Review: Our automated Japanese toilet seat (and how to get your own)
The need to use the toilet is like a great equaliser - everyone has to use it. But there're certainly ways to make it more comfortable and hygienic. Inspired by our recent trip to Tokyo, we discovered the joys of using automated toilet seat bidets that provide a luxurious experience.
Yes, we got a Japanese washing toilet seat! You could get one too - scroll down and we'll outline how you can buy and install one for yourself.
The particular model of toilet seat we purchased was the Toshiba SCS-T160. Based on online reviews, it appears to be one of the more popular models in Japan. And for good reason - it hits the price to performance sweet spot and is great value.
The total cost for us was about S$400 (including shipping and handling, as well as all additional accessories required), but I would say that it was well worth the cost! The Toshiba SCS-T160 itself cost us about S$200, shipping and handling was about S$150 while the cost of the 220-240V to 100V step-down transformer was about S$40.
The Toshiba SCS-T160 has a general washing option and a feminine washing option (both of which have the option of using heated water), a built-in self cleaning function, and a seat warmer capability. It even has power saving modes.
The toilet seat automatically activates when you sit on it, and the deodorising fan turns on. After you've selected the washing mode, the nozzle will automatically move out and start washing. After you stop it, the nozzle will self-clean, then return into its hidden slot under the seat.
- Model number: Toshiba SCS-T160
- Power rating: 100V at 50-60Hz
- Energy usage: 152kwh/year (depends on usage)
- Power consumption: 662W
- Water pressure: 0.07 to 0.75MPa
- Water output: 0.40 to 0.65 L/minute
- Washing water temperature: 34 to 40°C
- Water storage: 0.6L
- Toilet seat temperature: 33 to 40°C
- Deodoriser capacity: 0.11m³/minute
- Dimensions: 489mm x 543mm x 158mm
- Weight: 4.1kg
- Power cord length: 1.0m
The toilet seat is ivory in colour, in a pale shade of cream. While it doesn't exactly match the colour of our polar white toilet bowl, it's a complementary shade that doesn't offend, and looks like it doesn't stain easily. It's a nice, contemporary design.
The remote control panel is situated to the right of the seat for easy access while you're seated. The most important functions have helpful icons, so it's easy to use despite being labelled in Japanese. The seat is ergonomic and allows people of most sizes to sit comfortably.
There are 4 levels of pressure (from 0.07 to 0.75MPa) at which you can set the water pressure while washing, which is sufficient for most purposes. You won't find yourself requiring a higher or lower water pressure.
There're also 4 heat level settings for heating the water used for washing. You can set it to room temperature (no heating), 34°C, 37°C and 40°C. I'd reckon that for most purposes, 33°C or even the room temperature setting is sufficient. It is noteworthy that most of the power used by the toilet seat is employed for heating the water (600W out of the total power consumption of 662W. 50W is used for heating the toilet seat, while the remaining 12W is used for running the toilet seat's electronics).
So using the water at a lower temperature would save a lot of power. The heater itself is very powerful and efficient, and can heat water at 0.40 to 0.65 litres/minute.
The direction of the spray is also adjustable - it has a feminine washing mode and a general washing mode. After selecting the mode, it is also possible to make fine adjustments to make the spray move forwards or backwards.
And for added hygiene, it also has what I like to call an "agitate" function, which allows the spray to oscillate back and forth for more complete washing.
Seat warming function
In tropical Singapore, we rarely face the spectre of cold toilet seats, so I haven't found a need to use the toilet seat warmer. But it's still useful to know that it also has 4 heat level settings - room temperature, 33°C, 37°C and 40°C.
The heater does a good job of quickly heating up the seat evenly, which would be perfect for extremely cold days (if it ever happens - maybe after torrential rainfall).
My favourite feature of the toilet seat is how it manages to pack in an active deodoriser as well. At a corner under the seat, Toshiba included a fan and replaceable filter. Because the seat has an IR sensor and is only activated when a person is sitting on it, the fan turns on the moment you sit on the toilet seat, and turns off about a minute or so after you've left.
