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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 05-02-2007
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Poo processor

I'm seriously considering installing a Sun-mar mobile composting toilet on my new-to-me CS 36. The lectra-stink is in hell where it belongs, and after considering the costs of reinstalling the holding tank, redoing the valves, hoses, etc, and having to pump the tank every other week or so (we are living aboard) I want to try something different - besides, the thought of sleeping inches above thirty gallons of human refuse churning and bubbling away gives me the willies.

Has anyone here ever done this? Any previous experience with a composting toilet? The marine unit they sell uses 120 watts to cook the goodies into carrot and marigold fertilizer. I've yet to work out the wattage details of my boat's 12v system, but is 10 amps an "excessive" draw when away from the dock? I have 4 new "premium" 6v golf cart batteries, a 100Amp alternator, and three large solar panels, although I don't know their capacity.
The price for one of these toilets is quite competitive, about $1300.00 Ca for everything, and when they work right there is no smell apparently (unlike the disgusting mess in there now).
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Old 05-02-2007
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I dont know but being the sceptic and jaded boat owner. I wouldnt waste the money. How does it work heat then what. How do you get ride of the waste. "In a no discharge Zone you still need to get it out without dumping it overboard. There are a lot of new no discharge zones and more on the way. Even my Lectra-San is getting tossed. It is to confusing for the average Cop. Dont need to go to court to prove Its ok to use. Just cause the cop is in a boat dont mean he knows a thing
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Old 05-02-2007
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Average power use is quoted at 63 watts so in 12V terms that is about 5amps x 24 hours a day or or around 120A/H's per day. For Reference...this is about what the average cruiser users per day for EVERYTHING on the boat...so the unit is a real power hog and a serious challenge for on the hook cruising and battery/charging systems.
At the dock this is no problem but I would not consider one myself for on the hook use.
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Old 05-02-2007
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It ferments and dries, in separate stages, losing most of it's mass. At the end it is sterile compost not sewage and I have no idea the regs about dumping compost overboard. But two people in a month produce something like a gallon of compost which can be given to gardening friends or just tossed into the garbage. The 12 v heater can be cycled if one wishes, or just shut off, but this does slow the cooking process down. I suppose I could pick up a ten amp dedicated solar panel. I wonder-is this the future of boating? Where you deal with your own crap instead of hauling it around until you can give it to someone else?

Last edited by HoffaLives; 05-02-2007 at 11:14 PM.
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Old 05-02-2007
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I'd agree with Cam... doesn't make sense at the moment to get something like that for non-dockside use.
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Old 05-03-2007
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There was a thread about this on either Sailing Anarchy or the Cruisers Forum. There were a couple of people there who had used them. I believe that the consensus was that they worked well if they were used constantly, but if they were allowed to sit for a week or two without any fresh "ammunition" they tended to stop decomposing. It is not 100% necessary to run electrical current through the system, the electicity is used to heat the sludge and to increase ventilation, to speed up the process...if you're in a warm climate you can get by without the electrics ...
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Old 05-03-2007
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These units have failed to catch on, even ashore, with the most ardent eco-freeks. hint, hint. One of the problems you are going to have, other than the fact that cooking manure stinks until completely dry, is that a boat moves about and that is not the best way to produce compost effectively. I think the biggest drawback you are going to find is the smell. If you thought your head smelled before just wait 'till you start cooking piss and s***. I am sure the manufacturer will tell you this will be no problem. I am equally sure that it will be. I was on the first merchant ships to have sewage treatment and the learning curve was odiferously painful. I'm not sure you understand how much juice it's going to take either. Reread Cam's post. It's gonna take alot of energy to make it so your s*** doesn't stink. A solar panel is not the answer.

Lastly, after you are done testing this marvel of engineering, which i remind you they cannot give away ashore, you will have approximately zero chance of selling it to another boater, unless you know Al Gore. From what I understand, he'll buy anything.
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Old 05-03-2007
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Well, I know it's "not the way to do things", but there can be prejudice against different ideas without a guy having any real experience in it. I know they haven't caught on ashore, but why would they? Like every other "green" product, it's too expensive. Who's gonna shell out a grand to compost their poo when you can drop a $200.00 unit in and forget about it. It's not like anyone will thank you for it. There have been growing pains with the technology and some of the results were awful from what I've read, resulting in a bad rap. And there is the squeamishness factor; not many people will put a poo digester in the house, regardless of how well it works; we've all grown up learning to just flush it away.
On the sailing anarchy forum a guy installed a couple and apparently the customers think it's great. I also suppose there are different kinds of systems. The passive one's like the airhead seem to generate a lot more stink. I was hoping to get the attention of a member who has actually tried a modern version of composting heads, but I know they are few and far between.
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Old 05-03-2007
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Hoffa-
"and I have no idea the regs about dumping compost overboard. " You say it's compost, the man in the blue suit will say it is sewage from your head. The discharge regulations don't say anything about sewage becoming anything else--no matter how finely aged it is. If it came out of your body and went into a head--it's now sewage. All told, is it really worth trying to be the first guy to change the laws on that?

Aside from that...no, you won't be buying a dedicated 10A solar panel. Remember, most solar panels put out about 4x their rated hourly output in a full day. So if you wanted 120AH from a panel, you'd need a 30-40A dedicated panel just for the head. Not cheap, or inconspicous. And of course, you'd still need more battery power ($ and weight) to store some of that.

Composting is a great idea, but composting human waste is discouraged in the US because of sanitation problems. If it isn't cooked right--it is still a source of e.coli and other problems. Those composting heads might be great for something like an isolated campground or an island with space and power, but you may find yourself pining after the old electra-stink if it doesn't work out. And then...what'ya gonna do with a used composting phone booth?

But I'm a pessimist, and it is always a pleasant surprise to be wrong about something like this. I've heard a number of folks talk about putting them on boats over the years--but never heard back from anyone saying "I've been using one for two years now with no regrets, it's been great!".
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not a greeny

first istinct is it no good. pump it out or go for a sail far enough away to dump it overboard. if you are not sailing the boat enough to justify the sail then live on land until you have the time and money to be sailing so it is possible. sorry for the angery response but just what i think is real.

cheers
richmond
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