Every answer to every question we could think of about composting toilets
Often when customers come into our showroom or call us, they have a bunch of questions about composting toilets – how they work, how they can use them, if they’re right for their home, etc.
Since we get a bunch of questions on a weekly basis from people wanting to find out more about composting toilets, we thought it might be a great idea to put all the questions to paper (or screen in this case) and answer all the questions people have about composting toilets! So here goes... strap yourselves in.
The answer to this is they most certainly do. When set up and maintained properly, a composting toilet can help reduce the amount of water you use as well as giving you a usable humus or topsoil-like product at the end of the curing period.
Like anything in life, if a composting toilet isn’t maintained properly or is misused, then it won’t work to its full potential and you will have issues… but you can take it from the thousands of happy customers we’ve had over the years that composting toilets most certainly do work.
#2 Do composting toilets flush?
Not really. Some models do have a handle that you can turn that will help you mix and aerate your composting, but most composting toilets won’t use any water, therefore they don’t really have a flush option.
The answer to this questions is a little like “how long is a piece of string” and this will vary on the make, model, accessories and installation costs. Composting toilets can range from $500 right up to $5000+ and pretty much everywhere in between.
Now the initial cost might stack up more against a flush dunny from Bunnings, but think about all that water you’ll be saving over the life of the toilet and this soon adds up to quite a bit of savings.
If you combine your fan systems with solar power then you can really get off-the-grid and move towards a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle.
#4 Do composting toilets need electricity?
Again, this will depend on the model and the type of system you have set up. Most composting toilets will benefit from a fan system to help evaporate liquid from the system. This will stop urine building up and turning your top-soil like compost heap into a sloppy mess.
There are many models with a ventilation fan included in the setup, but it’s not a necessity to have a fan if you’re willing to maintain your toilet properly. If you’re looking for the easiest possible setup with the minimum amount of maintenance required then it’s advisable to install a system with ventilation. This will either use electricity or can be hooked up to a solar system.
#5 Do composting toilets work in cold climates?
This really depends on a few factors like how cold, for how long and where is the unit installed. If for example the composting chamber is external to your home (eg. a split system Clivus Multrum) and the chamber is in direct contact with the outside climate, this will impact on the heat generated in the pile and affect the speed at which your compost will break down.
In saying that, there are many ways you can insulate chambers if they’re exposed to the outside elements. The other option of course is to look at a self contained composting toilet. This means the seat and chamber are all-in-one and won’t be subject to outside temperatures as much.
#6 How do composting toilets help the environment?
There’s a few angles we can take here. First lets look at water usage. Composting toilets will cut your use of perfectly good drinking water by a huge amount ever year. Most flush toilets will use an average of about 7 litres of water for each flush.
Times that 10+ flushes for a family house per day, that’s around 70 litres a day, 490 litres a week, 1,960 litres a month and 23,520 litres of water a year. That’s about a family sized swimming pool of perfectly good drinking water you’re literally flushing down the toilet each year.
Ok, so that’s water usage, let’s take a look at water protection. Conventional methods for treating raw sewage sees huge amounts of effluent (yes it’s treated but still) run into water systems and oceans. Conventional methods for treating raw sewage sees huge amounts of effluent (yes it’s treated but still) run into water systems and oceans. In oceans, rivers, and bays this increases the nutrient levels in the water which in turn increases the BOD levels (Biological Oxygen Demand). This can cause the proliferation of aquatic plant life (Algie bloom), which seems like a good thing, but as the plant life dies and decays this can cause the removal of oxygen from the water and the destruction of the habitat.
Now let’s look at the end result of using a composting toilet – the compost. By composting your waste you’re removing your footprint on the earth considerably. Breaking down human waste into a usable fertiliser has been common practice, it’s not until the 20th century and the advent of artificial fertilisers have we been literally wasting our waste.
Composting toilets will reduce waste by around 90% in volume and produces a product that is chemically, biologically and aesthetically similar to topsoil. Everybody wins!
#7 Can you use normal cleaning products on a composting toilet?
Again, this will depend on the type of cleaning product you’re using. If you’re using products with harsh chemicals, there’s a fair chance these will kill off all the good bacteria and organisms in your compost pile, resulting in your toilet not working to it’s full potential.
If you use natural products with all-natural ingredients then there’s less of a chance of killing off all the good guys working away in your composting pile. Please note that oils like tea tree and eucalyptus have antibacterial properties so can affect your compost pile.
If you’re looking for a natural way to clean your composting toilet, take a look at our Nature Flush Enzyme. It’s a natural product that’s derived from bacterial fermentation. The best thing about this product is that it will clean your toilet but also help accelerate the composting pile!
#8 Can I change the pedestal of a composting toilet?
This will depend on the type of composting toilet system you have. If you have a split system where your chamber and pedestal are separated, then yes… you will be able to change the pedestal down the track if you wish.
If you have an all-in-one system, then the chamber and the pedestal are connected in the one complete unit, and the answer will be no… you won’t be able to change the pedestal. You would need to change the entire unit if you wish to have a system with a different look.
#9 Are composting toilets legal?
This will all depend on your local council and state government regulations. As far as we are aware, if your composting toilet meets state and local government regulations, there’s no reason why you should have any issue installing a composting toilet in your home, but just to make sure it’s worth getting on the phone with your local council to check.
#10 Why are composting toilets so expensive?
Yes, this is true, composting toilets are more expensive than a ‘traditional’ flush toilet, and this is due to the fact there’s more that goes into a composting toilet (no pun intended!). Traditional toilets are typically made from a combination of porcelain and plastic whereas composting toilets are made with plastic moulds which can impact on production costs.
If you’re concerned about the cost, we’re sure there’s a model or type of toilet that can suit your needs and your budget, give us a call on 1300 138 182 to ask more questions about cost.
#11 Aren’t composting toilets gross?
Mostly composting toilets are no different to using a regular toilet. For many people they need to get over the barrier of composting their own waste – or as we call it in the industry ‘poophobia’. But the more people read, understand the process and realise it’s actually something humans have done for as long as there’s been agriculture, they begin to understand it’s a totally natural process. Sooner or later they realise the idea of flushing our waste right into our water systems and oceans is downright crazy.
#12 What happens to the urine in a composting toilet?
Most composting toilets will have a urine diversion in place. This means that urine gets diverted to a separate chamber where a fan or ventilation shaft will allow the excess liquid to evaporate. This keeps your compost pile dry and working in optimum conditions.
#13 Are composting toilets safe?
If you follow instructions and keep your composting toilet in good working order, the composting process will kill off all nasty or potential harmful pathogens and bacteria. After a chamber has been filled and the compost goes through a curing process, you will get a product that is chemically, biologically and aesthetically similar to topsoil.
That’s all the questions we could think of when we talked to everyone in the office. If there’s something we haven’t covered or a question you would like to ask, feel free to contact us or call us on 1300 138 182.