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Thread: Composting toilets in AK?

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    Member Boone's Avatar
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    Default Composting toilets in AK?

    I'm gathering ideas for an outhouse upgrade and ran across all different makes & models of waterless composting toilets. My cabin has no electricity and no water and I'm curious if these toilets have been used with any success in our winter temperatures. . . or are you asking for a giant poopscicle?

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    The composting toilet would need to be keeped inside as the microbials need to survive and they don't live in a "popscicle".

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    I bought a sunmar electric vented toilet in 2005. for the two of us to use daily it was a tough task for the unit. We kept the bathroom at 65+ and more often than I choose to recall I had my arm elbow deep in that thing digging **** out.

    I have friends that use them for weekend use with reasonable success. I think the idea is great if you live in a tropical climate, but in alaska there is just to many issues. Also another issue for turd turners is the use of antibiotics. If you our your users take antibiotics it will kill the microbes in the composter and turn it into a holding tank of feces... not fun.

    I love my 1000 gallon septic tank and procelin toilet... best money I have spent, and I have spent LOTS of money...

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cresent Hills View Post
    I bought a sunmar electric vented toilet in 2005. for the two of us to use daily it was a tough task for the unit. We kept the bathroom at 65+ and more often than I choose to recall I had my arm elbow deep in that thing digging **** out.
    Sounds like even an outhouse would be better than this.

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    you got that right! When you are arm deep in it, Depends sounded good to me ! ;o)

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    Member Akgramps's Avatar
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    I had one for a while....it was the worst idea ever...............I was very happy when someone carted it off from my garage sale for a 100 bucks..............disgusting...............I am embarassed to admit I had one...............build a outhouse, cut out some foam for the seat and be done with it........!
    “Nothing worth doing is easy”
    TR

  7. #7

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    I installed one in my cabin a while back and I've been quite happy with it, but there are some real complexities to installation and maintenance up here. (It's sort of similar to how some folks have trouble with their photovoltaic power systems, but those who design for the climate can still make the systems work for them.)

    Both electric and non-electric composting toilets must stay within an operating temperature range to function properly. That means they're for indoor use in Alaska, not for an outdoor outhouse upgrade. The temperature range is more specific than regular compost, due to the mechanical systems that rotate or agitate the material.

    Since my space isn't always heated, I sized mine big enough to be able to use it just like an indoor outhouse (even if it froze), then let it compost the contents once temperatures rise. This requires installing a much larger drum than usual so it doesn't fill up, adding extra insulation to all plumbing and vents, and covering the contents with a sprinkle of sawdust (just like an outhouse) during freezing temperatures.

    The other important thing has been to switch back to using the outhouse occasionally, so the drum has a chance to fully compost the material before emptying it, (and to avoid Cresent Hills' unfortunate experience).

    (Also for those who don't know, even once the drum's contents have "fully" composted, they still need to spend at least another year in a hot compost pile, before they can safely be used in the garden.)

    Although I'm happy with my composting toilet, an outhouse is a simpler option. There are two keys to improving a regular outhouse. The first is good (but separate) ventilation for both the occupant and the pit. (Most designs don't ventilate the pit well enough.) The second is to help the waste compost in the pit by adding organic matter. Rather than filling the pit faster, this helps to break down the wastes and makes the pit last longer.

    When you dig a new pit, put a thick sponge of straw, hay, or dry grass in the bottom. As you use the outhouse, occasionally sprinkle in a tiny amount of live compost (or a handful of forest duff) to help "activate" biological decomposition. Sawdust is great, but use ashes sparingly, or save them for older pits that will soon be sealed.
    Inspiration is simply the momentary cessation of stupidity.

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    Mine gets regular use by two for most of the summer then just one for the rest. Key was that I peed outside most of the time and adding sawdust to the regular peat and turning that thing ten revelutions a day. It did take a while to get it dialed in but once I did, no smell and the thing produce pellet about golfball size. I emty it 2-3 times a summer and when I take off for the winter. Mine is the small one piece unit and is non-electric.

    George

  9. #9

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    Peeing outside most of the time is helpful, especially with the non-electrics. (Outdoorswomen have quads of steel!) I installed a small battery-operated fan on my non-electric, to compensate for my distaff habits in winter.

    George, don't you also have a second, larger unit for guests? What's your experience dealing with that one?
    Inspiration is simply the momentary cessation of stupidity.

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    Seraphina,
    I do and will hopefully be switching to a watered toilet this summer. The sooner I can get away from the big one from a maintainence standpoint the better. This one is new to me and a Sunmar as well but clients just don't take the mental care not to put thing in there like tp tubes etc. The guys don't mind weeing outside and I find get a kick of it but the moisture has been tough to get figured out so far. Side note: Younger guys don't spend as much time or deposit as much as us older types....

    More wood chips from the wood pile started to help but is was too wet once I noticed and it has a fan but I found using a cardboard seal under the seat inbetween uses helped with venting. The larger one is not sealed as well to draw down from the seat. I will trouble shoot this spring but by mid summer I hope to have my septic up and running.

    Seraphina, where are you hanging out?

    George

  11. #11

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    Thanks for sharing your experience George. Taking "mental care" is why my casual guests still use the outhouse.
    Garbage such as plastic is a problem, but I don't see why cardboard tp tubes would cause a problem.
    I've found that sawdust helps moisture management better than wood chips, chopped dry grass better than peat.
    Some folks have solved the moisture problem with a unisex urinal, such as the "liquid bypass" in this link:
    http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It...se-Inside.aspx
    Inspiration is simply the momentary cessation of stupidity.

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    I too had been considering one for my cabin, but after reading these post, I dont think there aRE SO GOOD FOR ALASKA!!
    2003 220 Hewescraft Sea Runner 115 Yam'y, Soft Top "Schmidt Happens"

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    I don't own one. However, I know several folks in interior Alaska who have used them for many years with complete satisfaction and success. I wouldn't hesitate to install one, given my interactions with the folks I know who use them. My understanding is that one brand in particular shines above the others. My impression is that regardless of whether you live in Alaska, or some warmer location Outside, composting toilets do not lend themselves to persons prone to mindlessness, or who are otherwise unwilling to pay attention to detail.
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  14. #14

    Default Composting toilets

    There is a American made composting toilet for sale on C/L listed to day under General . They are asking $875.00 call Laurie 267-9898

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