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#1
Old 08-13-2009, 08:08 AM
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What was wrong with the overhead toilet tank system?

Now seldom seen, except in Godfather movies.
I'm not clear on why the tanks were overhead in the first place.

I suppose the premise was that the water would pick up speed on the way down.
But the overall speed is constrained by the exit hole at the bottom of the tank. It takes the same amount of time
to empty up there as down here, so it's the same amount of water per second flow rate, just delayed by the trip.

Or perhaps the thinking was that the water pressure would increase, but that would only happen if the valve
were at the bottom end of the pipe, which it isn't. And once the valve is open the water below it is in free fall and
gains no pressure from the water above it.

So the question remains, why did we have them and why don't we have them now.

Last edited by TheMadHun; 08-13-2009 at 08:11 AM.
#2
Old 08-13-2009, 08:18 AM
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It's probably simpler and cheaper to just have everything connected directly, no need for extra pipe or mounting brackets.
#3
Old 08-13-2009, 09:24 AM
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overhead toilet tanks

We had one in our old apartment. Do you really want water dripping on you if there is a leak? Or if is sweating from condensation? Ours was mounted slightly off center, I assume just to reduce that problem. Ever had one pull out of the plaster/lath? The height adds to the drama of the drop. Kind of heavy to lift that high during installation. Depending on your height, you might also hit yourself on the head. I think that originally they were good when water pressures varied from building to building, and floor to floor, the height did work with gravity to help the flush. I have seen the same thing (in Europe) with hot water heaters mounted very high. Not so much of a problem with modern building codes. Possibly it was also considered space saving as well.
#4
Old 08-13-2009, 09:44 AM
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It's also a lot easier to install a modern toilet. Attach the tank to the bowl with 2 bolts and a rubber gasket, place the works on the waste pipe with two bolts and a wax gasket, and attach the supply line with a 6" pipe.

Compare that to having to install a big tank way up on the wall. You have to drill hols and use wall anchors to ensure it's not going to fall down and kill someone. Install the bowl as usual. Then you have to cut and fit a large diameter pipe from the tank to the bowl, and fit a long supply line to the tank. It's more work and more materials to get a system that doesn't work any better and takes up the whole wall.

Modern toilets are better designed than old toilets, so the lower tanks still provide a sufficient flush.
#5
Old 08-13-2009, 09:49 AM
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When we installed a new toilet four years ago, we installed an overhead tank. The added water pressure was a plus. So far, I like it. I think it is mainly a matter of fashion.
#6
Old 08-13-2009, 02:15 PM
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Way back when I was young, the tank was wood, thus did not sweat.

At any rate, the great thing about them is they were responsible for the saying, "I really pulled his chain." Probably very few people today understand the derivation.
#7
Old 08-13-2009, 02:30 PM
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And yet, I still don't understand the derivative. I just know where it comes from, but I ain't sensing any understanding.
#8
Old 08-13-2009, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
It's also a lot easier to install a modern toilet. Attach the tank to the bowl with 2 bolts and a rubber gasket, place the works on the waste pipe with two bolts and a wax gasket, and attach the supply line with a 6" pipe.
There's also an intermediate design. The toilet in my mom's house (yes, there's only one) has a tank attached to the wall behind it, but at about the same height as in a modern toilet. It would seem like such a design would be the worst of both worlds, which is probably why that's the only one I've seen like that.
#9
Old 08-13-2009, 04:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KlondikeGeoff View Post
At any rate, the great thing about them is they were responsible for the saying, "I really pulled his chain." Probably very few people today understand the derivation.
I'm not sure if that even is derived from old fashioned toilets. Can't find any reliable source for that. I suppose there's a vague association between someone being annoyed and the noise old toilets makes when flushed (can sound a bit angry).
#10
Old 08-13-2009, 04:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMadHun View Post
. . .

I suppose the premise was that the water would pick up speed on the way down.
But the overall speed is constrained by the exit hole at the bottom of the tank. It takes the same amount of time
to empty up there as down here, so it's the same amount of water per second flow rate, just delayed by the trip. . .
I don't think the above it true, unless the exit pipe is very small. I haven't picked up the book and done the calcs, but I suspect that the higher tank has a higher water pressure and therefore a higher flow rate.

The pressure in the pipe is called head, by the way. Increasing the height increases the head.
#11
Old 08-13-2009, 10:15 PM
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The pressure would only increase if the flapper or ballcock were down where it is on a low tank, but it's not, it's in the overhead tank.
#12
Old 08-13-2009, 10:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMadHun View Post
The pressure would only increase if the flapper or ballcock were down where it is on a low tank, but it's not, it's in the overhead tank.
Depends on the size of the pipe below the flapper.
#13
Old 08-13-2009, 10:57 PM
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Years ago, the ex and I were looking at houses. Closet space was virtually non-existant in houses build up until the 1970s, it seemed, and homes weren't all that big in general. They all had toilets, but it hadn't always been so.

My WAG is that when we switched from outhouses to indoor plumbing, people worked them into existing structures wherever they could. Calling it a "water closet" may be a reference to the cramped spaces, and moving the tank up may have saved a few precious inches.

