Composting toilets

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by countrygrrrl, Feb 28, 2004.

  1. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Okay. After a year and a half of fretting over it :rolleyes: , I've finally decided to make my own composting toilet.

    I think when I started painting the small rusted (and ugly!!) steel building I'd been planning to knock over :) with the intention of turning it into a little composting center :) , I secretly made up my mind.

    Of course, spending months pouring over the prices of composting toilets :eek: and balking at every turn was clue as well.

    So I have the humanure book. And an old barn (which is fixing to come down) full of straw.

    I even accidentally bought peat moss last week. :D

    What do I do now? Beyond the bucket, that is.
     
  2. Swampdweller

    Swampdweller Well-Known Member

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    Well, you'll need a good supply of organic toilet paper...



     

  3. Oggie

    Oggie Waste of bandwidth Supporter

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    We tried composting toilets once. Even though they were in the composting pile for months and months, the porcelain never seemed to break down much at all.

    (I know I'm not helping very much.)
     
  4. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Oh very funny!

    In any case, I have all my little plans downloaded and kind of a good idea :eek: of how I'm going to go about it. I figure I should have everything set up in about two weeks.

    I can't believe how excited I am about this. Of course, given how much I've worried over it for months now, it's just a relief to finally make up my mind (not to mention, save a couple thousand dollars! :D )
     
  5. BCR

    BCR Well-Known Member

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    An article about Japanese strawberries, that I read recently, said they grew so large because they used 'night soil'. I think your idea is a wonderful one and I commend you for doing it. Good luck.
     
  6. TexasMom

    TexasMom Member

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    We've had an ongoing toilet problem for the last year or so, too. because we don't have a septic tank. We rented a chemical toilet for several months. I had hole dug for a septic and we routed grey water into it. For awhile we used a bucket toilet, but it didn't look as good as the ones in the Humanure book - so I left the regular toilets in place, and the bucket was portable. We got to where we were using the regular toilet and just composting the papers in the bucket. What we have now amounts to an illegal cess pool. It's not bad really, no odor, but the toilet 'problem' is still a major worry of mine.
    Now we have moved into a smaller trailer and are waiting on the double wide to be repo'd. I don't know what stops me from having nice bucket boxes built and taking the toilets out completely. At this point, I really don't want a septic tank. I'd like to fill in the cess pool with gravel and rock, and make a dry well out of it, for the grey water. Use the composting toilets correctly and be done with it.
    What is it that made you hesitate Countrygrrrl? I think the idea of the boys having friends over, and them going home to tell their parents we poop in a bucket that gives me pause. I have been thinking of buying a couple of SunMars - even though at $1200 each I could just finish out the septic system instead. And it seems like I've read that they don't work as well as the bucket system. They would just 'look right', I guess.
    Anyway, I've agonized over the toilet problem too. Glad you have made up your mind!
     
  7. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    A lot of things caused me to hesitate, TexasMom! :eek:

    The primary one is fear that codes will suddenly be slapped on me here. Which is reaching kind of a point of urgency because the place next to me is for sale and I could very well end up with a code-monger next door. So I need to act fast.

    In addition, try as I may, I'm not sure I see the point in putting out a lot of money for new septic, since my pipe running out back is grandfathered in but the new septic wouldn't be (I don't think :confused: ).

    In addition, I'm less than happy with everything I've read about the manufactured toilets. The best ones seem to require electricity AND drainage. :no: Which the homemade ones don't require.

    And, even though I'm going to do some fiddling for grey water, I want to leave the existing septic alone.

    The biggest problem I'm having now is figuring out the composting aspect of it. I dn't want to have big bins on the ground because there are too may critters of every variety around here, including horses. In addition, I'm adding worms. Which, being me, adds a level of complication. :no:

    I have a nice little building I've just painted which I want to use to contain the compost bins. I'm going to cement the floor in next weekend --- and I'm trying to figure out now how to get the bins off the ground. Beyond that, I'm a bit stuck.
     
  8. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Also (and maybe most important) --- it appears that here, composting toilets and grey water systems are considered on a case by case basis. I've looked and looked and looked, and have been unable to find clear codes concerning them.

    So a big part of my motivation is about just showing good faith in resolving my septic dilemma before it becomes an issue. If I can do a composting toilet and composting bins successfully over a period of time before the codes get here, I suspect they'll just say oh, to heck with her, she's the least of our worries!
     
