July 18, 2019 31 Comments
For me, it was never a question—composting toilet all the way! But I'll be honest, the environmental benefits were not at the forefront of my mind when I made that decision. Not many things gross me out, but the idea of dealing with a black tank makes me truly queasy. I know, seems silly given that a composting toilet ALSO has to be emptied, for some reason the idea of dealing with the two separate compartments is totally fine by me. I also wanted to cut down on the list of things I would need in a parking spot (i.e. a septic tank), given that Virginia is not the friendliest state for tiny houses.
Now that I'm used to my composting toilet, I'm not sure I'll ever go back. Not only do I feel great about saving thousands of gallons of water each year, it is such a simple system that I never have to worry about hiring a plumber to fix it!
Also, I can assure you, at least with my Nature's Head toilet, there is NO SMELL. A good rule of thumb is that if your composting toilet is stinky, something is wrong (i.e. your solids bin is too damp and needs more coconut coir or sawdust, your fan is malfunctioning, etc.). Granted, it is a very manageable system for me, because I am the only one using it. By my understanding, once two or more people are using a composting toilet on a regular basis, the constant emptying can get to be a little burdensome.
I think a flush toilet is fine for someone who has the right hook-ups, and/or isn't able to make the jump to composting. You can get pretty efficient/low-flow options nowadays which cut down on the water usage. I don't have any experience with incinerating toilets, but I don't love the idea of burning additional fuel to deal with waste.
Overall—do not be afraid of the composting toilet! It's simple, efficient, and effective.
Composting toilets were our preference. We didn’t know where our tiny house was going to end up being parked and if we would have access to wastewater pipes (we were still searching for a section to purchase at the time of the build) and even though we now have a septic tank installed on our property which deals with all of our grey water (this was a council request), we still have the composting toilet, it saves us so much water!
We collect our own rainwater here and because we have such a small roof space to collect it on we didn't want to waste 30% of our water on flushing the toilet!
Flush toilet was never an option in my tiny house. Incinerating toilets use so much energy so it’s not an option either. It was between commercial composting toilet and humanure compost toilet aka bucket system. I rented AirBnBs that use composting toilets and I didn’t like the experience. I read blogs of people who switched to humanure toilets after using composting toilets for only a year or so. I could understand why. Eventually I decided to make my own humanure toilet and I am not regretting it. You can read more about my humanure toilet here!
Initially, we built a DIY composting toilet, a “fancy” bucket system with a urine diverter. Total cost: $20. Overtime we perfected the leaky diverter by upgrading to an automotive funnel. Sounds weird, but the shape of it was more conducive for the ladies. The worst part: frequent solids maintenance—every other day, the solids needed to be emptied with regular use.
We really appreciate how much water we save by not having a flush toilet. And in two of our parking spots, we’ve been able to contribute to a properly managed humanure system. Strangely satisfying to know our waste can be productive.
A couple years into living tiny, we upgraded to a Nature’s Head composting toilet. The solids maintenance dropped dramatically. Now we only empty it about once per month. The urine container was super helpful for traveling; it made us more self-contained. But the almost daily need to empty got old fast. We solved this annoyance by modifying it to divert urine outside. Depending on our parking situation, we empty into either a rolling greywater tank, beneath our tiny house or into a sewer hookup. Though, with permission, we sometimes run into nearby woods. A tiny dweller friend of ours raves about how she brought a fruit tree back to life with, yup, her urine.
For the most part, there’s absolutely no smell. Though it can be challenging to keep all urine out of the solids compartment. The separating of these two is the key to minimizing any stinkiness.
In the future, we would love to switch to a Separett composting toilet. Say goodbye to taking out the entire toilet out of the house to clean every time it needs to be emptied, and say hello to easily pulling out a bag!
So, Brian actually wanted to get an incinerating toilet. He kept talking about how much he wanted to set his poop on fire, HA! Unfortunately, we found incinerating toilets to be VERY expensive, and instead settled for a composting toilet. We use a Separett composting toilet, which separates solid and liquid waste from one another. It doesn’t smell at all, and is relatively low maintenance.
From the moment we knew we were going to build a tiny house, I had always planned on using composting, or other water free method of disposing of our waste. I will spare you my normal crazy-person rant on toilets, but they are an enormous waste (pun intended) of water. After traveling around the world, learning more about our wastewater and water recycling plants, the fact that we (we = Americans) go to the bathroom in beautiful, clean, clear water just blew my mind. By using a composting toilet, we save over 4,000 gallons (or 16,000 liters) of water a year.
We chose a composting toilet after a lot of thought and consideration (I, Jess, had to come around to the idea but Todd sent me lots of literature and articles on the benefits) and now I cringe when I use a flushing toilet! The environmental benefit was a huge reason for choosing the composting toilet and I think eventually, humanity is going to have to adjust to alternatives like these—not just tiny house dwellers, but everyone.
Originally when we bought Tiffany it had a Nature's Head composting toilet. Since Sam wasn't a big fan of it and we knew we would be living at a campground/RV park for a bit, we switched to a flush toilet. It works like a traditional golden throne but the waste heads through a removable pipe to a septic tank in the ground. While on the topic of septic tanks, we are having one built on land we purchased last year and learned a lot about them. Septic tanks work kind of like a composting toilet on a much larger scale and a more complicated way. If maintained well, you should be able to environmentally manage your waste "off-grid".
That being said, since Tiffany will not be hooked up to that new septic tank, we will be switching her back to a Nature's Head composting toilet which will help with nutrients for certain landscape and vegetation on the new land.
We did a lot of research on this topic …. It was almost a deal breaker when it came to IF we were going to build a tiny house. We built our tiny house as a guest house so we wanted a toilet that looked and functioned as “normal” as possible AND it needed to require minimal effort to clean! We found that the Separett Urine diverting toilet Villa 9000 checked off all three of our boxes! Honestly, there were many doubts in our family about whether this toilet would really work but it passed ALL our personal tests… sorry TMI! The only downside is that it is one of the most expensive toilets. After a year of using it with hundreds of guests, it has worked beautifully and no complaints!
September 13, 2019 45 Comments
September 13, 2019 10 Comments
My name is Alan—founder at Dream Big Live Tiny Co! A few years ago, I quit my consulting job to pursue a life full of adventure. After traveling around the world for a year, I sold most of my stuff and moved into an 160-sqft tiny house. Now I spend most of my time showcasing incredible people living with less in pursuit of more freedom, as well as incredible tiny houses around the world!
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