A urinal is a common item in bathroom for men. Urinals contain only a few parts, but can be difficult to install without understanding plumbing. Waterless urinals have become popular in recent years because they conserve water and save on energy costs. In addition to the base unit, urinals require valves and pipes. Some urinals still use water, and some operators add deodorant blocks to the urinal base as well.
Urinal Base Unit
The base of the urinal is all one unit. This unit is the porcelain piece that includes the drain, the backsplash and the frame. When a man enters a restroom, the base is generally the only part of the urinal he sees. Most urinals are cheaper than toilets, costing only $700-800 as of July 2010.
The valves connect the urinal base to the water piping. The valves are sometimes visible from the restroom, but are typically hidden behind the urinal base or behind the wall. They need to be accessible to maintenance crews because the valves control the flow of water to the urinal. Urinals usually have only one main valve, so it is not a costly part of the urinal system. As of July 2010, typical valves cost under $100.
Though the valves control the water flow, the pipes actually deliver the clean water to the urinal and collect and send the used wastewater to a wastewater plant. The piping can be extensive or can be very short, depending on the building. Waterless urinals require different types of pipes, so people who intend to switch from traditional urinals to water urinals need to remember substantial pipe retrofitting is likely required.
Urinals occasionally have deodorant blocks or mats near the drain intended to keep out—or at least mask—offensive odors. However, a recent study by Inform, Inc. suggests deodorant blocks may be hazardous because many of them contain a potentially dangerous chemical called paradichlorobenzene. Paradichlorobenzene can trigger asthma attacks in people who suffer from asthma. Inform, Inc. recommends urinal operators opt for the para-free deodorant blocks, even though they cost about $10 more per dozen.
Interestingly, water is no longer a required component of a urinal. Though many urinals still provide a water flush to clean the base after use, many companies now sell waterless urinals as a way to conserve resources. Waterless urinals also send less waste to waste management plants. TECOM Investments is one company that manufactures waterless urinals. The company estimates this new technology can reduce urinal water consumption by 30 percent.