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Old 13-12-2008, 13:21   #16
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Thought this was an interesting read on the subject: Composting Toilet
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Old 02-05-2009, 15:09   #17
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Could any of you good people comment on the maintenance issues associated with the composting toliet relative to the good old pump ten times, change the valve, etc marine toilet. It would seem to be much simpler and the chances of the whole thing being clogged by a sanitary napkin or half a roll of toilet paper are much less. It doesn't seem to matter how often you tell people, someone is going to forget. Fortunately the only head repairs I have had to do were in port. I can't even imagine what it would be like under sail.
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Old 02-05-2009, 15:28   #18
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Could any of you good people comment on the maintenance issues associated with the composting toliet relative to the good old pump ten times, change the valve, etc marine toilet. .
I can comment to an extent, though I only owned mine for about a year.

Overall, my experience is that the composing head system is simpler and thus requires less maintenance, though it depends on what you call maintenance and some of options you decide to use.

If you use a vent fan - you may have to replace the fan. The model I had did not deal well with water, but replacement fans were only $12. (Note they also drew some power, but it was less than 1/10 amp) For the price, I strongly recommend carrying a few on board.

If you use a urine collection bottle, it will have to be emptied often. If you plumb the urine to a holding tank, you may have some of the maintenance issues you see with any holding tank, though since there is no solid waste, there is less potential for clogging.

Composte needs to be emptied- not sure if that's considered maintenance or not - This is simple if you can let it sit and finish composing. Not as simple if you need to empty it as is so you can keep using it. You need to refill with new peat moss or other composting material after emptying.

It probably needs a good spraying out or drag behind the boat every once in a while (every couple months) to clean.

The unit is prone to physical damge as is anything physical. I think the turning mechanism would operate a long time without maintenance, but might eventually wear.

In contrast, the maintenance issues on traditional heads, have been much more unexpected - such as stuck flapper valves and need to be addressed immediately. My system required no seacocks to maintain and no head valves to fix. I had a water pump from the urine holding tank that would eventually need to be maintained., but again unlike a traditional system had only liquid.

Though not a part of your question - I'd install one in a small trailer sailor used for the occasional long weekend to 2 week cruise again in a second. I wouldn't on a larger cruising boat.
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Old 05-05-2009, 19:51   #19
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Nautical62,
thanks for the input. So far I have not found anyone who regrets putting in the composting toilet. I corresponded with a chap in BVI and after about a year and a half he still likes his arrangement. As he put it, there may be problems but they are not at the end of twenty feet of hose, they are right there where you can get at them. That to me is an enormous plus. He further added that a quick brushing with a squirt of disenfectant after catching up on his reading kept everything sparkling. Any time I can eliminate a hole in the hull is a good thing as far as I am concerned.
regards sk
PS why would you be reluctant to install one on a cruising boat? sk
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Old 05-05-2009, 22:58   #20
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Nautical62,

...PS why would you be reluctant to install one on a cruising boat? sk
One can install a traditional marine head for less than a composting head, so being a generally frugal guy, the question in my mind is why spend more for a composting head?

One possible answer is the reduced maintenance, but I've also see traditional marine heads plumbed so as to have minimal maintenance, such as the gravity feed system I have on my current boat.

For me the most compelling reason is that since you do not bring salt water in and because the waste is composting, you can save both space and weight compared to a traditional holding tank system.

I think one big question is: Will you be cruising in areas where you can discharge or will you be in areas requiring you to hold? If you can discharge on a regular basis, there are no weight and space issues with a traditional holding tank. If you do need to hold, how much of an issue is this? When sailing my 26-foot trimaran in coastal waters, this was a big issue. When sailing my 33-foot monohull in the Caribbean it is not.

The other issue for me relates to dealing with the compost. When I took my trimaran on a 2-week cruise and then parked it in my back yard, it was easy to let the contents completely compost before having to deal with them - which mean just dumping them in my compost pile.

If you are on a longer cruise, you will likely reach capacity and have to empty it prior to complete composting so you can continue to use it. Trust me, this is much less pleasant than dealing with completely composted material at home....

Another potential disadvantage to composting heads has to do with guests. many guests have a hard enough time with heads that pump instead of flush. Try telling them there is no water, but everything just stays there composting... Also the number of uses matters. On a small boat, with few crew, it's easy for the composing to keep up. I don't think this would be the case if 6 people were using it every day.

In addition to using power, you also need to carry pete moss or other composting material. On a two-week trailer sailor cruise, what you have in the head may be sufficient. If you are on a long cruise, this can add up or be hard to find, especially if you all of a sudden need more because you accidently got it all wet.

I don't think one can emphatically state that either composting or traditional heads are better. Each has it's disadvantages and advantages. How these balance for you will depend on your boat, your cruising grounds, number of people on board, length of cruise and personal attitudes toward the workings of each.

