Are you someone who is into making your home as green as possible and maybe into gardening too? Well, there is a great way you can go about doing a better job at each of these tasks. That is by installing what is known as a composting toilet. It is an environmentally friendly way to get rid of harmless composted body waste. Also, it will give your garden the growing boost that it probably needs. We are here to tell you a little bit more about these interesting toilets and to do a few composting toilet reviews.
Once you have finished reading this article you should have a good idea of what it takes to find the best composting toilet for your needs. After you buy one your home will be greener and so will your garden.
What is a Composting Toilet?
A composting toilet has the same job as any other toilet and that is to safely get rid of human waste from the bathroom. The big difference is that composting toilets do it using little or no water at all. This is vastly different from the regular toilets that get rid of human waste using hundreds of gallons of water per week. There may be many things you do not know about composting toilets. Thus, keep on reading.
How Does a Composting Toilet Work?
Composting toilets either use just a very small amount of the water in the process or they use a foam-based product to help clean the bowl and get the composting process started.
They are designed in two pieces. They have one part that contains the bowl that looks like a regular toilet. The part that sits underneath it which is the collection and composting chamber. Sawdust, wood chips, or some other dry material are mixed with the bodily waste to take the moisture out of it. Moreover, to help the mix get its desired nitrogen to carbon ratio.
Over time the waste starts to break down and also decreases significantly in volume. Factors such as temperature, aeration, drainage, and ventilation are all controlled throughout the process by the composting toilet. Some toilets will even allow you to put kitchen scraps in them too.
Here are the functions that temperature, aeration, drainage, and ventilation perform in the composting process:
It is a well-known fact that heat will speed up any composting process. Heat also helps to kill harmful bacteria and other pathogens in the compost mix. Many people do not realize that heat is a natural byproduct of composting so there is nothing that is needed for the toilet to add heat into the process. The larger the compost pile the more heat it will generate. That means the larger your compost bin is on your toilet the faster that the compost in it will break down into a usable form. Heaters can be added to smaller composting toilets that are designed to save space.
Composting toilets work using aeration to help with the decomposition process. They work on a principle that uses aerobic decomposition. It is considered to be much better than the alternative anaerobic decomposition. Aerobic decomposition simply means that oxygen is allowed to get to the compost in the toilets holding tank. Aeration is considered to be a faster form of decomposition that produces much less of a foul odor.
Ventilation is also an important part of how a composting toilet works. This is how the toilet keeps from smelling up the bathroom. It lets important air into the composting chamber so aerobic decomposition that has much less odor takes place instead of much smellier anaerobic decomposition. Air is usually pulled into the system by means of an electric fan.
There is a reason that water and urine or kept from getting into the composting chamber in these special toilets. That is because water, urine, and other forms of moisture are no friend to the composting process. These tend to cool the compost mixture so it does not decompose as fast and they also stifle important oxygen from getting to the composted material.
THE DECOMPOSITION PROCESS IN A COMPOSTING TOILET IS ODOR FREE TO ITS SURROUNDINGS
Well now that you know what a composting toilet is, it’s time to dispel a common misconception about them. When people hear the word compost they almost instinctively roll their nose as they think of a smelly pile of rotting organics in someone’s backyard. That is hardly the case with an organic toilet. They use a natural breaking down process that takes place fully inside the toilet itself and the toilet is also very well vented. There really is no smell at all associated with composting toilets.
Should You Buy a Composting Toilet?
As with any product, there are advantages and disadvantages to composting toilets. Here are the good and bad things about these unique toilets.
Advantages of Composting Toilets
As we mentioned water is not a desirable addition when it comes to composting because it slows the decomposition process down significantly. That is why all composting toilets use little or no water in the waste disposal process. Can you imagine the impact on the environment of the amount of water saved if millions of people owned these water-saving bathroom devices? It is estimated that a family of four uses somewhere between 36 gallons and 76 gallons of water per day flushing a toilet (the exact amount depends on the gallons per flush of the toilet model the family is using). That amounts to several thousand gallons of water you can save a year by switching to a composting toilet.
We just told you the unbelievable amount of water a family of four can save a year by installing a composting toilet in their home. That water saving has other benefits too and one of the biggest is the amount of money you will save a year on your water bill. If you are saving thousands of gallons of water a year that will greatly help offset the cost of your composting toilet over time.
Since composting toilets require no city sewer or septic tanks to hook them up to that means they can be used just about anywhere. Most of the time the only thing required to complete the installation of a composting toilet is an electrical outlet to run the units fan. In other words, if you have a portable electric generator you can use your composting toilet just about any place you have enough room to put it in.
Here are some of the most common places that composting toilets are ideal for use in:
- Recreational vehicles
- Small getaway homes
- Camping areas
- Detached Garages
Just about any place you want to add a toilet is an OK location for a composting toilet.
