What are some initial and long-term benefits for colleges that install waterless urinals?
The astute facility manager will find there are several benefits—cost as well as practical—to installing waterless urinal systems.
One of the first cost savings comes with installation. Waterless urinals do not have flush handles, sensory systems, or require the plumbing, piping, and other “incoming water-lines” necessary to bring water to the unit—and these are often what cost the most when installing conventional urinals.
Waterless urinal systems rarely require plumbing repairs. In fact, some busy campus bars and restaurants have switched to waterless systems just for this reason. The manager of one popular restaurant said that after a busy Saturday night, it was not uncommon for at least one of the restaurant’s conventional urinals to be broken or clogged with all sorts of debris. With waterless urinals, this rarely happens.
Many cleaning professionals find waterless urinals easier to clean and maintain than conventional urinals. In most cases, a waterless urinal is cleaned using an all-purpose cleaning chemical, cloth, sponge, or Johnny mop. Because there is no water, water and rust deposits do not develop so scrubbing is rarely necessary. And because the interior of the unit is basically dry, bacteria, germs, and other contaminants rarely develop. This is more hygienic and also helps protect indoor air quality because less germs become airborne.
Then there is the actual water savings. A single conventional urinal can use as much as 45,000 gallons of potable water per year. This is not only wasteful, it can be very costly, especially in drought-stricken areas. Additionally, it can cost as much as $2 per gallon to deliver and drain water from a facility. These charges are often passed on to the customer in increased utility fees or to all of us in higher taxes.
And, urinals tend to be vandalized. Apparently, it is the flush handle and exterior plumbing above the urinal that is most often the victim of vandalism. This is eliminated with a waterless system.
What are the costs associated with waterless urinals once they are installed?
Of course, due diligence is required when selecting a waterless urinal system. Although they look and work in similar ways, there are differences that, if overlooked, can undermine the water and other expected savings. For example, the trap/cylinders found in some models may require more frequent changing and, in some models, these trap/cylinders can be very expensive—as much as US $50 each—while with other models, the trap/cylinder can last considerably longer and cost as little as $8 per unit.
How does the technology work?
The way waterless urinal systems work is actually quite simple. Instead of using water to flush away urine, gravity drains the urine into a trap cylinder that sits atop the drain area of the urinal and provides a one-way seal.
The cylinder is filled with a thin layer of liquid sealant, which must be re-filled as necessary and is in most cases, is a quick and easy procedure. As the urine passes through the trap/cylinder and sealant, which prevents odors from being released into the air, the urine overflows into a conventional drainpipe, much the same way a traditional urinal works.
Also, as mentioned earlier, the entire trap/cylinder unit will eventually need to be replaced. On some models, this is a very quick and simple process as well, requiring about as much time as replacing toilet paper or paper towels. On other no-water systems, this maintenance may take longer and be more involved.
How long has your company offered these fixtures and what has customer feedback been?
We are nearly 30 years old. I think the best way to evaluate what customers think about waterless urinal systems, and the technology in general, is to look at the growth we have seen in the market in this short time. More and more schools and colleges are installing—and in some locations actually requiring—the installation of waterless urinals. Many schools and colleges seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification are installing waterless urinals because they can earn as many as five points (out of 32 needed) toward certification with the systems in place. And this growth is not just in the United States. The technology is spreading around the world. Even India’s famous Taj Mahal and NFL stadiums now have waterless urinals.
Can you comment on any other tends in water waste reduction you have noticed on campuses and where you foresee the market of water waste reduction headed.
It may be hard to believe today, but at one time, toilets installed in commercial buildings in the U.S. used as much as 8 gallons of water per flush (gpf). Today, they use no more than 1.6 gpf.
Similarly, pre-1992, conventional urinals used three to four gpf. Now, they use just 1 gpf. Just as with all natural resources, colleges and campus are becoming increasingly aware—and concerned—about how much water they are using.
Many experts, including builders, facility managers, and other advocates for greater sustainability and use of natural resources believe that increased water conservation measures will play a greater role on college campuses as well as all types of facilities in the future. Because of this, we can expect to see even more interest in reducing water usage and more waterless systems in the coming years.