  9. 12vman

    12vman Offgridkindaguy

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    I never read the "humanure" book and maybe I should have. I just went out and bought an envorolet. Bad decision... Nasty unit to service!! It works ok if you don't pee in it.. (been outside on many a cold nite) If you want an easy and cheap option, check this site out.. ecovita.net Divert the urine. They have a privy kit that is simple and cheap. I called them about putting another style seat on it and they said to use my imagination. (just center the seat so the "shemale" urine goes to the right area) If there are "hemales" in your home, they have options for them,too. I divert the urine to the graywater system. I built a box for the privy kit out of plywood and stained it to fit the decor. Used 6" black pvc pipe for a chimney. I Don't use a fan for ventilation of the box. Keep the box as air tight as possible EXCEPT where you decide to let air in. (gotta let some in so the "nastiness" can escape) Keep the "in" vent hole smaller than the pvc pipe. The box will always have "vacuum" on it. (as long as your unit is inside) Heat rises. I use half/half peat moss and sawdust as mixture. Just sprinkle a little on the :rolleyes: after each use and you will be fine. Gotta have a door to clean it out. Remember to put seals around the edges of that too.. I messed up there when I first built it. Had too much air getting inside. Good luck to you and if I can help, I will. :D
     
  10. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Yes. That's exactly what I've run into time and time again in looking over these manufactured units. I don't know if they just haven't figured out how to do it very effectively yet or if they're resting on their laurels or ???

    I really wanted to go with a manufactured unit. It takes me forever to build things and I'm always changing my mind in the middle of it and I have some astigmatism and things just never end up quite straight. :D But I just plain am not willing to plunk down that amount of money for something that might work ... but maybe not! :no:

    Oh goody! More decisions to make!!! :D :D

    BTW, if you follow the link at ecovita to
    http://www.ecotechusa.com/septicprotector.html
    there's a fairly handy device which looks like it might be good for people like me who need to figure out grey water without messing with the existing septic too much.
     
  11. Deborah Stephenson

    Deborah Stephenson Well-Known Member

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    This is one of mu favorite subjects! :no: (Who says homesteading can't be exciting and fun?!)

    I would just like to say first and foremost that ANYONE out there considering putting $1200 to $2000 into a commercial brand composting toilet, should take the money and buy the "Humanure" book, and something nice for the homestead (like that antique wood cookstove you've been eyeing, or a garden tractor) instead. They simply are not worth the cost - both the initial outlay and the cost in time and headaches to maintain. I know - there is a very expensive SunMar sitting idle in my bathroom (waiting for spring to be dismantled and, if possible, turned into something more useful).

    Right next to that ugly, over-priced and over-engineered monstrosity, is the elegant (and space-saving) little cabinet with solid oak seat that I made using (slightly modified) instructions from the "Humanure" book. I love it!!! It is simplicity itself. When filled, just snap on a lid and haul to the compost heap (instructions for building a very nice one are also included in the book). You just put a fresh bucket in, pour a bit of sawdust or peat moss in and you're all set again. One caveat: You do still need to rig a urinal or the bucket will fill way too quickly, but if you already intend to do a gray water system for sink and bathtub drainage, you can just hook into that. (Or consider running a pipe to a "rain barrel" outside the house. Attach a spigot on the barrel and use the urine - in a watering can - as an excellent fertilizer 'tea' for your garden.)

    If you are in a hurry to do this or want to look at some of the options, you can't beat this site for learning all you ever wanted to know (and then some) about composting toilets...

    http://www.compostingtoilet.org/owner_build.cfm

    That link will take you directly to the 'owner built' section of their website, and gives a wealth of ideas and informaton about a wide variety of systems you can build yourself. (The instructions for building the sawdust bucket toilet I made, and the composting system, are free and online - linked from that page, by the way.) If you want to look at information about commercial toilets, go to the home page and browse around, This site has everything available on the subject! Good Luck!!! :)
     
  12. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Great site, Deborah!

    I think I might actually be able to do this now. The biggest problems for me are going to be actually building it :rolleyes: (that ought to take a month or so :rolleyes: ) and figuring out the stupid composting bins, given I need to get them off the ground.

    I know, I know --- shelves. :rolleyes: But I've been working on shelves for the greenhouse for 1 1/2 years now. :no:
     
  13. Swampdweller

    Swampdweller Well-Known Member

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    If you are not smack in the middle of town, your composting bins need not be elaborate or stored inside. Urine and manure-soaked sawdust breaks down very well and quickly. If you built something simple with concrete blocks, or even used a pickup bed liner, you'd have accomplished all you need for composting without odor or eyesore.
    As for the warnings against urine in your compost bucket, don't sweat that detail. Just empty a day or two sooner. We use a three gallon bucket and dump once a day, family of six. Sawdust is your best friend. Peat, chopped straw, shredded paper will all work, too. It is the urine that supplies the better part of the nitrogen you need for the sawdust (carbon) to break down most efficiently.
    The construction of the actual indoor unit needn't be an obstacle if you have the most basic grasp of carpentry. I built a simple box, just tall enough to receive the bucket, put a double layer of plywood on the top and used a jig saw to cut the hole at an angle similar to that found in the old outhouse. I took the seat and lid off our old porcelain disgrace and installed it on the box. Some folks don't even realize the difference until they try to flush. HA!
    The front of the box I left open for simple servicing. My wife painted the whole affair white, and wah lah. We keep a fifty gallon drum of chainsaw chips out on the porch, under roof. We keep a five gallon bucket under the table next to the toilet. The fifty gallon barrel lasts us about two months.
    Sawdust is your friend.

