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Old 14-12-2015, 00:54   #1
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Composting Toilets ????

Hi everyone,
I'm preparing to cruise to the gulf from Tennessee probably next month with perhaps a short foray into the Caribbean. I have been considering the removal of my standard flush "head" and replacing it with a composting toilet/head. Has anyone had any experience with this type equipment, does anyone wish to express views about it? It appears they come in vented and vent-less models. The idea of getting rid of the holding tank,the hoses and pump etc. really appeals to me. Any thoughts?
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Old 14-12-2015, 02:34   #2
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

If you do a search there are loads of threads about this with lots of opinions.
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Old 14-12-2015, 02:35   #3
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

There's been a number of recent posts about these dude. Just do a search for them.
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Old 14-12-2015, 06:43   #4
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

Love our Air Head. There are several links about our install, etc.
Simply Sailing Online
You can contact me on that site if you have specific questions, too. I'd be happy to answer them. Good luck!
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Old 14-12-2015, 07:02   #5
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

We did exactly that. Replaced two Baby Blake marine heads, the tank, the hoses, the pump out, etc. with two Nature's Heads.

When doing your research, please note how many people that have actually gone from traditional heads to composting heads ever say anything about going back. They don't seem to.

You'll also see a lot of opinions from people with absolutely no experience with composting toilets. I'm starting to think of them as Google Captains.
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Old 14-12-2015, 08:23   #6
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

We pulled out our entire marine head system on our current boat. We use a Natures Head and it works fine, no oder, and we never ever have to do any pump outs, or marine head maintenance ever, that alone is worth the price of admission. When we pulled the holding tank it gave us a large area for storage that is very useful on our Bristol 29.9. Never going back to a marine head system ever. I would recommend doing this to anyone.
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Old 14-12-2015, 08:54   #7
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

Thanks all for your responses. I did a search using the word "Heads", but it didn't yield anything. I'll revisit with different key words. But again, thanks for the responses they were very encouraging to me and it's great to know that I'm not embarking on uncharted territory. I did notice they were somewhat more expensive than a standard head, but not out of line with some of the higher end electrics etc.

So, composting it is! Now I just have to research the various brands and come up with a unit that will suit my boat. Any help would be appreciated as I'd like to have one when I depart (third wk in Jan.). My boat has a small head, more like a tight small closet, so I'll need one with a small foot print. In my case, size matters. In the meantime, thanks for all the helpful comments.
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Old 14-12-2015, 09:52   #8
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

Sail magazine had a feature on it as well, pretty much inline with other have said, I think mostly is wrapping your head around the whole concept and then never looking back.
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Old 14-12-2015, 09:57   #9
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

pay attention to the height of the installation. Nature's Heads are pretty tall by most standards. Okay for us but for shorter people or children it might be a stretch to reach the floor.
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Old 14-12-2015, 10:02   #10
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

I've installed both composting heads and traditional heads. I don't think either is inherently better. Obviously, many people will feel what they have is best for their use, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's best for you and your use.

In locations where it's legal and ethical to dump regularly, I much prefer a marine head with a gravity emptying holding tank system. I much prefer the simple act of opening a through hull to dispose of waste than hauling up a bucket of half composted waste and throwing it overboard manually. If you are doing extended cruising, there will come a time when your composting head becomes full but hasn't had the time to completely finish composting. The traditional head systems I installed were also cheaper, especially if the though hull and seacock already exist. They do not require electricity. I learned to simply have an entire spare pump assembly which is so much easier than rebuilding a pump underwear in the event that fails.

I chose a composting head for a trailerable trimaran I owned, knowing weight and space were a big issue, especially since I planned to do some lake cruising where it couldn't be emptied easily. On shorter cruises, I never had to empty the contents while cruising, but could just let it sit later and full compost before emptying. In that situation, I thought and still think it was the best choice.

One thing I'm really glad I did with my composting head was to install a 3-gallon holding tank under the floor instead of constantly emptying the small urine bottle manually. It's not that much extra cost, if you are flipping for a composting head anyways. The other lesson I learned the hard way was to make sure spray can not enter the exhaust/air system. I regularly sprayed down the urine part with diluted pine sented head treatment. This along with the proper ventilation system and it had almost no smell at all.

I have no regrets with going to a composting head on my trimaran, but am also happy I went back to a marine head with gravity feed on my later boat. which was a different situation, conducive to a different system.
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Old 14-12-2015, 10:43   #11
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

While there are multiple threads on this topic some topics I consider important seem to get little attention.

Both composting and conventional heads have to be maintained, but how this is done is very different.

Most folks have maintained a regular toilet on land and there are some overlapping. No matter how good your aim you will need to periodically clean the bowl, and I like to do it after every use. One trick some folks use with a composting head is to place a coffee filter in the bowl when taking a bowl movement. It is also common with both types of heads to have a small trash can with a plastic bag liner to store used toilet paper instead of putting toilet paper in the head. Carrying a standard five gallon mud bucket with a lid allows storage of the bags of used toilet paper.