The deodoriser does a really great job of deodorising the air (it's easy to tell) and is pretty efficient (being able to deodorise 0.11m³ of air per minute). And because the air filter is replaceable, it's easy to maintain by simply popping out the filter at the side of the seat and replacing it when the time comes.
The self-cleaning nozzle
Of course, it isn't truly automated unless the toilet seat can clean itself, and the Toshiba SCS-T160 is truly automatic in this regard. The self-cleaning button causes the nozzle to wash itself with water, while the nozzle moves in and out of its concealed slot; after that it will remain extended for you to wipe it down with a cloth if you want to, then return into its concealed slot again when you press "stop".
Toshiba also apparently coated the seat using some silver-nano technology to help minimise bacteria.
Power-saving modes and heating times
The designers of the Toshiba SCS-T160 really thought through the user experience when creating this toilet seat, and this shines forth in the power-saving modes.
There are two power-saving modes: in the first mode, the seat is automatically set to 28°C and the water is set to 25°C regardless of the heating settings (unless heating is completely disabled, of course). When the seat detects a user sitting on it, the water and seat are then heated to the desired temperature. After the user leaves the seat, the seat returns to 28°C and the water returns to 25°C. Using this mode, the water takes about 4 minutes (maximum) to be heated to the desired temperature.
In the second power-saving mode, once the mode is activated, the water and seat heater are deactivated for 8 hours. After 8 hours, the water and seat are automatically heated to the desired temperature for another 8 hours. Then, the heaters are deactivated again and this continues in 8-hour cycles. This is great for power-saving and also instantaneous use (because there is no need to wait for the water and seat to be heated up when used during the correct 8 hour period).
For example, if the power-saving mode is activated immediately before sleeping, if the user sleeps for 8 hours, when the user wakes up and uses it, the seat would be turned on and immediately useable at the desired temperature. If the seat is used while the heater is deactivated, the heating functions take about 7 minutes (maximum) to reach the desired temperature.
The Toshiba SCS-T160 comes with a manual written only in Japanese that describes exactly how to install the toilet seat. You can follow the pictorial instructions in the manual for installation of the toilet seat (it's relatively simple, except that you'll have to attach a hose from the water supply to the toilet seat).
Ensure that the toilet seat is plugged in to the 220-240V to 100V step-down transformer, and not to the mains supply directly, or the toilet seat will be irreparably damaged. If you're unsure of installation, you could get a plumber to do it for you - most plumbers will be able to carry out the installation. And with that, you're all ready to go!
Important note 1: Because the Japanese toilet seat is made for Japanese domestic use, it's rated for a 100V mains power supply, whereas the mains power supply in Singapore is 220 - 240V. It's essential to use a step-down transformer with a sufficient power rating, or the electronic circuitry in the toilet seat will immediately spoil the moment you turn the power on. More details are provided here as to how to get the correct step-down transformer.
Important note 2: Before buying anything, ensure that your existing toilet has suitable dimensions appropriate for the toilet seat to fit! The Toshiba SCS-T160 requires at least 5.5cm clearance between the screws on the toilet seat and the seatback of the toilet bowl (see the diagram). The entire length of the toilet bowl, from the seatback to the front of the bowl should be at least 51.5cm.
The Toshiba SCS-T160 is great - it works well, it's easy to maintain and the experience is seamless! And it's not too expensive too. It definitely doesn't reach the high prices of Toto branded toilet seats. However, because they're made for the Japanese market, additional steps are required if you want to get one for yourself. We outline the steps we took here.
Do we enjoy the smart life with this? Yes, definitely.
Who should get this? Anyone who enjoys convenience when using the toilet - if you can stomach the cost.
Who shouldn't get this? Anyone who's uncomfortable with allowing a toilet spray to automatically clean you.