Since installing waterless urinals in 2007, the Staples Center — where the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings play — has saved over 50,000,000 gallons of water, enough to provide over 1.6 million people with a lifetime of drinking water.
Water conservation has become increasingly important. While the U.S. population doubled between 1950 and 2000, its water demand tripled. While seventy percent of the Earth’s surface remains covered by water, less than 1% of that water is freshwater. Only 1% of that 1% is accessible for human use.
And the cost of water is rising. Some entities are even suggesting that the pricing models used for water should change, that water should be priced to reflect how valuable a resource it is, that governments should stop subsidizing the cost of water so that businesses and individuals become far more reluctant to waste it.
Commercial Water Consumption
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the operation of buildings accounts for 47 billion gallons of water per day. Within those 47 billion gallons, the commercial restroom is responsible for about 40% of the total building water use, so the point is clear: water efficiency is a responsibility and can also provide significant operational savings.
Thanks to organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and legislation that has required change, commercial urinals are flushing less of the budget down the drain. For example, before 1994 conventional urinals were flushing between 1.5 and 5 gallons per flush (GPF). After 1994, urinals range from 0 to 1.5 GPF, so urinal technology is improving, and fewer gallons are flushing. In fact, it’s probably more helpful to think of GPF as DPF, or dollars per flush!
Enter the WATERLESS URINAL! See the chart for how much water the waterless urinal uses and for a comparison to other budget flushers:
That’s right! A waterless urinal does not use water, and if it’s not using water, it’s not flushing dollars down the drain. If this is the first you’re hearing about a water-free urinal, then you will likely have numerous questions. Does it smell? Are they clean? What happens if…?
The Truth About Waterless Urinals
The answers to those questions may surprise you. But first, it’s important to understand that the field of plumbing, specifically as it relates to toilets and urinals, hasn’t changed much over the years. Just look at the toilet (or urinal) design of old and compare those appearances to the toilets (or urinals) of today — pretty much the same, right? Even though flushing technology has been improving very recently, not much else has changed. So all of sudden these waterless urinals emerge and as is often the case, met with initial skepticism. But to be fair, those first versions, depending on the manufacturer, could leave something to be desired. Top-Selling models today have solved those problems and manufacturers now produce models that save money and function like any other urinal. And that’s the critical component of green products — produce better results (efficiency or health) without sacrificing quality.
They must smell, though, right? Wrong. As simple as the waterless urinal might appear, there was some serious thought given to the smell issue, and those cartridges in the center are the key. Each manufacturer differs in exact approach, but it’s usually a liquid sealant that floats on top of the water inside the cartridge. That sealant allows the urine to pass through, but the various smells — sewer gasses included — get blocked, essentially creating an airtight barrier.
Are they clean? Or are they tougher to clean? Yes. No. It may seem counterintuitive, but water is the main culprit when it comes to bacteria in the urinal. Yes, water. When urine leaves the body, it’s sterile. When it mixes with water, bacteria develop. Testing has revealed that traditional urinals have bacteria levels that are five times higher than that of a waterless unit because bacteria depend on a moist environment to grow. So are they cleaner than traditional urinals? Yes.
What about maintenance? Surely this new technology creates all sorts of challenges for custodians, right? No. First, keep in mind that the waterless cartridges are good for 7,000 uses, which means they only have to be changed approximately three to four times per year. Replacing the cartridge varies, but usually involves utilizing the manufacturer’s tool to remove the cartridge, disposal, and inserting the new product — pretty basic, right? Maintenance of the urinal itself will look very similar to your current maintenance plan for a traditional urinal:
- Wear gloves to clean any restroom fixture.
- Remove any foreign objects. The trap is designed to prevent larger objects from entering the drain area.
- Do not use abrasive cleaners, towels, or brushes.
- Mist all urinal surfaces with a neutral or all-purpose cleaner.
- Allow for dwell time.
- Wipe clean with a soft sponge or cleaning cloth.
- Do not pour excess or soiled water down the urinal trap because it can flush sealant out of the cartridge.
Harder to clean? No. Especially with fewer bacteria from the start!
But beware, some plumbers continue to feel threatened by a urinal that is easier to install, doesn’t require a water supply line, and doesn’t utilize a flush valve that requires yearly maintenance. But the benefits are undeniable:
Benefits of Waterless Urinals
- No water used — significant savings!
- No flush valves — no product cost or maintenance requirements!
- Lower overall maintenance — faster to clean and requires less cleaner!
- Vandal resistant — no water supply, valves, or sensors!
- Eliminates flooding from a clogged or dysfunctional drain!
|$0 water/sewer||40,000 gallons x 10 urinals = 400,000 gallons/year|
|$0 valve maintenance||$75 x 10 urinals = $750|
|Eliminates emergencies||Fewer restroom disruptions|
|Reduces custodial costs||Faster to clean/reduction in use of cleaning supplies|
Waterless urinals offer touch-free, water-free operations while also being odorless and have fewer bacteria present. With those credentials, you can confidently eliminate the dollars per flush!