Part of the problem some folks have with composting heads is there is one main storage area for bowel movements and a second smaller storage tank for urine; and it is important not to mix the two. While owners will quickly learn this guests often ignore instructions. Another problem is that a composting head will function well for say two or three folks, but can easily be overloaded if more folks use it. To some extent the same can be said for a conventional head with a holding tank.

The biggest difference I notice between composting and traditional heads is if you use a composting head correctly it is quite easy to move the composted bowel movement to a five gallon mud bucket and dispose of it once you reach land. Urine can easily be dumped overboard. Finding a place to empty a holding tank or get a pump out can be a problem. There are laws, rules, and regulations that can have significant penalties that cover how a holding tank is emptied. Another consideration with dumping wasted directly into the ocean is that even if there are no laws prohibiting it folks in an anchorage may be upset if you do it.

Depending on the type of conventional head there are valves and hoses that can, and do fail. Replacing them can be a real stinky mess. There is almost nothing that can go wrong with a composting head. It is quite possible to get one that can be unbolted and lifted off the boat to land where it can be washed down with a hose every year or so.

My bottom line is that for a small well trained crew a composting head has real advantages but if you will be having guests, sometimes guests who have been drinking, that will not follow the instructions for head use a conventional head is a better choice.
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Old 14-12-2015, 10:49   #12
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

Good points. You wouldn't want Uncle Bob to throw up two six packs and a pizza into your composting head.

You're going to have to deal with the realities of your byproducts on a boat sooner or later. It's all about how you do it. We have come to really appreciate simplicity when we can arrange it.
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Old 14-12-2015, 11:09   #13
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

Canibul: While I prefer a gravity feed system for island cruising, it's great composing heads are now a more available alternative and I'm glad it's working well for you. I imagine I'll be installing one in a camper someday soon where simply opening a through hull is never a viable option. They certainly have their place and it's up to to each to weight the advantages and disadvantages in our own unique situations. I just sometimes worry when people advocate that either is universally the best without weighing in other relevant factors.
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Old 14-12-2015, 11:32   #14
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

In our case, the 30 year old stainless 30 gallon holding tank started leaking at a welded seam. My intention was to remove it and either replace it or get it repaired. Well, while my face was about two inches from the top vent pipe on it, that broke off due to my shoulder pushing against it. Brittle weld. I also shoved in the side of the tank with that shoulder, which basically turned it into a bellows when I removed the pressure on it by leaning away. I got a puff of air in my face that probably aged me about 40 years. I found out that the tank had not been pumped in some time, and was about half full of somebodys wastes. Welds continued to crack as I removed it. It was one of the ugliest nastiest jobs I've ever done. RV holding tanks are a piece of cake compared to being down in a catamaran hull with a leaking one. Ah, to be outside in the sun and fresh air where one can just turn to the side and puke in the grass.....I digress...

My wife is a member of the Facebook group Women Who Sail, and I asked her to investigate what that esteemed group liked about various marine heads. My intention at the time was to install a Lavac with both manual and electric pumps. I wanted to know what the WWS group thought of various options. This was when I first heard of Nature's Heads.

Well, as we all know, if Momma ain't happy, ain't NObody happy. I thought 'if this group of experienced female sailors likes these things, that says a whole lot". You know how women are about their bathrooms.

That's how it started.

I do like the convenience of plumbing systems and pushing a lever and having water sluice all my troubles away. But not so much when all that magic plumbing fails.
It's all about compromises, as we all know. If we ever decide we don't like the composters, it wouldn't be a huge deal to re-install new plumbing. So far, we're not looking back.

But there are some really valid points here. We are just two people, and we each have our own Nature's Head. So there is plenty of time for things to compost. We don't have guests on our boat, and probably never will have, so that's not a problem either.

Everyone has to define the mission, and make their own choices
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Old 15-12-2015, 13:35   #15
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Re: Composting Toilets ????

Quote:
Originally Posted by NorwestR View Post
Thanks all for your responses. I did a search using the word "Heads", but it didn't yield anything. I'll revisit with different key words. But again, thanks for the responses they were very encouraging to me and it's great to know that I'm not embarking on uncharted territory. I did notice they were somewhat more expensive than a standard head, but not out of line with some of the higher end electrics etc.

So, composting it is! Now I just have to research the various brands and come up with a unit that will suit my boat. Any help would be appreciated as I'd like to have one when I depart (third wk in Jan.). My boat has a small head, more like a tight small closet, so I'll need one with a small foot print. In my case, size matters. In the meantime, thanks for all the helpful comments.

Here are a couple of comparisons:
Simply Sailing Online
Simply Sailing Online

Be careful to mock up an ENTIRE toilet to be sure it will fit. We bought a NH which, based on the dimensions online SHOULD have fit, but because of our oddly shaped head (not unusual on a boat), it didn't fit at all. So it went back and we bought an Air Head. Just FYI.
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