Fact or Fiction: Waterless Urinals

By: Staff

4 Min Quiz

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

Waterless urinals? Don't let the phrase scare you. These odd-sounding fixtures are actually a clean and affordable way to limit water consumption. Take this quiz to test your knowledge about these water free toilets.

Waterless urinals produce less bacteria than urinals that flush with water.

Fact. Urine is actually sterile when it leaves the body. In a normal urinal, the mixing of urine and water is what breeds bacteria. So waterless urinals, as long as they are maintained properly, have less bacteria than the flushing kind.

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One of the downsides of waterless urinals is that sewer gas can potentially escape from the drains.

Fiction. Waterless urinals use a liquid "sealant" that keeps any odor or gas from escaping up through the drain. The sealant is lighter than water, so it floats on top of the urine reservoir, trapping everything inside the plumbing.

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Waterless urinals are more expensive than traditional urinals.

Fiction. Many manufacturers are competing to produce waterless urinals, so their prices are comparable to regular flushing urinals. They run from around $250 for a basic model, to around $1,000 for expensive designer varieties.

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Waterless urinals were invented in 1991.

Fact. You may not have seen a waterless urinal back in 1991, when they were invented, but they were around. They have become more popular due to an increased focus on conservation in construction.

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To prevent a waterless urinal from smelling, you need to flush the drain daily with bleach.

Fiction. You do need to clean the urinal regularly with conventional cleaning products, just like any other toilet, but flushing the drain with bleach is not necessary. If operated correctly, the urinal's drain should remain unclogged and odor-free.

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The average urinal in the United States uses between 1 and 3 gallons of water for each flush.

Fact. Depending on when a urinal was manufactured, it can use up to 3 gallons of potable water for every flush. Newer urinals tend to be more conservation friendly, but still often use a gallon or more of water each time you push down the handle.

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A single waterless urinal can save an average of 45,000 gallons of water per year.

Fact. That number can change a lot based on how many people use the urinal, and how efficient the urinal was that you replaced. But, 45,000 is a good estimate for a waterless urinal in a medium-sized commercial building.

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In the United States, about 250 billion gallons of water are flushed down the drain every year through urinals.

Fiction. The actual figure is a bit lower, more like 160 billion gallons. Still, that's a huge amount of water being used for the sole purpose of sending urine down a drain.

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Waterless urinals do not require any regular maintenance once they have been installed.

Fiction. Waterless urinals may not be as costly to maintain as flushing toilets, but they still need some regular attention. Sealant needs to be replenished every few months, and many brands have removable parts that need to be replaced or cleaned every few months to keep the drains from getting clogged.

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"Traps" are removable cartridges used in many waterless urinals to regulate the flow of urine.

Fact. Removable trap cartridges are designed so that the amount of urine inside the urinal is always constant. As new urine comes into the trap, the old urine is pushed out through the drain at the bottom.

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The sealant used in waterless urinals is made from vegetable oil.

Fact. Because oil is lighter than water, it makes a perfect sealant. Oil-based sealants always stay on top of the urine in the trap, allowing urine to filter down and keeping it underneath the sealant barrier.

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Sediment from pooled urine builds up in the traps of waterless urinals.

Fact. Urine contains solids that, over time, build up along the walls of urinal traps. That is one of the main reasons that traps need to be periodically removed and either replaced or cleaned out.

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According to a 2010 U.S. Army mandate, all new Army facilities are required to use waterless urinals.

Fact. The U.S. Army, always looking for ways to keep its operations efficient, has adopted waterless urinals as a way to conserve resources. They are especially useful in desert regions where water is scarce.

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Flushing urinals can send urine and dirty water into the air when they flush, contaminating bathroom surfaces and the clothes of those standing nearby.

Fact. Another reason why germophobes might actually prefer waterless urinals, the force of flushing water can send bacteria airborne, increasing the health hazard of standing water. Waterless urinals don't have the same problem.

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For years, waterless urinals were illegal in much of the United States.

Fact. Waterless urinals were considered unsafe by a lot of state and local governments. Technological advances like liquid sealant to hold in sewer gas helped convince state and local governments to begin legalizing waterless urinals around 2006.

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Standards for waterless urinals are described in the Unified Plumbers Code.

Fact. For years, representatives of plumbers' trade associations fought the adoption of standards for waterless urinals. However, in 2006, the plumbing industry gave in, and allowed waterless urinals to be included as an alternate specification.

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Installing a waterless urinal requires installing a special type of non-corrosive pipe for the drain line.

Fiction. There are not any special pipes that need to be installed to be able to use waterless urinals. Manufacturers have designed their products with current plumbing standards in mind, to help sell their urinals to as many people as possible.

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Installing a waterless urinal can count toward a LEED certification for a building.

Fact. Waterless urinals are one of many ways to achieve LEED certification for water conservation efforts.

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To install a waterless urinal, your drainage pipes have to have a specific slope, at least one-quarter inch for every foot.

Fact. For the most part, waterless urinals fit easily onto existing plumbing fittings and drains. The only specification that might be problematic is if the drain pipes aren't sloped enough for the waste water to drain out naturally without the encouragement of flushing water.

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The Taj Mahal in India has waterless urinals installed in its facilities.

Fact. The Taj Mahal is one of many large attractions and entertainment destinations to use waterless urinals. Some others include the L.A. Coliseum and the Georgia Aquarium.

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