Waterless urinals are intended to conserve the billions of gallons of water that flush urinals use each year in the U.S. While they have the potential to greatly conserve natural resources, there are disadvantages to waterless urinals, particularly in installation costs, training requirements, maintenance costs and potential chemical damage.
Would-be installers need to retrofit buildings to adapt to the spatial requirements of waterless urinals. Many plumbing systems, especially those in older buildings, may have to be torn out and rebuilt completely. Building owners must hire plumbers and trained professionals to properly retrofit the sewer line and replace any copper piping with PVC.
A building's custodial staff require training in maintaining and cleaning waterless urinals, which have different cleaning methods than flush urinals. For example, the addition of any water at all (except that in urine) to an oil-based waterless urinal system will break the seal between cartridge and urinal. This will cause unpleasant odours and possibly require cartridge replacement. The custodial staff must train in the proper ways to replace or remove cartridges, water seals and other pieces of hardware that they may lack experience in.
Depending on the type installed, staff may need to regularly reload and replace cartridges to keep down the odour. These cartridges can be very expensive, and disposable cartridges produce waste. They may need to use special cleaning agents, without the presence of certain chemicals.These agents are often much more expensive than the average cleaning fluid.
Potential Chemical Damage
Urine's chemical properties do not present a problem to flush urinal operation because the urine is heavily diluted by flushed water. Without this water, the chemicals in urine are highly concentrated and are likely to cause certain chemical reactions when coming into contact with pipes. Corrosion is one of the largest concerns in this case. The ammonia in urine reacts with any copper or copper alloy and begins to eat away at it. In addition, calcium may build up over time and begin to clog the pipes, requiring regular pipe replacement or repair.