Good Fertilizer Production
Many people pay a lot of money at nursery and home improvement centers for lawn and garden fertilizers. You won’t have to do that anymore if you have your own composting toilet. That is because the fertilizer that a composting toilet produces is very rich in the desired nutrients that are most beneficial to gardens and lawns. The compost that comes out of one of these toilets is usually very rich in the nutrients that most garden and outside plants love.
Disadvantages of Composting Toilets
Composting toilets take more work to use and maintain than normal toilets die. After you use a regular toilet you simply flush it and you are done. Since composting toilets have no flush mechanism because they use no water you have to scoop a dry material into the toilet after you are done taking a poop. They also do not empty into a waste transport source such as a sewer or septic tank either. That means when the composting chamber that is found on these gets full you will have to take the time to empty it out. Many of these unique toilets also call for hand cranking ever so often to turn over the compost inside the composting chamber.
Another drawback of composting toilets is the fact that it takes a long time for the composting process to be completed. This becomes a problem because these special toilets usually need to be emptied after just a few months because their composting chamber gets full. It is estimated that it takes one full year before the compost from these toilets is in its purest form. So that means you are essentially still handling partially raw sewage when you are cleaning compost out of the storage chamber that has only been in the toilet a few months.
Slow composting creates other waste storage concerns too. Since you are most likely emptying your compost chamber out before the material in it is ready to be used as a fertilizer, which means you will have to find a storage place for it to let the compost material from the toilet complete its composting cycle. It is estimated that it takes one year before the compost from your toilet can be safely used as fertilizer.
Finding a place to put your ready compost can be a big problem too if you are not a gardener or you live in an area where using compost made out of human excrement is not allowed (check your local codes or ask your local code office before purchasing one of these composting toilets). You definitely have to have an area to put the compost that the toilet produces or find a place that will accept this compost from you (A nearby farm or plant nursery are good places to check).
Check out our reviews on portable toilets, too!
Best Composting Toilets Comparison Chart
Nature’s Head Dry Composting Toilet
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Nature’s Head Self Contained Composting Toilet
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Sun-Mar Excel Self-Contained Composting Toilet
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Best Composting Toilet Reviews (Updated List)
1. Nature’s Head Dry Composting Toilet
This is a very well-designed and compact composting toilet from Nature’s Head. There is no water necessary for its use and it works very well at composting your family’s solid human waste. It is perfect for small areas and places that you visit that are far from plumbing.
It is a composting told that features a sleek design and is 100% self-contained. With its sturdy construction and all stainless steel working parts, it can be used just about anywhere and will last you a long time too. This model composting toilet has a hand crank feature to speed up composting and does not produce any odor whatsoever as it works.
We were really surprised how compact this toilet is for all that it does for you. It measures only 19.8” x 20.8” x 20.5”. That means it is ideal for use to use in a camper, RV, secluded cabin, workshops, or other places that have little room or have no sewer or septic access. It weighs only a little over 27 pounds which means it’s a very portable toilet too.
One thing we did not like about this toilet is it has a urine bypass system and this has to be emptied fairly often. They also did not make the composting chamber 100% airtight so you will have to add DE powder into the toilet to keep the flies away.
2. Nature’s Head Self Contained Composting Toilet
Here is another very nice working composting toilet from Nature’s head. They have been making these types of toilets a long time and that has made them a true leader in the field. This model composting toilet is both solidly built and will work very well wherever you decide to put it.
This model toilet has a much more comfortable elongated seated than most other composting toilets have. Also featured in its construction is a crank handle to speed up composting and all the working parts are made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel. It is designed so that it can be taken apart in less than a minute so its compost can be emptied.
We really liked the fact that this unit has just about everything you need for it included in the package. That makes it very easy to get it up and running quickly. Even smaller parts such as the vent hose and supporting fan unit are included right in the package too. The setup requires no water hookup which is very nice too.
There were a few concerns we had with this composting toilet unit. For one, it has an installed urine bypass system and it is not easy for men or women to aim accurately at the holes required for its use. The side latches on this model toilet have a little trouble staying locked together also. A little surprised the manufacturer does not take the easy steps necessary to correct this.
3. Sun-Mar Excel Self-Contained Composting Toilet
Here is another very solid working composting toilet. It is made by the reputable Sun-Mar Corporation. It is obvious they put a lot of experience and thought into this composting toilet’s design. This is an ideal toilet to use in places that do not have access to septic systems or you don’t want to spend money adding plumbing.
It uses a bio-drum system for storing and processing the compost. This unit requires absolutely no water for use but you like any composting toilet you will need to add sawdust or some other component that absorbs moisture to it.
