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Old 19-07-2012, 11:50   #1
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Composting Toilet - Nature's Head

There's much discussion going on regarding composting toilets but seemed to have gone off on a tangent of other things (i.e. pumping overboard, laws about doing so etc) that I thought I'd re-open the topic and discuss ONLY the different aspects of the composting toilet. There's been great input so far and I really appreciate hearing from those who actually have and use one.

There are two of us living aboard near Toronto Ontario. We have a 60 gal holding tank with electric Jabsco heads. We split our usage between our heads and the marinas, and still only get about 2.5 weeks before pump outs. We really dislike the earth shattering noises from the Jabsco middle-of-the-night usage that wakes u up from an oh-so-pleasant dream...and try to get back to sleep again!

For those reasons, and with winter coming (yes..despite the heat it's coming) we've decided to replace one of our heads with a Natures Head composting toilet. We don't want to get caught in the dead of winter with not having the ability to get a pump out when u need one!

I've spoken to Natures Head from Ohio and the friendliness and speedy response was excellent. That tipped the scales for me to want to order one.

For any that want to follow along, I'll keep you posted on the process and of course, how we like it! One person couldn't have said it better in that those who have a negative feeling about a composting toilet are those that don't have one.

Sooo....I'm gonna have one!....

I'll keep you posted...and welcome feedback.
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Old 19-07-2012, 13:30   #2
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

Given, you've made the decision, I'm not sure exactly what information you are looking for.

I've installed and used both traditional marine heads and the Nature's head composting toilet. Each is different and I think the trade-off between the advantages and disadvantages of each will depend on the ways in which each is used.

Being frugal, I like to always start considering the cheapest option and weight the benefits gained by spending more. Installing a a traditional marine head system for me was notably cheaper than the nature's head, so the question became: Under what circumstances does paying more for a composting toilet make sense?

For me, composting makes sense, when it's convenient to let it completely compost, there's somewhere to get rid of the compost and when holding tanks either become too heavy or large for the boat, compared to the opportunity to empty them.

Sailing my monohull in the islands where it's easy, legal and appropriate to empty a holding tank daily, simply by flipping a lever, there's no reason to go to a composting system. In contrast, when I had a pocket cruising trimaran that I sometimes sailed where dumping was not appropriate, the space and weight of a holding tank was very much an issue. Since I parked it in my back yard, I could also just let the composting continue and throw it in my home composting pile after that - simple. In contrast, I found manually hauling out a bin of still non-composted waste to dump overboard while voyaging to be much less pleasant than simply opening a through hull to let a holding tank drain out.

When I installed my nature's head, I installed a 3-gallon tank for urine instead of having to empty their small bottle by hand, which I felt was a nice upgrade. Also, when you plan the foot print, be sure to allow for room to turn the crank.
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Old 19-07-2012, 14:01   #3
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

Have you given thought to c head? I purchased c head and have been using it as much as I have to use it. Seems to work great. Here is what made me pick c head over natures and airhead. Cost was not a factor even though c head was the cheapest.

Main reason. With the c head, you open the top and remove the poo bucket. dump and put back. Both of the other composting toilets need to have the entire bottom portion of the actual toilet picked up. This means the job is not quite as clean. I dislike poo just as much as anyone and more than most. I got the c head for the cleanliness. Also, I can throw away and replace a cheap 1 gal water container used for urine anytime I want. No need to try and clean, scrub or bleach the specially made urine container.

My reasons were totally about lack of me having to touch poo over the price. I did however only pay like 500 dollars for the unit. Great price!
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Old 19-07-2012, 14:12   #4
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

I was actually wanting to provide information first hand my progress and thoughts for interested ones contemplating the purchase of one.

I'm not one who feels "cost" should always be the deciding factor when it involves environment. But really, as for cost I would have my cost returned to me in just over two years. Pump outs in Ontario run me approx $400 annually...maybe a little more. After a couple years I'm making money.

As far as spewing human excrement overboard just because it's "legal"...well for me...I wouldn't be able to live with that as an alternative. I'm also a diver...and the oceans are wrecked enough without my little "deposit" made to help destroy them - legal or not. There's enough third world countries doing that by the river load as it is.

