Compost toilets can be civilized and they don't smell. As a matter of fact, a reasonably well-cared for compost toilet will actually smell better than a conventional toilet.
While toilets in general are not the most savory topic, a toilet that is not only functional, but is ecologically sound and saves you money is a worthwhile consideration. Compost toilets are simple to install, don't pollute the groundwater, and you even end up with a byproduct that will make your gardens flourish. Compost toilets look similar to conventional toilets.
How Compost Toilets Work
Compost toilets are generally made up of three distinct chambers. Keeping in mind that about 90 percent of what goes into a toilet is water, the first chamber filters off the liquids and is designed to allow the liquids to evaporate.
The second chamber is where the solids compost. A correct balance of oxygen, bacteria, heat and moisture in the second chamber creates a perfect environment for composting. Most compost toilets have a tumbler mechanism to allow for mixing.
The third chamber is where you end up with virus and pathogen-free material that can be used to fertilize plants and trees. About once a year, you simply pull out the third drawer and empty it into a storage container. Nearly all compost toilets have an electric heating unit to keep temperatures even for optimal composting.
Benefits of a Compost Toilet
First of all, no plumbing is required. This means you can have a toilet nearly anywhere, such as in a spare closet, hunting cabin or workshop. The smallest compost toilet is 19" wide by 22" deep. The only thing you need to install is a vent, which comes with the compost toilet package.
While expensive at first, with an average cost of $1,700, you will save drastically over time on water and sewer bills. Nearly 40 percent of all household water usage is for toilet flushing. If you live in, or are making a move to, a rural area, compost toilets are worth considering, as they cost far less than most septic systems. You also would not have the maintenance expense of a septic system.
Best of all, you would be reducing the flow of sewage into our rivers and oceans.
Maintaining a Compost Toilet
Compost toilets work best in temperatures of 70 degrees and up. Compost toilets begin slowing the composting process at around 55 degrees. If the space they are in reaches 45 degrees or lower, the composting process stops altogether. If the unit freezes, it will not be damaged, but you need to warm the area before use.
While you do not need any kind of plumbing, you will need a source of electricity for the heating unit built in to the composting toilet.
It is advisable to add a peat mixture to the composting waste. You can also speed up composting by adding an accelerant, which you can purchase wherever you obtained your composting toilet.
When installing the vent, it should extend two to three feet above the peak of the roof for good air movement.
Other Important Notes
Compost toilets are rated for capacity. The general rule is to select a larger capacity than you think you need, by roughly one size up. Check with your local health authorities. Different communities have varying views on compost toilets.
If you want to learn more about septic systems, read this. If you're not ready to switch over to a composting toilet but still want to make your bathroom as eco-friendly as possible, consider a water-saving toilet.
Photo credit: Envirolet
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