Choosing an electric bidet toilet seat can be a daunting task. There seems to be so many options and features to consider and choose from, and different companies use different terms and catch phrases. This guide will hopefully help you make sense of everything and help you narrow down your bidet seat choices, and help you understand what features and options to look out for when choosing the perfect bidet for you.
1. Spray Strength (Normal vs Air Pump) Probably the most important feature to consider is the spray strength. All electric bidets use incoming water pressure from the plumbing line to power the spray, and for most households with strong plumbing pressure, the bidet should be able to provide adequate spray pressure. Most bidets will also have adjustable pressure settings to adjust the pressure from very gentle to fairly strong. Some users actually prefer a very strong spray strength. If you're one of these users, then you would need to get a bidet with a separate air pump. An air pump combines pressurized air along with the water spray to create an even stronger spray. Some bidet brands call this an "aerated spray". With some bidets, you can actually still use an aerated spray with a low pressure setting for an even more gentle spray.
2. Heated Water (Tank Based) Another bidet feature that is very hard to live without is having heated water. No one likes to get an icy jet of water sprayed on their bum in the middle of a Canadian winter (trust me, it's very unpleasant to say the least). Most bidets are able to provide heated water with an internal water tank heating system. How it works is that the bidet draws in cold water diverted from the T-valve attached to your water shut off (basically, the water that goes into your toilet tank). The water then goes inside a built in water tank inside the bidet. The water tank has a temperature sensor and a heater, and can heat up the water to a specified temperature, and constantly turns the heater on and off to keep the water exactly at the specified temperature. Once you sit on the bidet and go to use the water, the warm water from the tank is immediately available for use. Sometimes you'll have residual water in internal water tubing / nozzle from the last use, and that residual room temperature water will shoot out first before the warm water from the tank shoots out. That sometimes explains why some people feel a colder spray for maybe 1 second, before the warmer water comes out. The water tank can usually hold about 750 mL to 1000 mL of water, which is enough for one wash cycle. As the water is being used and depleted from the water tank, the tank is refilled with the cold water fresh from the plumbing. This cold water mixes with the already warm water inside, and cools the water. But, the heater of the tank will still be at full blast, heating the water. This is sometimes called a "hybrid heating technology". The result would be a spray that starts off warm for the first 30 seconds or so, and there will be a small but noticeable gradual cooling off of the water as the spray cycle nears completion. The advantage of a water tank heating system is that it's cheaper to implement, so you will find this on 90% of all bidets. Another advantage is that the water will always come out exactly at the temperature you set it at. Most bidets have choices that range from 30°C to 40°C. The disadvantage would be the slightly higher energy use compared to an instant heating system, and the gradual temperature drop over the spray cycle. In general, the energy cost for keeping the water tank heated is just a couple of cents a day; it's not an energy intensive process.
3. Heated Water (Instant Heating) A newer technology that emerged in the last 5 years or so is an "instant heating system". How it works is that it has an extremely powerful heating core that can instantly heat up the incoming room temperature water to whatever temperature you set the bidet to. Because it doesn't have a water tank, instant heating bidets are significantly thinner than their water tank bidet counterparts, sometimes up to 35-40% thinner. And because it doesn't rely on a preheated water supply, and instead can instantly generate a warm stream of water, the bidet can technically provide an infinite supply of warm water without having any noticeable temperature decrease like you would with tank based bidet seats. The only disadvantage from this type of bidet is if the incoming water is very cold, at temperatures of 5°C degrees or below, sometimes the instant heating cores won't be able to heat up the water to the maximum available temperature. Instead, the heater will heat the water to a few degrees below that temperature, because the heater can only increase the water temperature by so much. For example, let's say that a bidet can set the water temperature to a maximum of 40°C, and the heater can increase the water temperature by +33°C. If the incoming water temperature is 10°C, then the heater will have no problem heating up the water to the specified 40°C. However, if the incoming water temperature is 3°C, then the heater will heat the water to a maximum temperature of 36°C (3°C + 33°C). However, this is mostly a none issue, because it is difficult to detect a temperature change of just a couple of degrees, and usually incoming water in a household is higher than 10°C, because the water would have been sitting inside the pipes that are inside your house, achieving the ambient temperature of your house. However, if the water going to your toilet is coming from straight outside and it's only 1 or 2°C above freezing, AND if you want to use the warmest settings for the water spray, then you might want to check out a water tank heating bidet instead.
4. Heated Seat This is a basic feature for most if not all electric bidets, and is most noticeable during the winter time, where it saves you from having a shock every time you sit on an otherwise icy cold toilet seat. Most bidets have adjustable seat temperatures ranging from 30°C to 40°C.
5. Spray Functions Generally there are two main spray functions, rear wash and feminine bidet cleansing. The spray pattern would differ between the two, with a strong spray for the rear wash and a more gentle one for the feminine wash, as well as a slight difference in nozzle position to allow for better positioning of each of the sprays for them to wash the appropriate areas. Also, another feature to help with the spray positioning is being able to change your nozzle position by moving the nozzle forwards or backwards. Some other spray features or functions you may come across is "AUTO", which usually is a preset program that will automatically cycle through a wash and an air dry cycle at a preset level for pressure, position, and temperature. A "CHILD"function is just an auto mode but with all the temperature and pressure settings set to the lowest possible.
6. Dry Function Most bidets should also have an air dry function. Think of it as like a mini hair dryer, but for your bum. The air dryer usually has adjustable temperature, and some higher models would also have multiple fan speeds as well. The stream of air is usually not pointed directly at the skin itself, and the skin gets the breeze indirectly, to prevent low temperature burns. For lower model bidets, it usually takes several minutes to be completely dry with only using the air dryer, but with higher end models with multiple fan speeds and a strong fan in general, you would need less time to completely dry off with the air dry fan.
7. Energy Saving / Eco Mode Tank heating bidets need to always be on to keep the seat and water heated. To save on energy, some bidets have an "ECO" mode, which usually just keeps the heating either at a minimum or off when no one is sitting or using the bidet, and only ramps up the temperature to the temperature that the user is set at when the bidet detects someone sitting on the bidet.
8. Warranty Servicing Bidet seats are built to be enjoyed for many years, and something to definitely keep in mind is the warranty and repair process for the bidet you purchase. One simple thing you can watch out for is the length of the warranty offered. Most bidets have one year warranty, while some have two years, and some top end bidets have up to a five year warranty. Attention needs to be given to the fine print of the warranty policy to see what is covered, what isn't, and what's the differences are between each year of the warranty being offered, if any. Also, when it comes to actually repairing the bidet, does the brand / company offer parts for the end user to be able to fix themselves, or are do they require all servicing to be done by the company only? Also, if the bidet is to be shipped for repairs, how long will the turnaround time be, what would the approximate costs be, and would you have to ship it across the border to the US for repairs? If you have to ship the product cross border, you might incur border fees or duties. It might be worth it to ask these things from the company you decide to purchase your bidet from, for a peace of mind.