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Old 28-01-2014, 09:26   #1
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Composting Toilets

We are seriously considering replacing one of our two heads with a composting head, and are looking for opinions and experience from cruisers. We are full time liveaboard cruising couple.
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Old 28-01-2014, 09:36   #2
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I have a Nature's Head toilet. I absolutely love it. I use peat moss (the other recommendation is coconut husks). There is absolutely no smell whatsoever. I live aboard myself so it does get use. Mine is vented using a solar vent but I also still have the little computer fan operating too for when the solar dies on non sunny days. I will say you do have to make sure the "liquid receptacle" is maintained clean or else that will develop an odor. I've heard that adding sugar will stop that. All in all I highly recommend it.
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Old 28-01-2014, 09:49   #3
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Re: Composting toilets

I did a search and pulled up some threads to wet your whistle

Self Designed Large Capacity Compost Head

Head Poll -What Do You Have, satisfied?

Composting Toilet - Nature's Head

Compost matters....
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Old 28-01-2014, 09:52   #4
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Re: Composting toilets

Oh and our blog page about our composting/desiccating head ( still a work in progress)

Head Project: Desiccating Head | Rain Dog
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Old 28-01-2014, 10:35   #5
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Re: Composting toilets

We have a C-Head. No regrets!!!
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Old 01-02-2014, 18:05   #6
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Re: Composting toilets

My last boat had a Natures Head in it. I was not happy with it at all. The crank handle on the bottom developed a leak around it and it was NOT pleasant trying to clean and fix that. You've also got to watch the vent fan. If it dies, you're no longer composting. You're just storing in a badly sealed above deck holding tank. Also, as has been mentioned, keep the liquid container clean or you will get a very unpleasant aroma coming from your head.

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Old 01-02-2014, 18:30   #7
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Re: Composting toilets

I have an airhead aboard Emerald Tide, I have almost 10,000 miles with it and am cry happy. I also installed a Natures Head aboard Faith, and was very happy with it but it was a little too high for the space so I removed and sold it but will likely go back with a c-head.

Frankly, I can not imagine the problem Kevin mentions above, unless you had way too much "product" such a thing could not likely happen...

As I said, I have purchased, used and installed both heads. I like the Natures head much more then the Airhead. The problems with the airhead are the tiny thumbscrews that hold the urine bottle on, and also hold the top to the bottom. Natures head uses robust stainless latches and is better made and designed.

I use coco-Tek blocks for compost, and have never had any smell or problems other then when I had 5 people aboard... Once the moisture content gets too high (unlikely) it is hard to get it back to where it will compost again... But them you just clean it out and start over.

I will never go back to a holding tank again!
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Old 01-02-2014, 18:55   #8
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Re: Composting toilets

What Faith says. Kevin, the main container should never become so liquid as to be able to flow. You had way too much liquid in the container for it to be functioning properly, and probably way too much material to begin with. I don't think our levels ever got above the churn handle axel.

I've only used our NH for one summer season, but am thrilled with it so far. We did have a problem with the fan going out after the season was done (bad electrical connection), but I'm very pleased with it so far. Way easier than a standard marine head and holding tank.

We also use coir for the base. One brick primes things. I added a handful occasionally through the season. When I emptied the contents it seemed like soil. The only smells on the boat was mild earthy aroma; rather pleasant .

To be clear, I don't think a composter (or desiccator if you want to be proper) is for everyone. I don't think it would keep up with more that two -- maybe three -- people on board full time. And it does demand you be a bit more intimate with your outflows. But the benefits far outweigh any negatives so far.

BTW, Nature's Head and Air Head are virtually identical. I chose NH b/c it fit slightly better in our space, and was slightly cheaper. I would have gone with an Air Head as well. C-Head also looks great. It has some advantages, but is rated for ~1/2 the volume in the main compartment. They are all good though. And it wouldn't be hard to build your own. The only secret to desiccation is air flow and separation of solids from liquids.
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Old 01-02-2014, 19:32   #9
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Re: Composting toilets

Okay - somewhat intrigued with the concept of composting toilets.

My poor research skills leave questions I haven't seen addressed:

Where do you dispose of the solid waste byproduct? I can't imagine it's legal to just offload it into the nearest rubbish bin.

