I came across an interesting article about toilets and thought I would share it with you all, as toilets seem to be a favorite topic of discussion among tiny housers. Click HERE to read the Fast Company article about Bill Gates’ sponsored toilet inventions around the world. One submittal:
My fave was China’s toilet design submission that “extracts and disposes fecal sludge on-site”. Not to pick on the Chinese… but c’mon, do I really want to dump fecal sludge outside my home? I’m sure there’s some way to make it “odorless” right? … but I have no trust for systems claiming to be odorless, as that has been our main complaint with our Incinolet incinerating toilet.
I happily (and naively) blogged about our incinerating toilet previously in this blog, prior to having used it. We bought it used for less than half the new purchasing price ($1,900-$2,100!!) and have thus far replaced almost every major mechanism in the toilet (almost $200 more), and it still has an odor! Thankfully the odor is all outside now, unlike when we fired up our first batch of “brownies” (as we lovingly call our waste) and filled the house with smoke!! Shane’s repairs restored the toilet to working condition but there were still odors outside that would waft in through open windows. (I cannot believe the neighbors never complained….) We have since minimized outside odors by adding a 4″ pvc vent stack outside that rises above the roof level.
So what are the toilet options for Tiny Houses?
Here’s what I’ve seen so far, would love to hear everyone’s feedback on their experiences.
1. RV low-flush toilets
1. RV low-flush toilets with a holding tank… that must be emptied… somewhere. Or drained directly into a preexisting sewer system.
- Pros: fairly clean, small, no smell inside, simple typical American toileting experience.
- Cons: uses clean water and generates blackwater. need connection to a sewage system or a place to dump the tank. more plumbing adds initial construction costs. without a municipal sewage system, a septic system would be cost prohibitive to many. to sum up the Cons in a word: sewage.
2. Incinerating Toilets
2. Incinerating Toilets available in electric (Incinolet) or propane (Scanlet or Storburn). Using 20amps of power (arguably too much for off-grid / solar…) this toilet burns waste to a minimal amount. A metal bowl full of ashes is emptied into the trash twice a week, in our experience.
- Pros: no water! great for arid climates. waste is reduced to a very small amount. no plumbing in the house, no septic system, no blackwater. don’t need to be connected to a sewage system.
- Cons: expensive! $1,900 to $2,100 new. high energy useage. complicated to use. prone to mechanical problems. smelly. (ever smelled burning poop? mostly this smell is outside… but still not pleasant) to sum up the Cons in a word: electricity. smoke. odor. (one word wasn’t enough.)
3. High-Tech Composting Toilets
3. High-Tech Composting Toilets would include SunMar, Nature’s Head, Envirolet, Biolet, etc. etc. Manufactured self-contained toilets that convert waste to compost with or without electricity spurred mechanical stirring.
- Pros: no water or low water. no plumbing in the house, no septic system, no blackwater. don’t need to be connected to a sewage system. turns waste into a useful material like compost (regenerative)
- Cons: expensive! $900 to $2,000. large. you have to do something with the “compost” or straight-up urine in some models – not ideal for city/town use.
4. Low-Tech Composting Toilets
4. Low-Tech Composting Toilets or a bucket toilet like the Loveable Loo by Joseph Jenkins, author of the Humanure Handbook, which is a highly recommended read! The first chapter on humankind’s parasitic behavior makes it worth the purchase price. These are a 5 gallon plastic bucket with a toilet seat; sawdust is applied to waste after each use, then waste is put outside in a compost pile.
- Pros: small. inexpensive ($250) or you can make your own for much less. no plumbing. no sewage. turns waste into a useful material like compost (regenerative)
- Cons: potential for odors inside. need sawdust and other composting materials. need a site with several humanure compost piles that you can maintain and let cure for a year before use.
5. A Litterbox.
5. A Litterbox. I’m joking about this one (kind of…). We recommend “multi-cat”. Enough said. Ha haha haaa?
Here’s a good source I found with way more info than I just scrounged up for this post if you want to read more about toilet options: environalternatives article.
Would love to hear everyone else’s feedback and research.
I leave you with this: