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Hi All,

The 20+ year old head started to give us some trouble on our 8 day cruise last week. I was getting rinse water down the bowl while in the flush mode (it was pee coming back into the bowl), so obviously I have some seal problems. While looking for rebuild kits, I spied a new head (complete) for $148 (not much thinking required there). The boat is plumbed with the rinse water coming from a through hull (for me that means brackish water in port and salt water everywhere else). My options are to live with that or plumb a new line from the house water system. We have have heard stories of nasty smells using salt water.

What are your experiences using salt water rinse versus fresh water (holding tank), chemicals that help etc. Thanks.

Dave
 

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the smells can be combated with whatever freshener you feel like using...we used pinesol or bleach or joy if the water outside was dubious or too muddy or brackish

we never had an issue with saltwater rinse...ever...

every once in a while we poured white vinegar in the bowl in rinse mode and let it sit and this descaled whatever crud, calcium or deposits are in the lines and inlet etc...

again no issues whatsoever...

I dont like the idea of fresh water rinsing simply based on the economies of doing so unless you have a huge boat and tankage...I also think its wasteful.

ps what head are you looking to buy? we had a lavac I think...it was vaccum operated with a hand pump on the bulkhead and that thing NEVER ever plugged up...the vaccum did the trick, all you had to do was check the seal oring ever once in a while on the bowl lid and thats it.
 

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* Do NOT plumb directly to potable water. Bugs can swim upstream into the rest of the water system. This is why all home toilets have an air gap or other backflow prevention mechanism. You can use the sink drain or use the shower sprayer to fill the bowl.

* You can buy the pump as a unit, making for a very easy replacement with a long life. This is a popular option, since it is easier than replacing the head and contains all of the moving parts. The rebuild kit is not a good deal. You should be expecting to replace the joker valve on any head every 1-3 years.

* The little bit of leakage you describe probably does not harm function and can simply be ignored.

* Seawater flush sailors have trouble with scale build-up, but not brackish, if they flush enough. Depends on how brackish. But if the boat survived 20 years, I'm guessing not too bad.

* The stink is only the first flush or 2, when you've been away for a while (anaerobic bacteria convert the sulfate in seawater to sulfide). On extended trips it is not a problem. Whether freshwater flush makes sense depends significantly on whether you have trouble with running out of freshwater; if you are stopping in marinas a lot or have big tanks, freshwater works well. If you stay on the hook a lot, shower, and have smaller tanks, not so much.
 

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scale or crud depends not just on salinity...microorganisms and other critters can also plug up the hoses and stuff

I found saltwater out in the ocean to be the cleanest and easiest and least smelling of the waters

I found fresh water or river water to be the worst smelling...

the point about use is paramount, if you dont use the head often thats when smells and crud grows...shrimp and little crabs too! barnacles as well.

in any case use it often and if leaving the boat for a while a splash of pinesol or vinegar or whatever helps keep things at bay

when cruising we routinely used those pipe brushes/cleaners and would poke all the thruhulls when taking a swim to cool off...
 

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I would not plumb a "normal" head to fresh water because it would limit my cruise-ability.

That said, I LOVE my Vacuflush head, which uses 1 pint, or less, water to flush from the fresh water tanks. The fresh water reduces smell considerably. Also, this system uses an integral anti-siphon loop to prevent the "bugs" from gaining access to the rest of the freshwater system.
 
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BJV
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Have worked on many heads and found generally the cheaper heads need rebuilding more often. We live aboard for 8 years, ful time cruiser for 5 and have been very happy with Raritan products. Our phll is going on 12 years and only part we replace is jocker.
We find with constant use, raw water calcium build up forces us to replace jocker every 6 months.
 

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head quality is important obviously

we replaced nothing on the vaccum head in 4 years of cruising...with a long year period of no use...(it was 15 years old when we bought the boat)

the cheapo heads do indeed suffer more and need that little gasket in the pump assembly replaced more often

the current head on my boat also had the spring completely corroded and thats why the diaphragm wasnt pumping back and forth correctly...so we replaced spring and all is well...

Im surprised to hear you need to replace the valve every 6 months though...thats excessive
 

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The 20+ year old head started to give us some trouble on our 8 day cruise last week. I was getting rinse water down the bowl while in the flush mode (it was pee coming back into the bowl), so obviously I have some seal problems.
Exactly. It is the seal in the pump - an o-ring between the white side and the black side.

What are your experiences using salt water rinse versus fresh water (holding tank), chemicals that help etc.
Raw water (salt, brackish, or fresh) has a lot of organisms living in it. Those die in the plumbing between the thru-hull and the toilet rim and smell bad. Occasionally you'll get something like a baby squid that smells quite awful.

