What is a composting toilet?
To put it simply, a composting toilet is a toilet that takes human waste products and toilet paper and turns it into compost. They do not use any water of their own and might use electricity to control the composting process.
How do they work?
Composting toilets utilize natural process, such as decomposition and evaporation to transform human waste into compost. The waste that enters into the toilet is about 90% water. This water is evaporated through a ventilation system that also helps to control odor. All of the remaining solid matter is changed to fertilizer through composition.
For this to take place, the oxygen, moisture, heat, and organic matter must be balanced correctly. This will allow the bacteria present to do their work of changing the waste to compost. It also ensures that the end product will be free of viruses and pathogens, making it completely safe to use as a fertilizer, both for you and the environment.
Pros and cons to a composting toilet
As with any product, there are several pros and cons to getting a composting toilet. They are as follows:
- Safe for the environment
- Uses no water
- Low electrical use
- Turns waste into useful compost
- Easy to install
- Limited capacity; can only be used by a limited number of people
Finally, let’s take a look at all of the key features that you need to keep in mind when you are looking for a composting toilet.
Self-contained or central units
There are two different types of composting toilets that you can select from. You can either select a self-contained unit or one that has a central composting location. To put this more simply, you can get a toilet that composts the waste within a tank that is connected to the toilet itself, or you can get one that connects to a larger tank in a different location.
Self-contained toilets are a better choice for smaller groups of people and for smaller locations. Toilets that connect to a central unit work better for larger groups of people, since it can hold more, and therefore, compost more waste. Self-contained toilets are also much cheaper and easier to install, since they do not require any additional tanks.
The capacity of the toilet describes how much waste it can hold and compost without overflowing. The capacity that you purchase will depend greatly on how frequently you use the toilet and how many people will be using it in a given time frame.
For instance, if you are getting a toilet for a hunting cabin that is not frequently visited, and even when it is, only has several people using it, then you can get a smaller capacity toilet. If, however, you are looking for a toilet for your residence, you might want a larger capacity toilet, since it will be used more frequently.
Regular toilets do not require a ton of maintenance. In fact, as long as you regularly clean the bowl, there isn’t really any maintenance to speak of. While you do need to make sure that you clean the bowl of a composting toilet regularly as well, there is a bit more to it than that.
To ensure that you composting toilet is working properly, you will have to be sure to clear out the compost on a regular basis. Otherwise, the system will overflow.
In addition to this, if you purchase an electric toilet, you will need to check up on these connections regularly, as their failure could result in the toilet malfunctioning.
Ease of installation
Out of all of the different appliances in a home to install, a toilet can be the most precarious. This is mostly because you need to get it to seal properly, and if you don’t, you’ll have tons of leaks on your hands!
A composting toilet is much easier in this regard, especially if it is a self-contained unit. All that you need to do to install these toilets is anchor them in place, and make sure that their ventilation pipe is correctly installed. This makes them super easy to get up and running, no matter your skill level.
One other critical component to a proper install of a composting toilet is their size. Unlike many modern toilets, a composting toilet has a relatively chunky appearance, which might make it difficult to fit into tight spaces.
This is mostly because it has to have an additional tank and ventilation system attached right to it. Just be sure that when you are looking to make your final purchase, you go over the size of the toilet and the dimensions of your space. Otherwise, you might be in for a bit of a tight squeeze when you go to install it.
Something else that you will want to keep in mind when you are looking for the best composting toilet is their weight. Some of the smaller capacity models are relatively light and could be used pretty much anywhere, no matter if you want it upstairs or downstairs.
Some, however, are quite hefty. It isn’t out of the question for a large capacity toilet to be over 100 pounds. This might make it less than ideal for an upstairs space, especially in a small cabin or camp. Plus, lugging it up the steps isn’t too easy for the install process either.
Electrical or non-electrical
Depending on the location that you intend to use your toilet in, you might want to give thought to the idea of taking advantage of an electrical system. These systems help to keep the composting environment fertilizer friendly, which will increase the speed of the composting process.
However, if you are looking for a composting toilet for a remote location that doesn’t have any electrical hookups, you would be better served to get a toilet that is designed to operate without electricity. That way, you can be sure that you have a toilet that was designed to operate efficiently in your location.
The safety concerns for using a composting toilet can be broken down into two areas. The first is the compost itself. If you have a poorly designed or malfunctioning toilet, then you might have some nasty bacteria or pathogens that remain in the waste. The best way to ensure the safety of the compost is to regularly maintain the toilet, and, of course, get the very best toilet you can find.
The second safety concern is only for toilets that use electrical hook-ups. These need to be regularly checked and routinely maintained. Otherwise, especially if the toilet isn’t used all that often, you might have a situation where the electrical hookup isn’t safe, which could result in injury.
Much like anything else, composting toilets come in a wide range of prices. They are, by and large, more expensive than a traditional toilet. This is mostly because they are a bit more technical to build.
They can more than pay for themselves, however. Since they do not utilize any water, you will save money on your water bill. You will also get the benefit of making your compost, which is a huge bonus.
If a composting toilet is well-maintained, regularly cleaned, and regularly emptied, there is no reason that any part of it should malfunction quickly. It is still, however, a good idea to look for a toilet that comes with some sort of manufacturer’s warranty.
That way, if something unforeseen should happen with the electrical system or anything else, you would be able to get that part replaced without being charged for that.