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Home / Et cetera / Events / Cool Automated Toilet, Solar Panel Trends & Other Seattle Home Show Highlights

Cool Automated Toilet, Solar Panel Trends & Other Seattle Home Show Highlights

By October 7, 2012

Events, Furniture, Urban Living

How would you like a toilet that automatically lifts its lid as you walk up, plays music, features a heated seat, a bidet and an air dryer?

The stylish Kohler Numi toilet was one of the interesting sights we found Saturday at the Seattle Home Show at CenturyLink Field Events Center. (Details below on how you can get a free ticket for Sunday). As we strolled through the aisles of exhibitors, we also learned solar panel prices have dropped 50 percent since last year and which part drives up the cost of steel cable railings.

Before we flush those out, let’s get back to the automated toilet. Here’s a 30-second demo…


A representative at Ferguson, a bath, kitchen and lighting retailer, showed us how the Numi works. Motion sensors built into the front of the commode detect when you’re near and automatically raise the lid, while sensors on the side bring the seat up. A remote control turns on the radio, pumping music from speakers built into the back. When you’re done, a “self-cleaning” wand extends from the middle of the toilet to serve as a bidet, spraying water to clean and air to dry. Saving money on toilet paper will come in handy since this trendy throne will cost you $5,000.

A few booths down, we spoke with the folks at West Seattle Natural Energy about solar panels.

Silicon energy panel made in Marysville, WA

Owner Keith Hughes explained a solar system that covers the electricity needs of a typical single-family home will cost about $15,000, a price tag that has come down significantly in the past year as U.S. solar panel makers slash prices to compete with their counterparts in China.

“Some of these companies are selling their panels at below cost to stay in business,” said Hughes.

At $15,000, it will take about eight years of use to recover the investment, though you can recoup $5,000 of that amount through a federal income tax credit and you are also eligible for rebates from the state. But before you run out to buy panels for your roof, you have to know the system won’t work very well for many houses in the Seattle area, said Hughes. That’s because your roof has to face south or west in order to take advantage of Seattle’s daily average of 3.7 peak sun hours. North or south-facing roofs won’t get enough rays.

The last thing that caught our eye are these contemporary stainless steel cable railings.

Aluminum and cable railings from Apex Railing Solutions

Steve Kristek of Apex Railing Solutions explained that many of his clients replace older stairs with these modern railings. Aside from their clean look, the aluminum frames and railings also open up the home as you knock down existing walls.

Costs vary depending on which material or finish you choose. Prices start at about $80 a foot and go up to $300 to $400 a foot. The biggest cost is the “cable termination”, which is basically a connector for when you change directions. Therefore, the more floors and the more “turns” the cables have to take, the more expensive the system will be.

There are hundreds of other exhibitors specializing in areas like sustainable design, custom closets, gutters and even handcrafted Tuscan decorative jars.

Model from Deontology Design + Build in Tacoma

Tuscan decorative jars

One business, Staging & Design Network, is offering free tickets to the show. Just like and message them on Facebook and they’ll get you a ticket at Will Call, while supplies last. Aside from their smart marketing idea, this new company has an interesting business model. They store, rent and sell new and used staging furniture. Real estate agents, interior designers, stagers and others can browse their online store or visit their Kirkland showroom.