Composting Toilet Buying Guide

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Written By Andrea Bullock
UPDATED:
Composting Toilet Buying Guide

If you are shopping for a composting toilet for the first time, there is probably a lot for you to learn about this amazing equipment that allows people to take care of their biological needs while creating compost and not using water at all. The eco-friendliness of these toilets is really important for the environment, as well as the convenience of being able to use them in different places, such as homes, cottages, cabins, RVs, and more, especially if there is no/limited access to water or electricity. This guide and FAQs will give summarize all the information you need to know about composting toilets, so you can learn enough about them to make an informed decision of what is the best kind for you to purchase based on your needs and expected usage.

The first question to ask is what are composting toilets? In simple terms, these are toilets that turn human waste products and toilet paper into compost, by using the natural processes of evaporation and decomposition. They don’t require water from an external source like regular toilets do, since the waste that enters the toilet contains approximately 90% water content. This water content is evaporated through a ventilation system, which also helps with odor control. The remaining solid organic matter is turned into compost through the process of decomposition, which is carried out by the bacteria present in the matter when there is the right balance of oxygen, heat and moisture in it. The final product is compost without any harmful pathogens or viruses, which is completely safe to use as a fertilizer. The composting process may be controlled by electricity in some toilet models, while others are non-electrical.

Composting toilets have pros and cons when compared to traditional toilets. What makes them attractive to most buyers is that they are environmentally friendly, since they are safe to use, they do not require water, and they can create a valuable output by making compost that can be used as a fertilizer for any garden or green space. Also, they make for a better option for smaller spaces or places such as cottages, RV trips, cabins, etc. where running water is not available, or there is a limited supply of it. They are easier to install, and they are more economical to use than traditional toilets. On the other hand, composting toilets have a limited capacity of use since they can handle a smaller number of people or uses over a period of time, while traditional toilets can deal with more usage and a larger number of people using them.

Now that we are clear on what a composting toilet is and how it works, it is important to understand its various features to decide which type is most suitable for each person’s or their family’s needs.

Types of Units and Capacity

Composting toilets come in two different types: central or self-contained. Central units connect to a larger tank in a different location, while self-contained units have a smaller tank incorporated in them.

The tank is where the composting takes place, so central units are better for larger groups of people and allow for more waste being composted, while self-contained units are better for smaller groups of people and smaller locations. Self-contained units are also significantly cheaper and easier to install, since there is no need to get additional tanks and attached them to a toilet as central units require.

This difference in the type of unit and tank location also leads to a difference in the tank size, which translates into the unit’s capacity. This refers to the amount of waste and compost a unit can hold without overflowing. The required capacity is dictated by how many people will be using the toilet and how frequently. For example, a toilet used in a small cabin just a few weeks a year by a couple requires a much smaller capacity than a toilet that is used in a home with a family of four during the entire year.

Electrical or Non-electrical

Another factor to consider is where will the toilet be used so a decision can be made on whether an electrical or non-electrical unit is needed. Electrical units take advantage of an electrical system, which increases the speed of the composting process. Therefore, this is often a preferred option when electricity is available. Having said this, many composting toilets are used in places where electricity is not available or it is not reliable, such as remote areas, cabins or cottages. In these instances, a non-electrical unit would be best so the toilet can be used and serve its intended need and use.

Size and Weight

An important factor regarding anything you purchase is that it will fit in the space where you intend to install it. In general, composting toilets are larger than traditional ones because of their ventilation systems and tanks (especially self-contained ones). Having said this, they come in a wide range of sizes, toilet seat shapes, etc., so make sure to get this information upfront and measure the space where you plan to place it so that you purchase one that will work for you.

Another consideration is how much they weigh, which also plays a role in where you will put it, including the type of flooring. As mentioned above regarding the size, toilets come in many different weights (i.e., from 40 lbs to over 100 lbs). Therefore, consider if your toilet will go upstairs in a home or if you will need it for a mobile home, as well as the floor type, to ensure that you choose one with a weight according to your needs.

Installation, Maintenance, Safety and Warranty

One very desirable feature of composting toilets is how easy they are to install – much easier than traditional toilets that require plumbing, water hook up, and more. This is especially true for self-contained units since they only require to be anchored to the floor to avoid them from moving, installation of the ventilation pipe, and connection to an electrical outlet if it is an electrical toilet. Central composting toilets are also easy, and only require the additional step of hooking them up to the central composting tank.

From a maintenance perspective, composting toilets require a bit more work than traditional ones. They both share the need to keep the toilet bowl clean, while composting toilets also require that the compost is taken out on a regular basis to avoid messy overflows. Here is where the capacity feature described above is important since larger tanks will require less frequent emptying and less maintenance, while smaller tanks will require this to be more frequent. You will need to determine what is best for your specific needs. If you choose an electrical toilet, you will also need to regularly check the connection to avoid issues that could lead to toilet malfunctioning.

If everything is installed correctly and the toilet is functioning as expected, safety should not be an area of concern because the compost produced should be free of bacteria or pathogens, making it safe for use as a fertilizer in any garden or green area. Also, if the electrical connection is checked regularly as mentioned above, especially if the toilet is in a vacation cottage or place that is not always in use, there shouldn’t be any electrical safety issues for anyone using the toilet or handling the compost removal.

Finally, it is important to consider the warranty options available though, as already mentioned, proper maintenance leads to safe toilets which also should not require any warranty usage for parts. The best warranty available is 5 years for everything, while others offer 5 years on parts and 3 years on the toilet bowl. You should check what each manufacturer offers to ensure that it meets your needs.

Pricing

All the features described above for the many different types of composting toilets available lead to products at various price points. They are always more expensive than traditional toilets because they are more complex to build, but they also offer additional functionality and output, which is very desirable and important for some people and in certain scenarios.

On the other hand, these toilets also lead to money savings since water is not required at all – just think how many times each person flushes a traditional toilet and the water that goes down the drain! – and you never have to pay for expensive compost again. Both features have a positive impact on your garden and the environment, which can be priceless.

All the information outlined will help you understand composting toilets and everything you should consider when purchasing one. To summarize, you should find the type of toilet that works best for you and know that you will spend more upfront since these toilets are pricier, but you will recover the money in the long run as you save on water and avoid purchasing compost. You will also save the environment in the process, which everyone will thank you for!