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post #41 of 165 Old 12-15-2012
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Re: Air Head Composting Toilet or Similar Mfg.

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Originally Posted by MedSailor View Post

Another entrant to the market is the less sophisticated but simpler and cheaper C-head. It has a lot about it that I like....


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The C head is a very different concept, that looks similar, so be careful there. For starters, the C head holds only 10-15 solid uses. The Nature's Head and Airhead hold 40-60. So the c-head has to be emptied far more often, which is a huge disadvantage. Empty the c-head once a week, and the Nature's Head or Airhead every 4-6 weeks.

After 4-6 weeks, much of the earlier material is dried out and composted. However after a week, the c-head will simply be a bucket full of fresh poop mixed with peat moss. The Nature's Head and Airhead, with the composting process going on strong inside, quickly break down new additions of solid matter. Emptying the NH and Airhead will be far more pleasant and far less frequent.

The c-head uses disposable milk jugs to hold urine. They won't last long, and will need to be replaced. That might be ok if you are near civilizatiopn and drink milk. The others use a sturdy plastic bottle that will last forever.

The c-head in my view is pretty much a 'bucket with a seat' system. You remove fresh turds, not compost. It also looks cheaper, in my view. The c-head is not the same thing for less money. It's another concept entirely. For another $300 or $400, I'd get a better looking, more convenient proven toilet like the NH or AH.
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post #42 of 165 Old 12-15-2012
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Re: Air Head Composting Toilet or Similar Mfg.

I had the opportunity to see a composting head that a friend installed on his boat. He removed it two days after I saw it, pretty much echoing Chris' statements. There was a definite, pungent odor on the boat, but I guess if you lived with it daily, your olfactory senses would eventually block it out. Kinda' like entering a home where they owners have a couple dogs and cats - the place smells like a kennel, but the owners don't seem to notice.

As for the sanitation issue, I think this is where common sense must come into play. Those turds contain a large quantity of fecal coli-form bacteria. The definitive test would be to wipe the seat lid, inside and outside, with a sterile swab, then place the samples in an appropriate media in a petri dish. That would be the definitive test of this device.

For me, I'll stick with pumpouts when I'm inshore, and direct discharge when beyond the 12 mile limit. Oh, I asked a sheriff's deputy about peeing over the side. He said he doesn't know of any law in Florida that prohibits it, other than public nudity. He also said laws in other states may address this, but he didn't know for sure.

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post #43 of 165 Old 12-15-2012
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Re: Air Head Composting Toilet or Similar Mfg.

I know a number of people with Air Heads, with the 12v fan, there is no smell and the constant air supply make the composing work better. As far as uses, the Air Head is rated at 60 between dumps.
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post #44 of 165 Old 12-15-2012
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Re: Air Head Composting Toilet or Similar Mfg.

There is a lot of misinformation about composting toilets, spread by people who have never had one. Here I go again ...

Gary, if your friend had a smell problem, he was doing something VERY wrong. If composting toilets have one great benefit, it's that there is ZERO smell. Ask anyone who has one on their boat. You can pinch a proverbial loaf, turn the handle a few cranks and then open the trap door and stick your nose inside and there is no smell. You can come to your boat after being closed up for the week and you won't find ANY smell, at least not from the composter. Even if you don't hook up the fan there is no smell. The fan is to help dry and aerate the compost. Also, I find it hard to believe the guy spent 900 bucks on a composter, uninstalled his marine head and installed his composter only to give up on it after 2 days!

The other thing is the bowl is sanitary. The solids drop into a chamber below and don't touch the walls of the bowl. At first I thought it would take some special aim (with a few brown scrapes on the sides), but it is something anatomical. You just sit and it falls in the right place. In two years and many guests, not once has anyone missed! The urine is directed to a small channel at the front of the bowl and only requires a misting of vinegar and water to keep it clean. So, just to put the issue to rest- there is nothing unsanitary about the bowl (swab away if you like).

That doesn't mean there is no down side to a composting toilet. You still have to dispose of the urine jug (for us, daily, for others perhaps every 2 or 3 days). I just dump it over the side before I go to bed every night. It's sterile and don't we all pee off the rail anyway? The solids you have to dump every month or so (living aboard) or perhaps as little as every 6 months for weekend use. Remember that the solids are drying out into almost nothing so over time the volume doesn't increase if the use is limited to weekends. Again, unless you are very squeamish, dumping the solids is no big deal: just put a trash bag over the box and turn it over. It looks and smells like dirt. No big deal for most people. I actually dump mine in the jungle (not where people will walk) or at sea when well off shore. You have so many options for dumping with a composting toilet, including a garbage bag and the dumpster. Is a composting toilet "strange" for people used to a flush toilet? Yes, but the short learning curve is worth the effort for the many benefits.

What are the benefits? As I see them, they are:

Safety: You remove 2 through hulls and the potential for sinking they represent. I read somewhere that the single greatest cause of boat sinking is the seawater toilet (back siphoning being a big one!).

Space: You gain a lot of space when you remove the holding tank, hoses etc. The footprint of the composting toilet is the same or even less than a water toilet. It's just a bit taller.

