Today’s topic deals with how electric bidets work. This is probably one of the most common questions I get and for good reason. Models that run on electricity have all the fancy features associated with modern-day bidets.
Electric bidets clean and perform several advanced functions using a home’s electrical supply. However, their most basic features like spraying water can run off of water pressure alone. The power from electrical outlets is used for functions like heating water, running the dryer, and deodorizing.
They come in two forms: either a complete toilet (a toilet-bidet combo) or as a seat that can attach to an existing toilet.
What we’ll do in this article is go over the two main types of electric bidets and how they work. In doing so, we’ll cover the range of functions they offer that require electricity–from temperature and pressure control to the warm air-dryers and deodorizers.
It’s time for a quick distinction.
The Two Types of Electric Bidets: Seats vs. Toilet-Bidet Combos
An electric bidet seat is a step up from an attachment. Both seats and attachments are fixed to your current toilet. They don’t require any permanent modification of your present setup so they’re ideal for rental properties.
Attachments are non-electric. They’re strictly mechanical working solely off of water pressure. Like seats, attachments have retractable wands that extend when needed. So, they’re more convenient than handheld sprayers (another type of non-electric bidet) that require you to cleanse manually.
But, attachments lack all of the features of electric bidets—most spray only cold water and you have to use TP or a dedicated towel to dry off.
Instead of working off of your home’s water pressure, bidet seats use an electric motor to propel water through a nozzle. This is necessary because they must first heat the water up, usually in a small reservoir.
Toilet-bidet combos work in the same way. Instead of being a seat that’s attached to an existing toilet, these high-tech commodes contain a built-in bidet from the beginning.
Electric seats and toilet combos offer essentially the same features, but seats come at a fraction of the price. While a good seat will usually run you about $300, I’ve seen bidet toilets go for upwards of 6K ($2000 is common).
This is important to note because a lot of potential bidet users (those who are new to the subject) will perform a quick internet search for electric bidets to find the first page of results to be filled with $2000 toilets.
The extra benefit gained by purchasing an entire toilet is mostly limited to the aesthetic appeal of some of the modern toilets. The seat and commode structure (bowl and tank) are built to go together so they always look great together.
That hardly makes it worth it in my opinion given that most seats are universal, designed to go well with most standard toilets.
How Are Electric Bidet Seats Powered?
Another common question that’s a little more specific is how bidet toilet seats are powered. While bidet attachments (non-electric appliances) are fixed to toilet seats, all bidet seats are electric.
While attachments are powered via water pressure, electric bidet seats get their power from a nearby electrical outlet. Most power cords are ~4 ft (1.2 m) allowing hookup to a bathroom’s wall plug. The electricity powers various components in the seat’s lid like the water heater and dryer.
As we’ll touch on further down in the article, the electric components account for why bidet seats have sloped lids (lids that start high in the back and slope down). This is especially true of bidets with a tank-type water heater. Seats with instantaneous water heaters lack this sloped contour.
Being built with bidets from the beginning, some of the electrical components in toilet-bidet combos can be housed elsewhere in the toilet’s structure resulting in a more streamlined appearance. Not always, but sometimes.
Bidet Features That Run on Electricity
This list covers most of the features on offer by bidet seats and toilets. Models vary, but the below should give you a good idea of the features available these days.
Warm Water Heater
With electric bidets, the warm water cleansing feature is allowed by a small water heater built into the bidet seat.
The water heating mechanisms in electric bidets come in a couple of different forms: as a heated reservoir type or instantaneous type.
With the more affordable options, water is heated up in a small reservoir so that it’s ready to go as needed. Kind of like those commercial coffee machines that brew instantly by keeping warm water on tap.
One drawback of this mechanism is that heated water will run out. This is rarely an issue for most people. I have the TOTO C100 which heats water up this way and I’ve never had an issue with the water running out.
Also, if it did run out, the unit still sprays cool water as it does with bidet attachments and handheld sprayers. So, you won’t be left hanging mid-wash with a job only half done.
The fancier models often come with an instantaneous water heater which offers a continuous flow of warm water that doesn’t run out. They use more sophisticated technology to heat water as needed.
