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Waterless urinals offer potential savings

October 15, 2012 - Plumbing & Restrooms

Today's tip is to consider waterless urinals for a restroom upgrade. Most waterless units use a liquid sealer and rely on a density differential between the sealant and the liquid waste. The sealant is less dense than water or urine, which pass through the sealant. The sealant creates a barrier between the liquid waste and the urinal bowl.

However, the code compliance of waterless urinals varies among local jurisdictions. The International Plumbing Code requires all plumbing fixtures have a water supply when it is required for proper operations, and that water provide the trap seal.

Managers planning to install waterless urinals first should check with local code officials. Some local codes explicitly require fixtures to have a water supply and exclude mechanical traps. For the liquid-seal waterless urinals, the potential gray areas in the codes stem from using the sealer in lieu of water. But sometimes, local officials can be persuaded to consider a test with new technology on a limited basis.

It is worth trying because the savings are significant. A waterless urinal that replaces a standard one-gallon per flush urinal can save 40,000 gallons of water annually, according to manufacturers.

Successful maintenance depends on training the staff. For example, custodial staff should be trained not to dump wastewater down the urinals when cleaning, and the typical cleaning regimen for a waterless urinal consists of spraying and wiping it down, instead of washing it down with water.

Liquid-seal urinals feature two different designs: cartridge and integrated drain trap. The cartridge design uses various types of disposable inserts that fit into the custom-designed urinal base. The cartridge typically contains half a liter of water and is topped with a liquid sealant. This cartridge collects sediment and directs liquid waste to the drain while blocking odors.

The integrated-trap design does not use a cartridge. Instead, a liquid sealant separates the waste from the urinal bowl through a fixed basin trap or a trap built into the urinal body. Yet another type of waterless urinal uses a flexible silicone diaphragm or elastomeric, expanding check valve. Typically housed in a removable cartridge, the diaphragm or check valve allows liquid waste to pass through and then seals.


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