Later, as homes got bigger, the practice could have already started taking on the "because that's the way it's always been done" momentum.
#14
Old 08-14-2009, 06:32 AM
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Elevated tanks were a necessity with the older "bell" syphon, which I remember seeing explained in a home maintenance manual forty years ago - even then it was obsolescent. There, you had the downpipe standing proud of the water in the tank, and to flush you raised and dropped a cast-iron bell, causing water to slosh up inside the bell and down the pipe and starting the syphon. To get this inefficient (but mechanically simple) system to work you needed a generous head to keep the syphon running. More modern pump-action syphons didn't need such a big head and allowed a lower-level tank, though you could perfectly well fit them to a high-level tank.

With a bell syphon, nothing happened when you pulled the chain - it was releasing the chain that dropped the bell.
#15
Old 08-14-2009, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Fake Tales of San Francisco View Post
I'm not sure if that even is derived from old fashioned toilets. Can't find any reliable source for that. I suppose there's a vague association between someone being annoyed and the noise old toilets makes when flushed (can sound a bit angry).
I'm getting a little confused here, but if it clarifies anything, the way the overhead toilets were flushed is by pulling the long chain that went from the tank down to where one sat. At the end of the chain was a wooden handle.

I can't think of any other chain pulling device that would result in the use of that phrase.
#16
Old 08-14-2009, 09:04 PM
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My dad explained it as pulling the chain while someone else is still sitting on it. The noise is surprising, and if you're lucky they're bottom will get splashed.
#17
Old 08-14-2009, 10:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KlondikeGeoff View Post
Way back when I was young, the tank was wood, thus did not sweat.

At any rate, the great thing about them is they were responsible for the saying, "I really pulled his chain." Probably very few people today understand the derivation.
Quote:
From "The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang" by Tony Thorne (Pantheon Books, New York, 1990; originally published in Great Britain by Bloomsbury Publishing, 1990):

"YANK (SOMEONE AROUND/SOMEONE'S CHAIN) -- vb. American to mislead, deceive, harass or irrate. The image on which the expression is based is that of a chained or leashed animal or prisoner being thoughtlessly or maliciously jerked about or led in different directions..."
Cite found here. Secondhand, but it makes a lot of sense.
#18
Old 08-14-2009, 11:21 PM
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Gee, I've always wanted one like those, believing it would be more effective at cleaning the bowl.

I'm pretty sure the extra height would deliver water to the small jet holes entering the bowl at a higher pressure. Where along the length of this assembly the valve is shouldn't change the pressure at these final exits to the ambient. The opening at the top of the pipe, if it's a typical toilet flap valve, is going to be about pipe sized, and it's going to fill, probably forcing the air out the bottom first or forcing it out early on as a mixture with the water.

None of these things care about what kind of supply pressure is in the water lines in your building, as long as they can deliver water at that height. If your pressure is weak, the tank would take longer to fill. And if the tall tank design cleaned the bowl more effectively, you'd never be standing there to care about refil time.

Though, maybe I should be glad I never got one, what with the water dripping and all. Besides, as often as one must go into the tank to fiddle with the adjustments or replace the chain or flapper, doing so on a ladder must be more inconvenient.
#19
Old 08-15-2009, 12:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
There's also an intermediate design. The toilet in my mom's house (yes, there's only one) has a tank attached to the wall behind it, but at about the same height as in a modern toilet. It would seem like such a design would be the worst of both worlds, which is probably why that's the only one I've seen like that.
Yes, I have one of those. Spent more money fixing it then if I'd bought a new one. Anybody plans on replacing the connecting pipe needs to PM me first.

The only reason I can see is to add the force of height to the process. On a semi-related topic. I saw a very early toilet that had 2 pipes going to it and one of them was ported directly into the bowl. I believe it was a vent system.

Last edited by Magiver; 08-15-2009 at 12:55 AM.
#20
Old 08-15-2009, 08:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
There's also an intermediate design. The toilet in my mom's house (yes, there's only one) has a tank attached to the wall behind it, but at about the same height as in a modern toilet. It would seem like such a design would be the worst of both worlds, which is probably why that's the only one I've seen like that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magiver View Post
The only reason I can see is to add the force of height to the process.
i think the separate tank at near the same level was done to seal the plumbing, it was easier to stop leaks with separate units. the plumbing was threaded metal pipe and the seals were thin rubber or maybe leather. for modern toilet the seal is a thick synthetic rubber (somewhat recent development) to seal between the units.
#21
Old 08-16-2009, 02:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Napier View Post
Gee, I've always wanted one like those, believing it would be more effective at cleaning the bowl.
Another disadvantage is that they use a whole lot of water. Much more wasteful than current toilets, or even the older models.
#22
Old 08-16-2009, 02:20 AM
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On a semi related tangent. Where does the water come from to flush one of those public toilets that doesn't have a tank? Is it a large volume of water in a pipe in the wall?
#23
Old 08-16-2009, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by USCDiver View Post
On a semi related tangent. Where does the water come from to flush one of those public toilets that doesn't have a tank? Is it a large volume of water in a pipe in the wall?
They just tap directly off the water lines and use the water pressure. If there happens to be no water pressure, there will be no flushing at all.
#24
Old 08-16-2009, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by CutterJohn View Post
They just tap directly off the water lines and use the water pressure. If there happens to be no water pressure, there will be no flushing at all.
The pipes are a lot bigger in diameter than your typical household pipes of 1/2 or 3/4 inches. Allows a bigger 'whoosh' when it is tapped,
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