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Overhead view of internal workings of a toilet with fill and float mechanism

Reduce Your Water Bill - Replace Your Toilet Flapper

Do you often feel like you’re flushing your hard-earned money down the toilet every time you pay your water bill? Well, you might be doing just that. It may surprise you to learn that the number one cause of rising water bills is a leaky toilet. In fact, a faulty toilet can waste up to a gallon of water per day. When you add this up, that’s over 30 gallons of wasted water a month or 360 gallons a year. That’s a lot of wasted water! And what’s the most common culprit when it comes to water-wasting toilets? A small, plug-like contraption called a “toilet flapper.”    

What Is a Toilet Flapper? 

So, what exactly IS a toilet flapper? It’s a rubber, plug-like device that sits at the bottom of the toilet tank and is attached to the tank lever by a chain. The toilet flapper helps maintain a consistent water level and ensures there’s enough water in your tank to flush the toilet when needed. Although it’s not a sophisticated device, the flapper is an essential part of making sure your toilet continues to work properly and efficiently.   

How Does a Toilet Flapper Work?  

If you’ve ever had to flush your toilet manually, you’ve seen how simple the inner workings of your toilet are. When you flush, the flush lever pulls the chain, lifts the flapper, and releases the water from the tank. Once the water drains from the tank, the float ball drops and activates a fill valve that triggers the flow of new water back into the tank. This simple process gets interrupted if the flapper is damaged, frayed, broken or faulty. If the flapper doesn’t make a proper seal, water will continue to leak from the tank, forcing the float ball to drop, which activates the fill valve...you see where this is going? A faulty flapper means your toilet tank will empty and fill up repeatedly. This constant filling and refilling of the tank over days or weeks can result in a lot of wasted water—and wasted money.  

Related Topic: Toilet Leaking at the Base? This Could Be the Problem 

Toilet Flapper Sizes 

Although toilets come in several different shapes and sizes, there’s less variety when it comes to toilet flappers. However, making sure you have the right size flapper for your toilet is vital, especially when your goal is to conserve water and save money. Luckily, figuring out the right size flapper for your toilet is pretty simple. Flappers typically come in two different sizes: two-inch and three-inch. Most toilets will use a two-inch flapper, while newer toilets (those made after 2005) generally use a three-inch flapper. One way to determine the right flapper size for your toilet is by looking at the size of the flush valve drain opening at the bottom of the tank. The flush valve drain is the opening that leads from your toilet tank to your plumbing. If the flush drain opening looks the size of a baseball or orange, it will most likely require a two-inch flapper. If the opening is more like the size of a softball or a grapefruit, a three-inch flapper is needed.  

When to Replace Your Flapper 

Most people wait until their toilet is leaking, not flushing, or hissing at them before performing any type of maintenance. But a little preventative maintenance can help you avoid costly water bills. Determining when it’s time to replace your toilet flapper is as easy as listening and looking. If you walk past the bathroom and hear your tank filling with water—and the toilet hasn’t been flushed recently—lift the tank lid and inspect the flapper for damage, or sign of wear. If the flapper looks good, check to see if the chain is tangled or getting caught on something when the toilet is flushed. However, if the flapper looks damaged or it’s not completely covering the drain valve opening, it’s probably time to replace it. Remember, even though the flapper is made of rubber and designed to function underwater, constant submersion will eventually warp and fray its edges. As a result, a toilet flapper will last about two years before it needs to be replaced.  

The Flapper Pros 

Although we use our toilets every day, we don’t often think about what they need to function efficiently. We just expect that when we need them, they’ll work properly and without fail. But now that you’re a flapper expert and understand some of the possible causes of your rising water bill, you should be able to take the steps necessary to fix the problem. Replacing your toilet flapper isn’t a difficult job, but if it’s not done correctly it could lead to more wasted water and expensive water bills. If you have a flapper that needs replacement and you’re not sure where to begin, contact the plumbing pros at your local Mr. Rooter. We have the knowledge and experience to fix your flapper problem and perform many other maintenance and repair services to meet all your plumbing needs.