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The Case of the Haunted Urinal
Can a urinal randomly flush for no apparent reason?

Ok, sure… some public toilets have motion sensors, so I assume some urinals do as well… but I’m not talking about those.  That flush would have a reason.  I’m talking about one instance, one flush running a normal cycle, for no apparent reason.

I’m asking the plumbers out there, the handymen and people who know how to fix things.  I understand the concept of a toilet running continuously.  I can imagine something breaking inside, causing the toilet to flush endlessly, or refusing to flush altogether.  But is there any rational explanation why a urinal to just up and flush itself?  Then never do so again?

So… the other night I was closing down the restaurant I co-manage.  All my staff had left for the night and I had finished my paperwork and was going through one last check to see if anything had bin forgotten.  Nothing had, my crew that night were all good peeps and I hadn’t even bothered to check before they left, but we’re all human and capable of forgetting to finish some small task here or there. 

Anyways, I was checking the men’s bathroom… mirror clean, sink wiped out, trash emptied… I glanced at the urinal and it looked fine so I went into the stall and suddenly heard the sound of running water behind me.  My first thought was panic… like I really need a burst pipe or something at 1am and who would I even call to have it fixed and…

… and the urinal had simply flushed.  A few seconds later, the running water stopped, and all was quiet.
Is this even possible?

I have some basic knowledge of how a toilet works.  There’s this chain attached to the flushing handle that lifts some rubber stopper to let the flushing water out.  When all the water in the tank is gone, the stopper falls back down and the tank refills again.  I’m not quite sure how the tank knows when it’s full… my working theory is privy gnomes… but I can’t see how something could break and pull that stopper up long enough to flush, just once, then resume normal operations.

Skeptics, scientists and plumbers out there, please… debunk this mystery.

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Water hammer, flucuating water pressure. Weak springs, worn seals.  Faucets can also turn on for the same causes. You can also have groans to screams after a flush or opening the circuit. Most household toilets do not use the same flush mechanisms a urinal or commercial toilet does.
Speaking as a handy-man, yes, toilets can flush by themselves. The commercial style ones that have a sort of chrome "joy-stick" actuator work on a balanced valve that holds shut with water pressure. A fluctuation in the water pressure will cause them to flush and that can happen for reasons as small as the valve leaking.

Subject: I have a black cat.
Believer: Black cats are bad luck.
Non-believer: It's just a cat.
Crackpot: Black cats are part of the New World Order government conspiracy.
Skeptic: I can test if black cats are more or less lucky than another cat.
Cynic: You only have a black cat to gain power and prestige.

[-] The following 1 user says Thank You to Darkforeboding for this post:
  • Mika
I asked around and, as it turns out, there actually is some kind of sensor on the urinal that causes it to flush automatically.  That seemed unlikely at the time, as the toilets and sinks are all manual, but I tried standing in front of the urinal anyway to no effect.  One of the kitchen guys told me today that it operates on body heat, so I tried it and I had to stand there a good 20 seconds for the sensor to detect me.

Still, I can’t imagine how it could have taken me 20 seconds to look at a urinal and decide it had bin cleaned properly.  It’s not like I PH tested the residual water in the bowl or anything.  I’ll go with the heat sensor thing for now, but I’m not ruling out some kind of fire gremlin sneaking up behind me, only to be scared away by the sound of rushing water…

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Well, when we were in France, we encountered this fancy bidet in a Parisian hotel that squinted water and flushed itself if someone simply stood in front of it. I was too intimidated to go near it after seeing the 1st spray... Sad
There's life...and then there's the afterlife.
Our team investigated a school that was within months of being demolished but was still fully intact with locked doors and unbroken windows. All of the team members were accounted for and situated in one room conducting an EVP session. Pausing between questions, we heard in synchronicity the male urinal next door flush. All of us startled, wondered who was responsible considering all doors were secured. Several of us rushed next door to investigate only to find no one there.

The interesting part is, all of the plumbing and water pipes had been removed the year before Smile
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"Men who have excessive faith in their theories and ideas are not only ill
prepared in making discoveries; they also make poor observations."
---Claude Bernard---
I'm confused. With all of the toilets and urinals being thrown around, I don't know if we are talking about either one. You can't ask whether or not urinals are supposed to flush on their own, and then use toilet mechanics, as they are two very different things.


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You might think I'm being patronizing, but I am sincerely not. The reason why it is important for me to know is because there are 4 different ways (that I know of, but maybe 5 because of a heat sensor? Sounds impractical to be honest) for urinals to flush. Toilets operate on a different mechanism, and (even when they are sensor based) are manually triggered. However, one urinal flush mechanism is actually tied to a timer. Every 5, 10, dear god I hope not 15 minutes, the urinal will automatically flush to rinse out the bowl.

Keep in mind that urinals are expensive. As such, many restaurants and public washrooms will still have handled urinals, but the handles don't work. The release has been disengaged, because they save more water by keeping them tied to timers further on up the line.

Which leads to my last point. There are no ballasts or tanks to fill. The vast majority of urinals are tied directly to waterlines, much like a sink would be. The timer/handle/sensor/pushbutton just opens the pipe to allow water through, for a certain amount of time.

So: Are we talking about a urinal or a toilet. Because if it is a urinal we are talking about, there are many reasons why it would flush lol.
Howdy Kae, how's it going? I think Mika was talking about the urinal:

"… and the urinal had simply flushed.  A few seconds later, the running water stopped, and all was quiet. Is this even possible?"

Mika, did you get round to asking the guys in the place if the urinal has a self-flushing sensor? Or maybe an occasional plumbing issue?
There's life...and then there's the afterlife.
Yeah.  I might not use them but I know what a urinal is.


And yeah, it does have a light sensor but it also won't flush unless you stand there for a certain length of time.  I guess I was standing too close and stopped to write down some notes on the condition of the restroom and it flushed when I walked away.

Or... Ghosts.

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Well, if it's ghosts, at least they flush after themselves. They say that cleanliness is next to godliness! Wink
There's life...and then there's the afterlife.

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