Top 10 things to know before buying a composting toilet

Top 10 things to know before buying a composting toiletSeparett toilet

1. Will it stink inside? Absolutely not, as long as you have a toilet with a vent and fan. The fan draws air into the toilet, and exhausts the stinky air outside. It should never enter the bathroom area.
2. Will it stink outside? There can be a bit of odor where the vent terminates the home. This is less with a urine diverting toilet. The vent should not terminate near a deck, door, or opening window. If in doubt, run the vent up to the roof line. Do not believe anyone that tells you that you don’t need a vent. There is moist, stinky air in that toilet and it MUST go outside.
3. How much does a good composting toilet cost? You should expect to pay between about $950 and $2000 for a high quality composting toilet with a vent an exhaust system.
4. Is it legal? Probably, but legality varies widely. Usually, permits can be obtained (if necessary) by approaching senior managers at the county office. Inspectors generally can’t approve them, because it’s not in the code book. You can read my detailed post on the subject here.
5. Is it a urine diverting design? The better toilets separate urine from solids. Urine is practically sterile, and very easy to dispose of safely. Solids begin drying out quickly, lose odor, and also become easy to dispose of. When you combine urine and feces in one tank, it becomes much more difficult. You might need powerful heaters.
6. What do I do with the solid waste? You need to think about this carefully, because human solid waste can pollute the water and make people sick. Store the waste in a compost bin outside (I like the rotating bins). Choose a bin that is sealed, and cannot leach any liquid on to the ground (but is not airtight). Ideally you will have 2 bins. Once the first bin is full (and that can take a year or more depending on the number of users), start using the second bin. When the second bin is full, the contents of the first bin can be placed on non edible plants.
7. How will I vent it? Vent it through the wall or roof. Most of what you need should be supplied with the toilet.
8. How will I get rid of the urine? Urine can go into a gray water system (with the shower or sink water), or it can be drained into a rock pit.
9. How often will I empty it? The smaller composting toilets like The Nature’s Head for 2 people need to be emptied every 3-4 weeks with full time use. The larger toilets like the Separett will be emptied about every 3-4 weeks with 4 people using full time. This varies with the amount of toilet paper that is used.
10. Is there excellent service and support? Customer service and support is critical when buying a composting toilet. Make sure you can reach the appropriate people directly and easily. You will have questions. It’s best to buy from someone specializing in composting toilets, rather than a hardware store, or someone selling all kinds of products. You need expertise here. It’s critical to get the right toilet, and to install it properly. A person that also sells solar panels and tiny home gear may not have the requisite knowledge.

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26 thoughts on “Top 10 things to know before buying a composting toilet

  • Lyle Brown

    I’m looking at alternatives to a septic tank toilet. Are these legal to be installed in rural areas? Has there been any reasonsuggestions why province in Canada will not allow these?

    • Richard Post author

      They are installed legally all the time, all over Canada. But approval is not automatic. There is nothing about them in the code book, so the inspector can’t just say yes. Authorities are rightly much more concerned with what comes out of the toilet, and how you plan on dealing with that. Please read my post on the subject, and follow the link in the post to the official government guidelines in BC (BC is way ahead of everyone else on this).

  • Andrea Sauter

    Am very interested but would like to know how soon would it get to me, I live outside of the kingston Ontario area in the Seeleys bay lyndhurst area, im building a tiny house and would like to get the right kind of compost toulet

  • Sandy

    I am looking for a composting toilet for cabin use. Family of 3-4 using it for a few days about 6 times a year. Goes unused sometimes for 3 months in the off season. We have solar power and can run a fan while we are there. We currently have a sun mar that has broken. Would prefer a smaller toilet. We do have high volume of liquid waste. Wondering if a urine separating toilet would work better for us. Thanks!

    • Richard Post author

      Most urine diverting toilets can handle unlimited urine. Leaving the toilet unused is no problem. It sounds like the Separett 9210 DC/AC would work for you.

  • mike seery

    We are thinking of installing the Separett composting toilet in our RV. How difficult is that and what would the ventilation look like in an RV? Thanks.

    • Richard Post author

      The Separett will not fit in many RVs, unfortunately. Please check the measurements carefully. It’s a 3″ vent, out the roof. The vent is PVC pipe. The Nature’s Head is the usual choice in an RV.

  • Kelley

    It appeared that in one of the Separatte videos, that some sort of white pad was placed in the bottom of the solids container in the green bag but no mention of it anywhere? Can you explain this and also why this toilet needs no bulking medium? Quite interested in this toilet for a bunkie situation, off grid.

    Thank you.

  • Jeff bruin

    Is a compostable toilet suitable for winter use where there is no heat, or electricity? We’d be using the cabin for up to two weeks at a time in the winter months. How do you deal with freezing temperatures?

    • Richard Post author

      Cold temperatures are no problem at all. Just continue using the toilet. The contents may freeze, but that is not a concern.

  • Susan Manion

    I have a separate toilet that I had installed recently at my cottage that has no electricity and the fan is powered by solar panels. At the moment my solar powered batteries are low and the inverter is “beeping” and it looks like I am going to have to unplug the fan until the batteries get up to the right charge. What can I do in the meantime to keep the fan going and in the long run what should my “back up” plan be to keep my fan going in cases where my solar charged batteries need recharging? Thank you.

    • Richard Post author

      There is no way to keep the fan going without power. You need to charge the batteries. Maybe have another battery already charged?

  • Ang

    We are considering a composting toilet but our outhouse is not insulated and temperatures are well below zero for about 6 months a year. What happens when there is no heat and no electricity ~ would we remove the toilet in the winter months?

  • Simone Nicholls

    We are looking to install a composting toilet in our pool house. We live on a 2 acre property on Vancouver Island. Which product would you recommend? Would a French drain be sufficient for the urine? What kind of electrical outlet do I need and how much power does it draw?

    • Richard Post author

      I suggest the Separett 9210. A French drain us usually sufficient, but we should discuss it. It draws 0.8 amps.

  • Daniela

    We have a cottage with a small septic and one washroom. My husband wants to use a seperate toilet and we also need it for guests when there are lots of people visiting. We are there most of the year on and off, even in winter although less often than summer. We will build a little outhouse and there is only one extension cord we can use for electricity. We are by the lake but it would be hard to get water except with buckets. Please give me an idea or the best toilet for our situation. Thank you!

    • Richard Post author

      I suggest the Separett Villa 9210. You need to think about the urine drain. Urine is not a health risk but it is a strong fertilizer. It can’t go into the ground if you are right beside the lake. You should be at least 100 feet away.

  • Helen Cooper

    I have a tiny house that I want to use as a guest house ( I have constant guests all summer) I have bought a 4×6 shed to turn into the bathroom but I’m not sure what compost toilet to get. Ready to order one but I know nothing about them and I’m not sure what I’m looking for!! Any pointers would be appreciated.
    How do I go about ordering one from you and what’s the time line for delivery?

    • Richard Post author

      I suggest the Thinktank waterless toilet. It is very easy for guests, and unlike other urine diverting toilets men can stand. This makes it easy for your guests. No handle to turn, no peat moss to add. It’s simple and easy.

    • Richard Post author

      Excellent question, because many toilets have fairly small openings for the solid waste. The poop will make a mess in the bowl. Toilets with this problem include the Nature’s Head, Airhead, Ogo, etc. Cleaning can be a lot of work, and unpleasant. The problem is solved with the Thinktank or Separett toilets. These toilets have huge chutes for the solid waste and very little clean up is required. There is no “bowl” and nothing for the waste to hit. If it has to be cleaned, spray with water and wipe off.