Toto's top-of-the-line Neorest toilet, a tankless wonder with all the gizmos, comes out this fall priced at around $10,000. Most high-tech seats with important features such as a retractable wand and a drier cost between $450 and $1,800, and some basic water-cleansing models made by lesser-known companies now sell for under $40.
"It's a very experience-driven product, and is hard to explain to someone who's never tried a high-tech toilet. But the taboo is definitely beginning to lift," Scheer said. "People used to giggle and make jokes when I explained our products. Now a lot of people have heard about them or tried them and are more interested."
There are roughly 1.5 million high-tech seats in use in the United States, and millions more featuring more basic, non-electric, water-cleansing methods such as attachments and sprayers. Although high-tech toilets still account for a scant 1 percent of toilets in the U.S., Brondell and Toto both estimate growth in the high-tech segment at around 15 percent or more per year, and significantly higher than that in the last two years. And this despite minimal advertising.
Toilets at Google's California campus have been equipped with high-tech Toto seats, according to the company. And Brondell's Swash 1000 will be a standard option on Gulfstream's new G650 jets, Scheer said.
"A lot of times it starts when somebody buys one and then has some friends over for a dinner party. Their guests give it a try and then ask, 'Where in the world did you get that?'" said David Krakoff, head of sales for America of Toto USA.
So far, the seats seem most popular in larger cities on the East and West coasts, and in areas with large Hispanic populations. They seem to be gaining ground quickly among baby boomers and those who care for the elderly, as well as those interested in high-tech and environmentally friendly products.