Why Don’t People Have Urinals in Their Homes?

That’s what Mark Leibowitz, one of our readers, wants to know:

“Public men’s rooms have a mix of urinals and toilets, but private homes only have toilets. At first I thought it was simply a matter of space, but even when there’s room for a second installation the second choice is always a bidet rather than a urinal. Urinals use less water than toilets. I don’t imagine they’d be particularly expensive. My best thought was that it would have to take a lot of saved water to pay for a toilet, but I’m not sure that’s the real explanation. Crazy topic I realize, but … any thoughts?”

Well, aside from the fact that girls and women can’t use the urinal — at least not as it’s intended — my first guess is that men are typically not involved in designing a house or planning a renovation as women are.

Also, there’s this: whereas some toilets are quite beautiful, most urinals — even Marcel Duchamp’s — are pretty ugly. These urinals are perhaps more attractive, but I don’t know if I’m ready to spend $7,000 on a urinal.

It would be different, of course, if the Department of Defense was footing the bill, or Dennis Kozlowski.


speed

Turn the question around: Why do public toilets HAVE urinals? What is their benefit to a restaurant or airport and why isn't that benefit important in the home?

lantzilla

In Sweden, I saw a combo toilet, like this one:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lantzilla/255400899/

Unfortunately, it required instructions:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lantzilla/255401016/

prosa

Women might object to the sight of a urinal?

John S.

No electric hand dryers either.

evgen

If you had a urinal in your home then you would be faced with the unpleasant task of cleaning it... :)

I think the benefit of the urinal in an large public space is threefold:

- They are space-efficient. Being flatter and not needing large walls you can fit a row of them into spaces that would only accomodate a couple of fully-encoded toilets.
- They are time-efficient for the users (increased throughput.) There is a reason the lines are always shorter for the men's room.
- Touchless. As a frequent user of the airport urinals I enjoy the fact that I can walk into the lav, do my business, and if the sink faucets are run on motion-sensors I can complete the transaction _without touching anything in the room_...

pedropais

Public toilets have urinals for three reasons that don't normally affect homes: resource efficiency, speed and hygiene.

- Resource efficiency: public toilets require a great amount of space, compared to urinals (you need to have a separate compartment and physical separation between the toilets). At home you already need to have a toilet, so no urinal is required.

- Speed: Most of the time people go to a public toilet they go to urinate. Since you can have more urinals than toilets in the same space the process is quicker, therefore reducing queues and waiting time. Normally that's a problem you won't face at home.

- Hygiene: Toilets are more dirty-prone than urinals, because you've to lift the seat up, aim and take care while putting "the little guy" back inside. At home (your home, at least) you are already careful.

Nathaniel

Yeah, the better question would be why have a urinal in the home? They offer lots of benefits with multiple users, when you're trying to maximize space and speed efficiency in the bathroom. But there's little point to having such a special-purpose device that only some people can use in a home, where only a handful of people will ever be going to the bathroom.

demecj02

Urinals in public restrooms keep the sit-down toilets much cleaner.

makfan

Interesting question. The trend in many restaurants in California seems to be to have one or two Unisex restrooms with no urinal.

uid007

Why have a urinal at home? There is less mess to clean up after the "early morning erect" urination.

prosa

There is a reason the lines are always shorter for the men's room.

Men don't use public restrooms as social and entertainment centers.

Craig

Urinals aren't in bathrooms because they were invented long after regular toilets became the norm for home bathrooms. AND, because what is the point of installing a second toilet? Because it uses less water? That is the only reason I can think of. Bidets are a different story; they are installed because wealthy Americans think it shows how affluent and cool they are.

ejp1082

On the water issue - they do make toilet bowels that conserve more water than normal ones do. Or else there's always Japanese style toilets that you squat over. Urinals aren't the only way to conserve in that regard. So even if someone was looking to conserve (doubtful, given how cheap the water bills typically are and the marginal impact the toilet makes), they wouldn't necessarily install a urinal.

Crosbie

I was actually going to install a urinal in my basement/cellar a few years ago.

1) It was a games room with a fridge full of lager, etc.
2) Mainly blokes would tend to use the area.
3) There was no requirement for a standard toilet nearby (two flghts of stairs away). Plumbing would have been problematic anyway.
4) I wasn't squeamish about cleaning it - you can get them with lids if you must.

The only reason why not: my other half simply couldn't bear the thought - or the shame of the gossip. I'm not really sure, but this was one of those ultimatum generating issues.

Never mind.

So we all just pissed in the washbasin instead. ;-)

snubgodtoh

I'd love to have one. Not one of the flower ones on the link above, however (These urinals). I'm very comfortable with my own femininity, but could do without the urinal's. They should be industrial looking, like they came from a converted yugo plant. If they must bear a resemblance to something, perhaps Billy the singing bass or a beer can. R2-D2 maybe.

badger99

a plumber buddy of mine built a house 10-15 years ago and put in some beautiful urinals in all his bathrooms. An amazing house - and that was my favorite feature.

They were much more stylish than the typical urinals....gold-colored hardware and all.

If I ever build a house....

mare

My brother in Switzerland has one in his bathroom. It doesn't use any water at all, and it still doesn't stink. I thought it would be a hard sell to Americans with their 3 Gallons per Flush urinals, but they are available and installed in some places.

http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70329-0.html

Paddy

Am I the only one that has splash issues with urinals? I would prefer a higher toilet seat where you have foot rests or something and feel like a gargoyle perched over the world- a la Seinfeld.

I do wish there was more variety with toilets. If you want an interesting toilet, it seems like you have to pay a fortune. There's no middle market of fascinating toilets.

agrainofNaCl

I'd love to have one too... Even if it was a flower. It saves so much water. The EPA (http://www.epa.gov/OW/you/chap3.html) says, "Residential demands account for about three-fourths of the total urban water demand. Indoor use accounts for roughly 60 percent of all residential use, and of this, toilets (at 3.5 gallons per flush) use nearly 40 percent. More than 4.8 billion gallons of water is flushed down toilets each day in the United States."

And thinking like an economist, I imagine the reason they are are not in residential homes is because water is so cheap. It makes sense for high throughput bathrooms. But at home, people typically don't complain about their water bill all that often.

UCDavisecon

What came to my mind (in addition to many of the good ideas above--I think my idea is just part of the story) is that there is a negative externality that users of public restrooms generate when they do not incur the cost of cleaning the toilet.

Urinating into a toilet standing up requires more effort (not a lot more, but more nonetheless) to avoid making a mess--the target is smaller and/or further from the source. In my home, I have a strong incentive to keep everything in the bowl: If I make a mess, I clean it up, not to mention the wrath that I will incur from my wife. But in a public restroom, especially one in which I do not plan to use again anytime soon, I have little incentive to keep it clean. And as anyone with young boys in their house can attest to, small "misses" can really add up.

So in short, owning the toilet internalizes the "urine externality" and thus eliminates some of the benefit of the urinal, making their additional cost harder to justify.

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