This is a big composting toilet and part of that is due to the size of its composting bin. The large capacity composting bin means you don’t have to empty this unit as often as some models of composting toilets. That makes this model toilet ideal for larger families to use. Everything you need comes with it too including the venting kit and plug-in electrical supply.
One of the things that immediately jumped out at us is how high this toilet is. That could make it a little harder to use for children and the elderly. We also didn’t like the fact that the fan unit on it needs to run constantly and it is not the easiest unit to get the composting material out of when it needs to be emptied.
Installation & Setup of a New Composting Toilet
Composting toilets are pretty simple to install but there are a few things to consider before the installation and a few simple steps are required to install them.
Composting Toilet Installation in 3 Steps
Before the Installation
Before a composting toilet can be installed you will have to make sure you have enough room to put it where you want it to go. You not only need to allow for the size of the toilet itself. You also have to leave enough unoccupied space around it to empty out the composting chamber when it gets full.
One will also have to make sure to prepare a flat and level surface to set up the toilet on.
The Installation Process
Once you have your composting toilet in position there are a few things you will need to do to complete the installation of it. Most store-bought composting toilets will require the following tasks to be done during the installation process:
There is usually very little assembly required for most composting toilets when they arrive. They may come in sections that have to be stacked on each other properly and locked into place but other than that there is not much to the assembly of them.
Most composting toilets do not require being mounted to the ground where they are going. They are designed to be completely freestanding and self-supporting units. It’s what makes them so portable.
As discussed earlier venting is an essential part of the composting process. It also helps to eliminate the smell from the composting material. Most units come with everything that is required to vent them properly including a small electrical fan.
Since there is an electrical fan with these units you will need a power source to run that fan. Most composting toilets are made to be run off a standard 115v household outlet. That means they will come with a power cord that you simply plug in to get the fan to work.
Before You Can Start Using Your Composting Toilet
Once your composting toilet is all set up there is one more thing you have to do before you can start using it. That is to fill it composting chamber with the material you want to use as a drying medium. Also, a means to help your compost mixture achieve its desired carbon-nitrogen ratio.
Most people choose sawdust, peat moss, fine wood chips, dried leaves, straw or ground up coconut husks for this part of the process. Don’t forget to set a small amount of this material in a closed storage container in your bathroom. It will have to be added to the bowl each time someone has a bowel movement.
Once all these steps are complete you are now ready to start using your new environmentally friendly composting toilet.
How to Use a Composting Toilet
There really is nothing that special about using a composting toilet. There are only a few things that are different about them. You can still use special toilet paper in most of them and you even sit on them like a normal toilet.
There are two things that are different when using them. On some models, you may have to aim your urine into a specific opening so it stays separate from the compost mix. When you use the composting toilet to take a poop you will also have to add your preferred dry mixing compound into the toilet when you are done.
We have also reviewed top-rated bidet seats.
Composting Toilet FAQs
How many pounds of compost can you make in a year from one person using a composting toilet?
It is estimated that the amount of compost that can be made from one person using a composting toilet is around 80 pounds per year. That means if you have a family of four you will have more than enough compost to let your neighbors have some too.
How do you empty a composting toilet?
This really all depends on the model composting toilet that you purchase. Different companies accomplish this by different means. Some companies like Nature’s Head use a design that disassembles so you can take the composting bin itself right out and take it to where it needs to be dumped.
Other companies like Sun-Mar model composting toilets use a hatch system for emptying out the compost. Remember, there is no water left in the compost mix so it is solid. With these models, you just use a special rake that is provided to sweep the compost into a carrying bin so it can be dumped.
How do you get the most out of a composting toilet system?
That is where adding the drying material comes into play. When you add peat moss, sawdust, or any of the other materials to the compost it takes all the moisture out of the human excrement that it mixes with. As this happens the compost mix shrinks. It creates more space for new material to be added to the composting bin.
Where do you safely store the emptied compost mix until it is ready to be put down as fertilizer?
This is a very good question. There really is no set way to store the compost. You have to keep in mind that since the composting process is not completely finished the mix may still contain harmful pathogens in it. That is why many people will store this emptied compost mix in large 50-gallon plastic drums. It makes it convenient because you can put a lid on these to keep the material safe from exposure.
Having a lid also gives you the benefits of keeping moisture out and keeping the heat in the stored compost mix. Be sure the container is vented so aerobic decomposition can still take place.
We’ve also selected the top-rated toilets!
There really is a lot to like about owning a composting toilet. Not only are they environmentally friendly because of the water they save but they will also lower your water bill in the process. There is a lot to like about these unique toilets, to say the least.
We have tried to help you as much as possible with your search for the best composting toilet. You now know how they work. You have also read some composting toilet reviews on some of the top models that are available. One can never go wrong purchasing any of the model composting toilets that we reviewed. If you feel none of these meet your needs, then use what you have learned here to help you in your search for the perfect composting toilet for you.