But that's me.

So the composting toilet so far...is cost effective over a short time, environment friendly...and won't wake me up at night when my First Mate decides to press the Jabsco button! lol.

The realities are still to come with the install...usage...and then disposal. We shall see.

Your thoughts on the pee bucket are appreciated...right now Natures Head is throwing in an extra pee pail!! That can only be a good thing.
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Old 19-07-2012, 14:15   #5
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

My biggest reason for choice was emptying out the poo. Think of the process and what parts get handled and moved to where and sat where while you are emptying the poo bucket.
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Old 19-07-2012, 15:17   #6
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

We've had a Nature's Head for almost two years and so far so good. We're not full-time liveaboards, but are weekend warriors and do occasional extended cruises. Biggest downsides are the overall height of the unit and that the urine tank only holds a maximum of about 48 hours worth for the two of us. This is a downside that might actually make us reconsider the whole setup if we were to move aboard full time or have more people aboard regularly. That said, we love not having to deal with and pay for finding working pumpouts, love the lack of odor, and love the simplicity of the whole system.
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Old 19-07-2012, 15:58   #7
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

A couple reasons I didn't opt for the C Head was that it (admittedly by its designers) has to be emptied more frequently then the others. The other was for the lady on board - she wanted something that looked more like a toilet themother of an outhouse look.

I understand the issue of the pee bucket filling. I'm hoping the 2nd pail on hand will help. In Ontario, at my marina, it's closed end of October. We're at the mercy of a honey wagon coming by...and being around when he does! The Natures Head, we feel, will take that entire aspect out of the equation.

My father was a plumber by trade. As a little guy I remember my arms up to my elbows in full and plugged toilets pulling things out because I had small arms. Land lording apartments as well...tends to take the fear away out of handling poo! lol
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Old 26-07-2012, 09:49   #8
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

OK, why a costly commercial unit? I was thinking that one only needed an appropriate weight bearing frame so one could use a common white five gallon bucket that is easily scrounged or cheaply bought with the lid. One places an empty bucked under the frame with some sawdust or mulch to start. Yes, you have to pee before dumping to keep excessive moisture out of the system. The sawdust/mulch pulls the moisture out of the poo eliminating the odor. Here in the Philippines it is virtually universal to put used toilet tissue into a small trash receptacle instead of flushing it. One would think that this would cause substantial odors, but it seem not to - and I assume that this is due to the tissue drying the poo. If one needs more sawdust/mulch, a second bucket is close for adding a scoop if needed. When the bucket is full, simply snap on the lid and place it somewhere where it can continue to compost. Likely there are numerous opportunities to dispose of mature compost on land in various locations that would benefit from a natural fertilizer. I don't really understand the big deal with emptying the pee bottle over the side - when it was voided it was sterile salt water, probably a tad less salty and with fewer organisms in it that the sea water into which it is poured (and massively diluted). Seems like all this could be done a lot cheaper than the commercial units - the white buckets are cheap as are sawdust or mulch - the big expense would be the support frame and possibly the lid. Likely I am missing something here or else there wouldn't be a market for expensive 'buckets' that are marketed commercially.
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Old 26-07-2012, 11:28   #9
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

Bruce my friend....I understand entirely your concept and get it.

One problem with it - there's no way on this green earth that this man could convince his wife to live on a boat for ANY period of time if she ever had to use a bucket with a lid!!

;-)
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Old 26-07-2012, 13:44   #10
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

Quote:
Originally Posted by EighthWonder View Post
....

As far as spewing human excrement overboard just because it's "legal"...well for me...I wouldn't be able to live with that as an alternative. I'm also a diver...and the oceans are wrecked enough without my little "deposit" made to help destroy them - legal or not. There's enough third world countries doing that by the river load as it is.

...
Legalities aside, pumping human waste overboard is not inherently bad for the environment. Just like with a composting system, if there is sufficient bio-mass in the area, and small amounts of waste, then it will simply decay naturally with zero negative impact on the environment. There is nothing legally nor environmentally inappropriate about this in the right circumstances.