Chemicals are of no utility unless you close the thru-hull, pull the hose, and flush the intake water size with something (hot water with vinegar works well). This is a PITA.

Liveaboards have fewer problems as the regular use of the system itself flushes the rotting organisms through, unless you pick up something that won't fit through the rim holes. Ugh.

Regardless your cleaning regimen will be more frequent with raw water.

* Do NOT plumb directly to potable water. Bugs can swim upstream into the rest of the water system.
Often true but not always.

For conventional manual toilets and those with electric conversions (anything with a two-sided pump) you are at significant risk plumbing fresh water. The pump housing with the handle you use to flush the toilet has white water on one side of the plunger and black water on the other side. There is a single o-ring between. You cannot, even with a new greased o-ring, count on bacteriological separation. You could get sick. You could die. I'm a guy that takes my lunch to work in the morning and eats it at noon with no refrigeration. I wouldn't plumb fresh water to a manual toilet.

In this respect pdqaltair is spot on.

Toilets that are built specifically as electric toilets can be plumbed for fresh water. The Jabsco Quiet-Flush II on Auspicious can be switched between fresh (which we use inshore) and raw water (offshore). Vacuflush toilets can also be plumbed either way or configured with a valve to choose. I think the Lavac can do the same but check with St. Brendan's Isle for details.

The upshot is, as pdqaltair stated, there needs to be an air break just as there is in shore side toilets.
 

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our lavac had a valve fwiw...it was the most reliable equipment on the boat...whch is hard to beleive considering head issues are up there with engine issues ports all over the world

peace
 

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I've only seen the fresh water systems on bigger boats with lots of fresh water capacity and maybe a water maker. One of my friend's boats, 54 feet, had one head that was fresh, and another salt water. They didn't use the fresh water one on the offshore trip south to save water.
 

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If the source of raw water is taken from the head sink thruhull ,Closing the thru hull and filling the sink with fresh water will allow the head to flush with fresh for time out or winterizing .Here in the Salish Sea, taking all the outlet hoses out and whopping them against a piling is normal behaviour
 

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Dave-
Salt water is full of critters and nutrients. So is scummy pond water. Use either one in the head and if there is any sitting in the pot or lines it will of course be an active culture medium and grow stinky things. Most of us use it anyway & try to pump dry, because that's the only practical option.
But if you've got the space, by all means add a day tank to flush with potable water. The safe way to do that, and ensure there is no possible contamination back, is to literally install a small day tank up against the overhead. Fill it once per day (etc) with a galley foot pump or small electric, as you see fit. And then it can gravity drain into the head, to flush it. You may want to "T" that line to the usual raw water intake as well, just in case you're tight on fresh water and want to flush with raw water some day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the replies all! Don't want to get sick, so won't hook the house water to anything in the head. Will hook up existing raw water rinse and give it a shot. Worst case scenario is to pour a glass of fresh water into the bowl and flush.

Dave
 

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Dave-
If you've ever noticed, the overflow drain on a sink is always located well below the mouth of the faucet. So there's no way water can back up into the supply from a filthy sink or drain, it can't levitate.
If you set up the daytank fill similarly, so the water physically cannot be siphoned back into the supply (i.e. tank supply is higher than the tank air vent or overflow) then you get the same protection. This is the universal gold standard for all big-city sanitation codes.
Do it right, and there are no moving parts and no possible way to get sick.
 

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When we installed a Lavac (really like it) we plumbed the sink drain and head raw water intake to the same thru hull. For normal weekending and short trips when water is in abundance we close the thru hull, run fresh water into the sink, through the drain and into the toilet - works great and (I think) keeps the smell down as well as the salt water/urine interaction that we think over time clogs up hoses.

When long range cruising we simply open the thru hull and use salt water to flush.

Seems to work OK so far.
 

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Thanks for the replies all! Don't want to get sick, so won't hook the house water to anything in the head. Will hook up existing raw water rinse and give it a shot. Worst case scenario is to pour a glass of fresh water into the bowl and flush.

Dave
I've got freshwater-plumbed Vacuflush systems on the current boat, which work great. However, on my previous boat we had a standard Jabsco pump head plumbed to salt water. Odors weren't really a problem unless we left the boat for a few days or more. That was easy to solve by filling the bowl with fresh water from the shower/faucet fixture and pumping dry before leaving the boat for any length of time.
 

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What toilet? Do not use vinegar. It will eat the rubber or silicone parts is the unit. Also no oils they coat the hoses. I use tuff coat on the pump seal only. My toilet is 9 years of use. Buy Peggy hall's book it' great.
 

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I would be very cautious about connecting pressurized water to a manual head.
Fresh water is definitely preferable to salt for rinsing a marine head, but the head must be set up for an inlet pressure of 30# or more, which I would doubt your $150.00 head is.
 
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