Warm water is one of the main perks offered by electric bidets. While it’s not necessary for a good clean, most that have used both warm and cold water tend to claim that the former gives a superior clean all else equal.
Also, most describe a warm water cleansing as really enjoyable. It has a massage-like effect and increases blood flow, which is thought to account for why bidets feel so good.
It was just mentioned that most of the more economical bidet seats keep heated water in a warm reservoir.
Well, mechanical bidets (the non-electric kind) can run warm water through the nozzle. One way is by use of a warm water adapter—a fitting that’s attached to a spigot, typically your bathroom sink or showerhead.
Because warm water flowing from a faucet takes a minute to warm up, most find this process of getting warm water more trouble than it’s worth. The water starts to run warm by the time you’re done cleansing.
Another way is to hook the water supply hose of your non-electric bidet directly into your plumbing. This requires some plumbing skill and it may call for modifying your property to some extent—something most folks, especially renters, are hesitant to do.
So, if warm water is important, an electric bidet is the way to go.
That’s right, some electric bidets can dry you. For more info on how that works, check out the article. This means you can ditch toilet paper for good.
Non-electric bidets require you to use toilet paper or a dedicated bidet towel each time you use the toilet—either that or walk around wet all day.
This goes for the attachments and handheld sprayers as well as the old school European bidets—the small washbasins located next to regular toilets.
Depending on your reason for getting a bidet, this might be a deal-breaker. For example, if you’re an eco-conscious consumer who wants to eliminate all TP use.
Don’t get me wrong, even the non-electric bidets still save on tons of TP especially when used over a lifetime.
In contrast, bidet seats and toilet combos come with a built-in dryer. In my experience of researching and shopping around, this is true even for the most basic (least expensive) seats on the market.
Running off of your home’s electricity, electric bidets are able to provide an air flow with temperatures ranging from 95-140 °F or 35-60 °C.
You’ll notice most seats have a sloped lid while (don’t worry, the seat itself is flat). Instead of being housed in a bulky control arm, the technology that allows for drying and other functions is located in the rear of the toilet lid.
As for the dryer, the technology consists of a small fan and heated components (coils, etc.).
This is probably not a huge deal to most readers. Modern bidets come with either a remote control or a control arm situated next to the toilet. All attachments (non-electric bidets) and some of the economical seats come as control arms.
The more expensive seats and nearly all toilet-bidet combos come with remote controls.
As for bidet seats, that’s just a generalization—models with remote controls can be quite affordable. It’s just a pattern I’ve noticed.
For example, the TOTO C100 and C200 come with a control arm and remote control, respectively, with the C200 being a bit more expensive.
Anyway, I mention this feature because some people like the idea of having a bidet but don’t want to alter the look of their bathroom or toilet too much.
One drawback of non-electric bidets is that they’re always noticeable. If you go the handheld sprayer route, you’ll have a sprayer next to your toilet.
The sprayers look like the kind you find in kitchen sinks meant to wash dishes with. While they usually have a nice sleek design, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
Again, with attachments (non-electric), they always come with a control arm. While some look quite nice, they tend to be on the bulky side.
Electric bidets do have their own unique look—most lids are sloped—but the look is generally considered aesthetic.
One of the main questions folks ask when first researching the topic is, “do bidets get poop on them?”
Modern bidets (even the non-electric kind) tend not to get poop on them because they come with retractable wands.
With an adjustment of the controls, the nozzles extend and retract as needed. So, they’re out of the way when you’re doing your business.
The operation of the wand is different with electrical bidets. Non-electric bidets are mechanical, using mechanisms that work off of water pressure to extend/retract the nozzle.
With electric bidets, a tap of a button can move the wand in and out and most controls allow for adjustment of the wand angle.
So, electric bidets use electricity to operate the wand, which gives better control.
For example, most models have an electric motor that allows you to adjust the angle of the nozzle so that backsplash is limited—further minimizing any chance for the unit to be contaminated with feces and urine.
The best self-cleaning bidets are made with antimicrobial wands that are self-cleaning and self-sanitizing (they rinse themselves with an antimicrobial solution).