The primary problem with putting human waste in the environment is density. Lots of people pooing in one place is bad. A few pooing in a large area is just fine. A cruising boat's "little deposit" in the right circumstances (key phrase here) contributes nothing to destroying the oceans.
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Old 26-07-2012, 13:48   #11
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

As the old adage goes: the solution to pollution is dilution.
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Old 26-07-2012, 13:58   #12
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

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Originally Posted by EighthWonder View Post
Bruce my friend....I understand entirely your concept and get it.

One problem with it - there's no way on this green earth that this man could convince his wife to live on a boat for ANY period of time if she ever had to use a bucket with a lid!!

;-)
I expect this is true of many cruising couples and why the commercial units are more popular. While the bucket and cover material approach (see "Lovable Loo") would work just fine, the commercial units are a lot more hands-off.

I don't have composting toilets on my boat, but I do use them at home. The ones at home are self-built. Simple and inexpensive to build, but easier than on a boat due to less space constraints.

BTW not all composting toilets are "urine separating" designs (meaning you have a separate path and container for urine). Mine are not, but the composting bin does have the ability to drain any liquids from the compost pile. This makes the design slightly more complicated, but it works just fine.

I expect that waiting for the compost to "finish" would start to present a problem on a small capacity marine unit in full-time use. Note that once compost is "finished" it has no waste odor -- it is just nice rich soil (just removed 5 gallons of finished compost from my home system recently -- beautiful stuff!). Anyone have experience with this issue on boat based systems?
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Old 26-07-2012, 14:24   #13
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

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Have you given thought to c head? I purchased c head and have been using it as much as I have to use it. Seems to work great. Here is what made me pick c head over natures and airhead. Cost was not a factor even though c head was the cheapest.
OK, We went with the C-Head for pretty much exactly the same reasons. Loved how simple it was. There is elegance in simplicity. Also, esthetics. If you passed on the Chad because it didn't "look good" then you did not look at the version clad in wood. Ours is not teak, but it looks like it and blends beautifully with our old teak interior. Way more handsome than anything else I have seen.

Quote:
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OK, why a costly commercial unit? Yes, you have to pee before dumping to keep excessive moisture out of the system. The sawdust/mulch pulls the moisture out of the Pooh eliminating the odor. Likely I am missing something here or else there wouldn't be a market for expensive 'buckets' that are marketed commercially.
The biggest thing you are missing is an understanding of how feminine physiology works. for many women it is impossible to control peeing and pooping separately. The muscles involved are pretty much running on the same controls, so with out the separator you are going to have a very hard time keeping the wet out. If you want to build your own go look at the envirolet privy kit. I tried to make a separating unit and the poly is just really hard to work with. Gluing shaped pieces did not work, the glue gave up the ghost with only a tiny bit of flexing and welding the stuff is trickier than you might think. If you are crafty enough to make the separator cool, but otherwise?

And the stirring issue. I wanted it easy and neat and Sandy had designed a really sweet simple stir option.

All together, for us, the waterproof housing that would contain any spills, the ease of cleaning and dumping and the elegant design made it well worth the 500 bucks. The option with the angled back even made the install easier!
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Old 26-07-2012, 15:09   #14
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

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The biggest thing you are missing is an understanding of how feminine physiology works.

I haven't been able to figure that out in a...OH wait "physiology"
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Old 26-07-2012, 20:53   #15
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Re: Composting Toilet - Natures Head

Sarafina wrote "The biggest thing you are missing is an understanding of how feminine physiology works. for many women it is impossible to control peeing and pooping separately. The muscles involved are pretty much running on the same controls, so with out the separator you are going to have a very hard time keeping the wet out." ==> OK, you are correct - not a clue for such details; clearly another case of incorrect assumption. Now that you mention it, I do recall that my current gf occasionally mentions that she went to pee and eliminated more than she was expecting - I just never connected it before. Since fancy commercial composting toilets are not available in third world countries where they are most needed, a separator will have to be designed, constructed, and fitted - all tasks beyond my limited abilities. Perhaps my gf can do it - she is, after all, a designer (although a fashion designer). If I can outline the problem, she might be able to figure out a fix. Well, knowing what the problem is certainly helps in trying to come up with a solution - thanks.
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