What to do - or how to explain - when entering a country that requires holding tanks? And the sub-question: what to do when the official says "We need to check your Y-valve".

Sorry for the thread drift....
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Old 01-02-2014, 19:35   #10
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Re: Composting toilets

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Originally Posted by svmariane View Post
Okay - somewhat intrigued with the concept of composting toilets.

My poor research skills leave questions I haven't seen addressed:

Where do you dispose of the solid waste byproduct? I can't imagine it's legal to just offload it into the nearest rubbish bin.
Depending on what country you are in, probably not. Then again, no one seems to bat an eyelid when mothers dump used nappies and then contents into the nearest rubbish bin / dumpster.
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Old 01-02-2014, 20:11   #11
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Re: Composting toilets

When I bought my boat there was a Natures Head on it. Maybe after three or four months something went bad with the fan. I went on line and and upgraded from the 30mm computer fan to a 50mm fan. Also got one of the cigarette lighter plug USB connections to run the fan. It has a little green light to indicate it is in use. Draws a little more current but a quick glance assures me it is on.

As others have mentioned do not make a habit of letting urine, or other liquids, in the compartment where your bowel movement goes. Also make sure the fan runs 24/7. The previous owner kept a spray bottle of diluted Mister Clean by the head and told me to spray it a couple of times to control urine crystals. Not sure but this may also control the smell as well.

There is a learning curve with a composting head, but the same is true of conventional heads.

As for disposing of the compost it is rather like asking how you dispose of dirt. You just put it anywhere you would put dirt and no one will notice.
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Old 01-02-2014, 20:27   #12
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Re: Composting toilets

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Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
What Faith says. Kevin, the main container should never become so liquid as to be able to flow. You had way too much liquid in the container for it to be functioning properly, and probably way too much material to begin with. I don't think our levels ever got above the churn handle axle
That's very possible. My wife and I used the boat as full time liveaboards. However, the PO did zero maintenance on the boat, so it's possible it broke due to neglect. My wife and I rarely ever used it. At any rate, we both prefer a standard marine head with holding tank. In our experience, the composter was more trouble than it was worth.


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Old 01-02-2014, 21:22   #13
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Re: Composting toilets

There are many threads and at least one survey on CF on this topic.

We are on the Great Lakes. 100% ZDZ. Our boat has 3 heads. 2 are Vacuflush. One of those is direct out and the other is to a holding tank by way of Y valve. The through hull valves on both are fitted with tamper-proof locking devices as are used on over the road trucks to verify nobody gets in. The numbers are recorded in the log.

The other head is an Air-Head. After reading up on it and the Nature's Head we decided that a couple of the features were worth the small extra. We also managed to score one at the All Sail boat show in Chicago for a savings.

We bought a spare urine tank - nice to have. We vent through a NECO solar vent and did not install the fan furnished with the toilet. NECO uses crappy Nicads or possibly way old rechargables. I suggest replacing these with high end new batteries at the first hint of trouble. You might even re-wire these to a larger rechargeable battery set.

We carry a small folding spade and bury the waste in the woods. It may be necessary to empty every 2 to 3 weeks with heavy use. If everything works well, you may get 6 weeks. When operating in the north woods, I recharge with dry leaves (NO STICKS).

I have dumped the fecal container in my own back yard a couple of times at season's end. If it has sat idle for 5 days or more it smells like a box of night crawlers.

Watch out that the ladies do not drop tissue in the front urine drain. This seems to be standard procedure but it will plug the drain. You will need long needle nose pliers to clear it out.

We have never had any trouble with officials. The composters are Zero Discharge. That is all they need to know.

Our Airhead is on a bit of a step up throne so I have it on a 3/4 inch thick lexan sheet.
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Old 01-02-2014, 22:10   #14
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Re: Composting toilets

58:

Thanks for the pix.

You meant Nicro vent did you not?

Where did you get that speckled white vent
cowling and the flanges on the underide of
the solar vent? Very nice installation.
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Old 01-02-2014, 23:29   #15
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Re: Composting toilets

Another option are wag bags. I use wag bags in my desiccating head, mainly cause i had a stock of them from the research and trial stage of our head construction. I may keep using them.

Sailing with Lin & Larry Pardey living without holding tank.


There are a couple boats that tried the desiccating head and did not have good experience, rebel Heart is one.
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