    Swampdweller

     
  14. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    The *if* is the problem. :D I'm not exactly a building whiz. :eek:

    But, your post has made me feel MUCH better. I just spent the afternoon trying to figure out the composting part and despairing about separating out the pee :waa: and whatnot. :no: :waa: Now I can go back to basics. :)

    Which is hard enough. :rolleyes:
     
  15. Thumper/inOkla.

    Thumper/inOkla. Well-Known Member

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    Countrygrrrl, have you looked at the pictures of mine? The smell of human waste is far more apparant to animals than to humans, even with dead chickens or parts laying on top, completely uncovered for several days, the varments pass it by, and try for the dog food in the shed. Or the live birds.

    My only intrusion by animals has been by chickens looking for bugs, on our 1st bin I used cardboard to line it and hold the sawdust in, it softened and the chickens scratched throught it, now I use a 6inch layer of straw to line the inside walls to keep the sawdust in and the poultry wire prevents the chickens form scratching it out.

    We used wood pallets for the first 3 bins, desided to buy cattle panels and build one big composting center with 8 sections, cost less than $100 has poultry wire on the outer walls and will let the full bin work for 2 years. No earthworms required. No special toilet paper. Everything compostable goes in.

    There are pictures in the album listed below. Our frame was cut on a table saw the up and down edges are cut at about a 22º angle and it is glued together with wood glue, held with masking tape until it dried and the back parts are also just glued with the seat brace screwed in with corner braces, the cutting of the vertical boards was the hardest part of the whole thing.

    It is really TOO EASY! to believe until you do it! And for the dry part to cover the waste, dry grass clippings, peat moss, sawdust, shreded dry leaves, or even dirt in a pinch. Dumping a fresh bucket is not my favorite chore, nor is picking up dog doo, or poopy diapers, but we now have 6 buckets the older ones smell less that the fresh ones, these are all kept at the back of the house until they are all full or we have company, they have lids to keep out rain and chickens, no problems!
     
  16. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Thanks, Thumper! I'll get there ... eventually. I'm just kind of a yutz when it comes to these things. :D I'm bookmarking your link.

    That said, i took the money I'd set aside in case I had to spring for septic ... and I invested it today! :eek: Which means ... I now no longer have the cash to even think septic or, for that matter, manufactured composting toilet. :D
     
  17. Unfortunately, peat moss is a non-renewable resource. I have neighbors that use the humanure system and they just use dried leaves or other natural material. There is never a "manure" smell and I love the smell of the dried leaves. One empties the buckets in a chicken wire compost area with a chicken wire top. The other uses a compost hole in the ground that has been surfaced with concrete block and can't be seen unless you get really close to it. I would certainly go the humanure route if I had it to do over again.
     
  18. Helena

    Helena Well-Known Member

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    could you put up an outhouse for your needs instead ?? I know..I know...they probably are illegal in your area..but who is to really know about it except visitors I suppose and hopefully they wouldn't say anything. You could always ask the township you live in...you just might be surprised with their answer..Good Luck !! Another thought...if you couldn't afford the usual toilet and septic systems would the township condem you house and through you out into the street ??
     
  19. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Fortunately, Helena ...

    To condemn me, they'd have to condemn about 2/1-3/4s of the people in the county. :cool:

    I'm just trying to prepare for the future, that's all. There are no building codes here right now to speak of, but they appear to be establishing building codes for certain new buildings in certain areas around me --- in particular, developments of a sort (this is somewhat of a resort area). All the older places like mine, everything is grandfathered in. To go from well to city water, however, they require have to have good septic. And I have city water. So apparently, they approved this septic sometime before I moved in.

    So ... in any case, I'm bit by bit moving to the composting toilet. I'm trying to finish my bin area first, then get bins, then figure out how to build the blasted thing! :eek:
     
  20. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    grrrl,
    I've been pondering your postings and have a few questions.

    What are the dimensions of the pad you are pouring?

    What are the dimensions of the structure you plan to build it in?

    How high is the ceiling?

    I have a few ideas, but since you have construction avoidance syndrome, I'll use your answers to refine my suggestions.