smart toilet brand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Well, now we’ve pretty much covered everything you need to know to successfully buy a smart toilet.
But it’s understandable if you want more information or clarification. If so check out the FAQs below.
Just click the question in blue for a drop-down answer.