Urinal Fixtures Introduction

The National Standard

The U.S. national standard for urinals (ASME A112.19.2-2008/CSA B45.1-08) establishes a maximum flush volume of 1.0-gallons (3.8-liters).  This maximum was adopted into Federal law through the Environmental Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct 92).  Yet, urinals flushing at significantly less water volume – or no water at all - have existed in the marketplace for about 20 years.


Different types of flushing urinals have existed in North America for many years with little technological change.  In the early 1990s, however, the first non-water (waterless) urinal in North America was introduced. Since then, other urinal technologies have likewise surfaced that individually save almost as much water as the non-water design.

Many urinal fixtures being installed today are high-efficiency urinals (HEUs).  An HEU is defined as a fixture that flushes at 0.5-gallons or less.  This definition includes existing 0.5-gpf urinals and non-water urinals as well as the one-quart (0.25 gpf) and one-pint (0.125 gpf) urinals currently available in the marketplace from several manufacturers.

More information on urinals, including WaterSense-certification, may be found here.

Non-Water Urinals

Since their introduction, hundreds of thousands of non-water HEUs have been installed here in North America, savings millions of gallons/litres of water each year.  At the same time, the number of manufacturers with non-water urinals in their product line has grown substantially.  Today, 11 manufacturers offer 42 different non-water models in the North American marketplace.  Download a list of HEUs here.

The non-water urinal is not without controversy, however, and the need for further research is clearly evident. Issues of maintenance requirements (labor and materials), questions about the life expectancy of the liquid seal (or cartridge), concerns over build-up of urine solids (struvite) in the drainlines behind these fixtures, the undefined environmental impacts of disposed chemicals and cartridges, and, finally, issues with the economics or cost-effectiveness of non-water urinals all seem to argue in favor of more research on these important topics.

Flushing Urinals

While non-water urinals offer the complete elimination of flush valves and water use, other high-efficiency technologies have made their appearance in the marketplace. Today, manufacturers are developing and refining urinal models that flush at 0.5-gpf (1.9-liters) and below, many with as little as 1-pint of water (0.5-liters).

SPECIAL NOTE:  It is very important that before making a purchase decision regarding a urinal (non-water or flushing), you perform a full life cycle cost analysis of the installation.  Relying upon ‘first cost’ only (purchase and installation) without regard for subsequent cleaning, maintenance, and parts costs, could result in significant financial ‘surprises’ later on.

High-Efficiency Urinals (HEUs)

The widespread availability of HEUs makes the choice an easy one for the designer and specifier. Today, 11 manufacturers offer 42 different non-water models in the North American marketplace; 18 manufacturers offer 139 different flushing urinals that meet the HEU definition.  Of those, 87 are WaterSense-certified.  Download a complete list of HEU models here.

WaterSense-Certified HEUs

When installing new flushing urinals or replacing older, inefficient flushing urinals, choose WaterSense-labeled models.  WaterSense-labeled flushing urinals have been independently tested and certified to function at no more than 0.5 gpf.  In addition, they must meet specific criteria for flush performance and drain trap functionality and are designed to be non-adjustable above their rated flush volume. These features provide for the longevity of water savings.  The WaterSense specification is applicable to the:

  • Urinal fixtures
  • Pressurized flushing devices that deliver water to urinal fixtures
  • Flush tank (gravity-type) flushing devices that deliver water to urinal fixtures.

To ensure high performance and water savings, choose a valve and fixture combination with matching rated flush volumes.

A number of informative documents relating to the various urinal technologies are available for free download:

A.  For a current listing of high-efficiency urinal models being offered in the marketplace, go to the MaP testing website.  Included: Identification of all the HEUs and urinal flush valves certified to the new WaterSense Specification for Flushing Urinals.

B.  Koeller, J. (2005) Potential Best Management Practice Report HETs and HEUs - This document provides an analysis of the installed base of commercial urinals in California was completed as part of an assessment of HEUs being considered for Potential Best Management Practice (PBMP) status.  The report examines the potential water savings that might result from implementing various program scenarios directed at replacing some or all of the existing installed base and/or focusing on new construction in California.  In certain instances, findings for California may be extrapolated and applied to other geographic areas.

C.  Demiriz, M. (2006) Application of Dry Urinals Study Report - The highly disputed “German study” of non-water urinals.  In 2004-2005, Dr. Mete Demiriz of Gelsenkirchen University of Applied Sciences in Gelsenkirchen Germany completed a study of dry (non-water) urinals in the University’s very extensive laboratory facilities dedicated to plumbing technologies. When the study report and presentation were reviewed by water efficiency advocates and by plumbing system professionals in North America, it set off alarms. Those alarms were related to the build-up of solids in the drainlines behind the non-water urinals. The findings of the study were disputed, the reasoning being that plumbing codes and other conditions in Germany are not identical to those in North America.  As such, some reviewers felt that study findings could not be applied here, while other reviewers believed that the same results would be experienced in North America.

If you download and review the study report and accompanying presentation, you are encouraged to also read the refuting technical response offered by Falcon Waterfree Technologies and the two other reviews as well.

All 5 documents may be downloaded here:

 - Demiriz, M. (2006) Application of Dry Urinals Study Report
 - Demiriz, M. (2006) Dry Urinal Study Presentation
 - Falcon Company (2007) Dry Urinal Study Response
 - Koeller, J. (2007) Dry Urinal Study Review
 - Pape, T. (2007) Dry Urinal Study Review 

E.  PNNL (2002) Urinal Odor Study - Odor Test for Urinal Fixtures.  One of the issues brought forth by the opponents of non-water urinals is odor. Of course, all urinal fixtures will yield odors if not cleaned or maintained properly.  Furthermore, odors frequently result from a lack of cleaning of the floor surfaces beneath the urinal as well.  Unfortunately, in most cases, odors have been unfairly attributed to the non-water urinal technology itself when the real cause may lie elsewhere.  Several studies of odors from urinal installations have been completed in the last six years.  The PNNL study provides important information from an independent source on this subject.