Billions of gallons of water are used annually to flush toilets in the United States.

Still Wondering About Waterless Urinals?

Billions of gallons of water are used annually to flush toilets in the United States. Consequences of this usage include consumption of natural resources and construction of new infrastructure to treat and transmit potable water and wastewater. Waterless, or no-flush urinals, may help mitigate these effects and offer other advantages, including lower utility charges, improved restroom hygiene, and decreased fixture maintenance.

DESIGN AND OPERATION

The waterless urinal appears and works like a conventional urinal, except that it does not flush and, therefore, requires no water. Like their traditional counterparts, waterless urinals are made of fiberglass or vitreous china, and are offered in white as well as various custom colors (Figure 1). ADA compliant models are also available. No-flush urinals can be installed virtually anywhere the conventional variety would be used.

Like ordinary urinals, waterless types are plumbed to a standard drain line, but obviously do not use a conventional water-filled trap. Waterless urinals utilize proprietary sealant liquids that act as a vapor trap. The liquids are composed primarily of natural oils that are lighter than water. Urine passes through this liquid and goes down the drain. The sealant liquid, except a minuscule amount that escapes with each use, remains in place to trap odors and prevent them from escaping into the restroom.

WES-150 Removable Cartridge
4.8″ High

The removable cartridge, according to manufacturers’ literature, serves two other purposes in addition to holding the sealant liquid. First, it acts as a strainer to keep unwanted materials such as chewing gum and cigarette butts out of the drain. Also, it captures sediment from urine that would otherwise go down the drain and potentially create obstructions. Models with integral siphons do not have a strainer, so their manufacturer recommends flushing the drain line with water on a monthly basis. The built-in trap version has a drain cover that should catch larger items before they go down the drain. For models with drain inserts or cartridges, the cover is twist-locked in place. A special tool supplied by the manufacturer is required to remove it, thus reducing the chance of unwanted removal and opportunities for vandalism.

APPLICATIONS

No-flush urinals can be installed at virtually any location that conventional flush type urinals would go. Installation locations have included airports, schools, colleges and universities, offices, hospitals, stadiums, convention centers, parks, and rest areas. Waterless urinals are suitable for both new construction and retrofits. In both applications these urinals are installed essentially like conventional ones, except that no water hookup is needed. However, some owners prefer to install water supply lines to the urinals’ location and cap them in case they are not satisfied with the waterless urinals in the future. Some building officials are reportedly requiring this type installation as a condition of approval as well. Waterless urinals fit to standard 2- inch drain lines, but not copper. The urea in urine can react with copper to cause pitting and corrosion. For retrofits the height of existing drain piping may need to be modified to allow mounting of the new waterless urinals at the proper heights. This adjustment is due to the fact that drain outlets on conventional and waterfree urinals are often at different locations relative to the fixture bottom. Also, one source recommends ensuring existing drain lines are clear of obstructions, snaking them if necessary, prior to installation. This removes any existing encrustations in the lines, which, according to no-flush urinal manufacturers, accumulate due to reactions between urine and water.

While they can be used almost anywhere, waterless urinals are a practical option where facilities are not connected to a sanitary sewer system. Since there is no flushing, septic systems or on-site treatment facilities do not fill with water from urinals. No-flush urinals may also be attractive in locations such as parks and rest areas where heating is not provided in the winter, since freeze protection is not required.

ADVANTAGES

Water Savings. Toilets account for about half of a typical building’s water consumption. In the United States, almost 5 billion gallons of water is used every day to flush toilets, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Newer models of conventional flush-type urinals use about one gallon per flush. Older ones can use from three to five gallons. Since no-flush urinals use no water, one to five gallons of water is saved with each use.

Low Maintenance. Waterless urinals generally require little maintenance other than a few simple procedures that are outlined below (see Maintenance). The absence of a flush valve eliminates valve repairs and reduces opportunities for tampering. Additionally, overflow due to clogged drains and vandalism is not a problem since large amounts of water are not being flushed. According to the manufacturers, drain lines on waterless urinals are less susceptible to clogging as the mixture of water and urine, absent with no-flush urinals, causes encrustations to form in the pipes. Occasional flushing with a few gallons of water is recommended to keep lines clean.

Improved Hygiene. Many people have the impression that urine is an unclean substance. However, it is generally a sanitary liquid, composed mainly of dissolved metabolic waste and excess water. A person’s urine normally does not contain harmful microorganisms unless they are harboring some type of urinary tract infection. Water used by conventional urinals gives germs in the restroom the moist environment they need to grow. Manufacturers design waterless urinals to dry out between uses. This makes them hostile to bacteria and viruses. Also, since there is no handle, no-flush urinals are touch-free, reducing the spread of communicable diseases.

Odor Control. The absence of a water-urine blend in the bowl lessens the prevalence of odors often associated with urinals, according to at least one manufacturer. The sealant liquid filling the trap is designed to keep odors out of the restroom. However, some owners report that odors might become noticeable if the supply of sealant liquid is allowed to run out.

Environmentally Friendly. Waterless urinals contribute positively to the environment. First, the absence of water for flushing reduces the demand for water, an increasingly scarce commodity in some areas. Also, since no water goes down the drain, additional wastewater requiring treatment is not generated. Next, the special drain cartridges and inserts used in some models are recyclable. Finally, the sealant liquid composed of natural oils, is biodegradable.

Rebates and Incentives. Some water utility companies offer rebates and incentive payments to owners installing waterless urinals. Payments range from a partial to full reimbursement for the cost of no-flush urinals. In Texas cities participating in these type programs are generally in the central and western parts of the state such as Austin and El Paso. Some areas in the west, including many in the Seattle, Washington, region also offer incentives for no-flush urinal installation.

Energy Reduction. Widespread use of waterless urinals could result in an overall reduction in the use of energy. Cities and other water supply agencies would not have to treat and pump as much water. “Green Building” Credits. Many new construction projects nowadays are earning certification as “green buildings” under the LEED program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. Installation of waterless urinals helps gain water conservation points.

MAINTENANCE

Waterless urinals are touted as reducing maintenance. As previously mentioned, flush valve repair and cleanup from clogged drains is eliminated. However, the fixtures do require some periodic attention. Regular upkeep includes cleaning all surfaces, and drain care, whether the drain contains a cartridge type trap or one cast into the urinal. Custodial staffs can perform these tasks.

Posted by steve@airdelights.com

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