And, it’s no big deal even in the event your wand gets soiled with urine or poop. This is because most electric bidets, even those on the more affordable end, come with a self-cleaning wand.
As mentioned, wands extend and contract when used. When retracted, self-cleansing wands are pulled back into their housing while simultaneously being rinsed with a splash of water containing a non-corrosive cleaning solvent.
A self-cleaning wand can be a feature on non-electric bidets, but it’s much less common.
Oscillating and Pulsing Features
The most common functions on remote controls or control arms of electric bidets include:
- Wand position adjustment
- Water pressure adjustment
- Temperature adjustment
- Pulsating cleansing
- Oscillating cleansing
- Personal setting*
*The personal setting allows you to store your preferred settings for temperature, pressure, and positioning.
Temperature and pressure controls are a feature of any electric bidet. But, the pulsation and oscillation are quite common yet not considered to be standard features.
The pulsating cleanse allows for cleaning sessions where the water pressure pulses between soft and strong.
When something oscillates, it moves back and forth at a regular speed. So, the oscillating cleanse function makes the wand move back and forth (like a sprinkler in the backyard). This allows for a more thorough clean.
If you want these features, you’ll need to check the product description.
Even the most basic electric bidets tend to come with a toilet bowl that self-cleans to some extent.
The bidet seats are programmed to mist the bowl with a cleaning solvent that prevents dirt and feces from adhering to the inside of the toilet. The misting happens with each use when a sensor detects you’re about to sit down.
A slightly fancier model will mist both before and after you use the toilet, and the higher-end models are programmed to self-mist at certain intervals throughout the day when not in use.
The model I own, the TOTO C100, has a pre-mist function. It doesn’t mist after use or at regular timed intervals. I’ve found that the pre-mist function alone has kept my toilet sparkly clean from day one. I’ve yet to notice any formation of brown rings in the commode since making the switch to an electric bidet.
Like with many of the newer cars these days, electric bidets allow you to warm up the seat. I kind of laughed when I first heard of this feature and really didn’t imagine I’d use it that much.
While I can’t say it’s an absolutely essential feature, I have gotten accustomed to the warm seat and really enjoy it especially in the winter months.
Also, as mentioned in the article on bidet use for constipation, relaxation is one of the key factors when it comes to having regular bowel movements.
The times I’ve been constipated since having my bidet, I’ve found the combination of the heated seat, warm water cleansing, and oscillating feature to be a game-changer in getting the right muscles to relax to get things moving again.
Pretty much all-electric bidets come with a built-in deodorizer. You definitely don’t need an electric model to keep your bathroom smelling clean. A candle or a good plug-in air freshener can work wonders.
But, the deodorizers in electric bidets are unique in that they don’t mask bad odors with aromatic compounds. Rather, they come with an electric fan that passes air through a carbon filter.
This process breaks odorous molecules down keeping your bidet and bathroom smelling clean.
Self-Opening and Self-Closing Seats and Lids
Some higher-end electric bidets come with self-closing/opening seats and lids.
Slow-close lids are more common in entry-level electric bidets, but that tends to be a hydraulic or mechanical feature (like a screen door). Here I’m talking about a lid that opens and closes as needed. IME, this feature tends to be present on luxury models.
One question a lot of newcomers to the subject have is whether bidets splash poop everywhere. It’s a great question.
In certain circumstances, especially when the stool is on the softer side, it’s easy to imagine that hitting it with a stream of water could cause a mess more than anything.
As discussed in the article just linked, this does not tend to happen when a bidet is used correctly. However, there is a sense in which most all toilets spray poop to some extent: a phenomenon called toilet plume.
Each time you flush with the lid up, you get a dispersal of poo-containing droplets in the air that either get inhaled or land on surrounding surfaces (contaminating those surfaces).
Anyway, a self-closing lid keeps this from happening. As they say, artificial intelligence beats genuine stupidity. I’ve always been one to forget to close the lid and since getting my electric bidet it hasn’t been a problem.
That should do it for now. Thanks for reading. For information on how other types of bidets work make sure to check out the articles on non-electric units and portable/travel bidets.