No odors. (see above)

Many options for managing your waste (see above)

Simplicity. Nothing can break, leak, explode etc. The absolute worst that can happen is that urine gets into the solids chamber (a male guest standing to pee a few times in a night of beer drinking). This turns the composting chamber into a wet mess that can smell. The solution is to just dump the contents and fill with fresh coconut fibre and you're good to go again. Compare this "fix" to the typical "toilet disaster" involving a regular marine toilet (blocked toilet, pump leaks, holding tank leaks, stinky hoses to change etc.).

Price. A Nature's Head or Air Head is going to run you about 900 bucks or less. That's it. Add all the various plumbing bits, holding tank, pump, toilet etc. of a wet head and see what comes out cheaper.

I won't get into the ecology debate as it will just incite arguments. One can make a pretty good argument for the composting toilet being much more ecological, especially if you dispose of the compost in your garden or in the woods (and not in the dumpster).

A final word about them is this: if you are contemplating installing one on your boat you owe it to yourself to get opinions from people who have one installed. Visit a boat with one, talk to the owner and do a little research and see what is involved in using one in real life. Composting toilets are not for everyone, but you won't find many (almost any!) people with regrets who have installed them. I know of exactly THREE cases of people un-installing theirs (C&C being one). If you have a specific question, there are a few Sailnetters here with them, myself included.
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Last edited by copacabana; 12-15-2012 at 02:35 PM.
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Re: Air Head Composting Toilet or Similar Mfg.

RichardB123, I agree 100% with your comments on the C-Head. Apples and oranges.

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Re: Air Head Composting Toilet or Similar Mfg.

I was instructed by the sales rep to use commercial size non-bleached coffee filters in the bottom of the bowl before I use it and the footprint is the same as a port-i-pottie (but 6" higher).
I lived on my boat for 5 years without using the port-i-pottie in it....I used the "shore head instead, as soon as I get my air head installed I will be using it.
I recycled the bronze pump from the original head as an auxiliary manual bilge pump and/or sink sump pump (my galley sink is below the waterline). Nice shinny bronze pump at the base of the companionway step
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Re: Air Head Composting Toilet or Similar Mfg.

Wolf, using the coffee filter is optional on the Air Head (many don't use it). I think you'll find the solids just drop into the chamber with no fuss. The coffee filter will just fill the composting chamber faster.

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Re: Air Head Composting Toilet or Similar Mfg.

Thanks, finding commercial sized bleach free coffee filters in bulk has proved difficult anyway. I don't live near a big city and don't drive.
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Re: Air Head Composting Toilet or Similar Mfg.

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Originally Posted by travlineasy View Post
I had the opportunity to see a composting head that a friend installed on his boat. He removed it two days after I saw it, pretty much echoing Chris' statements. There was a definite, pungent odor on the boat, but I guess if you lived with it daily, your olfactory senses would eventually block it out. Kinda' like entering a home where they owners have a couple dogs and cats - the place smells like a kennel, but the owners don't seem to notice.
It sounds like your friend installed or used his toilet incorrectly. There is a tight seal on the compost chamber. A fan creates negative pressure, so there is literally no way odor can escape into the boat. Even when sitting on the throne, the air is sucked into the bowl, away from the user. You don't even smell your own poop. There is less odor than the toilet at home. Your friend should call the dealer, and they can figure out what he has done wrong.

Now, there is some misunderstanding out there regarding how to deal with the solids. After the toilet is full (about 6 weeks for us), you'll need to store the solids somewhere else for another 12 weeks, for the composting process to fully complete.

This is what we have found works best, after years of experience. Take a compostable plastic bag (cheap from the hardware store) large enough to go over the lower solids bin. Invert the soilds bin and dump the contents into the compostable plastic bag. You don't need to clean out the toilet - left over material helps start the composting process again. Add peat moss and close the toilet. This is a fast job, and not unpleasant at all.

Then take the bag, and put it in a 5 gallon bucket (usually free from a restaurant). Leave the bag open, through some dirt on the top. Put the lid on the plastic bucket, and punch some small holes in the lid for ventilation. That's it. In 12 weeks, put it on plants. For a coastal cruiser this is about as easy as it gets. No pumpouts!

If we are on a long cruise, we can't take the material home. So, we try to visit a marine park where the solids can be safely and legally dumped into their pit toilet. In the event we can't find a place ashore to dump, we store the bucket in the lazarette until we can. This has always worked. It doesn't stink at all.

Obviously, when offshore you can dump over the side. Outside of the US, laws are much more logical. In most countries, it's 3 miles out to dump, and as far as "practical" in Canada and New Zealand. That means if you are in the deep channel between islands, you can dump it. US laws are zany when it comes to boating sewage.
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Re: Air Head Composting Toilet or Similar Mfg.

I believe the laws refer to "raw" sewage, I would check into the legality of dumping composted sewage, but it should be legal.
The Coast Guard regulations cover three types of MSDs.[4] Large vessels use either Type II or Type III MSDs. In Type II MSDs, the waste is either chemically or biologically treated prior to discharge and must meet limits of no more than 200 fecal coliforms per 100 milliliters and no more than 150 milligrams per liter of suspended solids. Type III MSDs store wastes and do not treat them; the waste is pumped out later
Section 312 of the Clean Water Act, which is also known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1956, requires a certified operable MSD on every vessel with an installed toilet to prevent the discharge of untreated or inadequately treated sewage into U.S. waters.
A properly functioning composting head would fall under the catagory of a Type II MSD. Though it is not being "discarded" because it does not go through a through hull.

Last edited by wolfenzee; 12-15-2012 at 07:40 PM.
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