If you do choose a composting head, a squirt bottle of holding tank solution diluted notably with water used to spray the inside down after each use goes a long way.
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Old 06-05-2009, 00:31   #21
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I don't think one can emphatically state that either composting or traditional heads are better. Each has it's disadvantages and advantages. How these balance for you will depend on your boat, your cruising grounds, number of people on board, length of cruise and personal attitudes toward the workings of each.
That was a pretty good break down. Thanks.
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Old 06-05-2009, 06:06   #22
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We installed an Airhead in a Cherubini 44 about 5 years ago,the customers motovation was that he was tired of sliding the hatch open only to be greeted by that nasty holding tank stink which is worse than the sum of the contents. The instal was a lot easier than a holding tank system,we were able to remove a large tank from the bilge, now when you go aboard its as fresh as a daisy,the owner loves it. We operate the service building at a marina so i get to go aboard a lot of boats and most of them have that stink,maybe folk get used to it,to me its one of the worst odors,period.I will never again use a holding tank again on my own boat.
Steve.
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Old 06-05-2009, 17:01   #23
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That was a pretty good break down. Thanks.
You are welcome - glad it helped.
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Old 06-05-2009, 18:14   #24
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Build your own , for a fraction the price of the grossly ovepriced composters, and less than a regular head. They are simple enough.
Brent
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Old 06-05-2009, 18:18   #25
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paper is the worst thing to clog,

I would install a butt-hose like they have in Asia, I have one at home I brought back from Bali and I never need to use paper, much cleaner.
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Old 08-05-2009, 05:45   #26
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Build your own , for a fraction the price of the grossly ovepriced composters, and less than a regular head. They are simple enough.
Do you have plans for those in your book?
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Old 08-05-2009, 07:18   #27
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Build your own , for a fraction the price of the grossly ovepriced composters, and less than a regular head. They are simple enough.
Brent
I'd be curious to see any quality plans as well. I'm reasonably handy with epoxy but have been curious as to hot to make the turning mechanism.
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Old 08-05-2009, 15:19   #28
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Does anyone know why one would choose the AirHead over the Natures Head? Other than a slight difference in size they seem quite similar in design and fairly close in price. Are there quality or service differences that one should consider?

After re-building my Skipper II, replacing hoses and cleaning out the holding tank I'm starting to get over my initial qualms about composting. It certainly can't get a whole lot worse??? Can it?
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Old 08-05-2009, 16:13   #29
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Ted, I haven't used the Natures Head, but after looking at their webpage, would note a couple small differences:

The Natures Head is square which may allow more space for the foot print requirements.

The Nature's Head has the fan located at the unit and the airhead has the fan located in the vent. This may affect the ease of hose removal to empty - I'm not sure. However, placing the fan at the unit also would allow one to put a water catching loop prior to the fan to protect it from water that may come through the vent.

The airhead turning handle can be replaced with a ratchet handle if floor space is limited, which it was on my boat. Nature's head may do this as well, but I saw no mention of it on their page.

They do seem very similar.
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Old 10-05-2009, 23:39   #30
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Airheads...

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The other issue for me relates to dealing with the compost. When I took my trimaran on a 2-week cruise and then parked it in my back yard, it was easy to let the contents completely compost before having to deal with them - which mean just dumping them in my compost pile.

If you are on a longer cruise, you will likely reach capacity and have to empty it prior to complete composting so you can continue to use it. Trust me, this is much less pleasant than dealing with completely composted material at home....
We finished a 4 month cruise with 2 healthy adults with 1 day at a marina the entire time. In warm weather, we didn't have to change it for 3 months.

Dumping the tank is no worse than adding compost and manure to your garden. Even with recent use, the new 'deposits' are underneath the compost when you turn over the container. Cleaning a clogged marine head is much worse.

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In addition to using power, you also need to carry pete moss or other composting material. On a two-week trailer sailor cruise, what you have in the head may be sufficient. If you are on a long cruise, this can add up or be hard to find, especially if you all of a sudden need more because you accidently got it all wet.
We carried one medium sized ziploc full of peat moss and it's good for two refills of the Airhead. That's about 8 months worth of cruising. We have a small jar of yeast and a few tablespoons works wonders. We found it works best to layer the peat moss. A layer on the bottom, wait a week. Another layer, wait a week. After a couple of weeks you can tell when the composting is taking effect. The colder it is, the slower the composting works.

We left the boat for a week and the composting reduced in mass by about half during that time. With occasional use, we've gone over a year without changing the solids tank.

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If you do choose a composting head, a squirt bottle of holding tank solution diluted notably with water used to spray the inside down after each use goes a long way.
We never had a problem. We used the recommended coffee filters and they worked surprisingly effectively. I would never use any chemicals at all for fear of killing the composting from breaking down. In fact, we don't use any special toilet paper either. The composting process does a great job of breaking down the paper.

We also used a 24hr Nicro solar powered fan to vent the Airhead. In 3 years, I've replaced the battery once.

We love it. If space permitted, I would get the Nature's head for the bigger seat size. But it does require more footprint area. Installing a Composting head will be a priority on all future boats.
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