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March 19, 2005

The miracle of composting toilets

Envirolet_composting_toilet

Today I ordered my composting toilet.  I know what you're thinking: What a RUSH.  You're so right.

I've been hankering after one of these babies for years.  I'd even developed that enigmatic facial expression a woman gets when ownership is inevitable; part vixen, part conqueror, part megalomaniac.  You've seen that look on brides.

Composting: The Time Has Come

Lots of people are adding composting toilets to pool houses, remote cabins, workshops, garages, cottages and motor homes.  A composting toilet is the ultimate solution when you want to put a bathroom in a spot that has any of the following issues:

  1. No power
  2. No sewer hook-up
  3. No septic system
  4. No plumbing
  5. No water supply

As it happens, my future bathroom site (in our small barn where I'm building an office) has all of those issues.  How lucky can one girl get?

In the old days the answer would have been an outhouse but there's no way I'm using a kybo when it's minus 35 outside.  And I'm not spending $20,000 on a septic system either. 

Salvation lies in composting toilet technology, which has been around since the Seventies (actually since 1000 B.C. if you count ancient composting pit toilets in India), but is only now becoming mainstream.  You can even buy a composting toilet at The Home Depot now (for around $1800). 

Looking for a bit of a price break, I  got mine in an eBay auction for $1049 U.S.(about $1250 Canadian) and saved the delivery charge (US$79) by offering to pick up the brand new (not used, in case you were wondering) unit from the Envirolet warehouse in Toronto. 

I chose the Envirolet model over its competitors because it has a highly efficient aeration chamber, which means you don't have to add peat moss to the toilet every time you poo, although that's always a good conversation starter. 

The Envirolet waterless, non-electric toilet also comes with a small wind turbine which affixes to the top of the vent pipe on the roof, and helps draw air constantly through the aeration chamber.  This deftly prevents the unit from down-drafting and expelling odors like a relative who won't lay off the bean dip.

Volume Volume Volume

The Envirolet waterless non-electric model is rated for 2 people in a residential setting, but can handle occasional increases in load, like if you have a Canada Day party.   The compost drawer needs emptying about once a year, and you can add the material directly to the garden.  Or to your indoor plants.  Talk about conversation starters.   

French_drainLiquid waste isn't composted, but exits the unit through a small tube that runs outside and into a "French drain" (basically a gravel-filled hole in the ground).  I'm not sure what the French had to do with the invention of this ingenious disposal technique, but I thank them.

If your toilet site has available 120V AC power (or even 12V DC current via solar panels or wind power) you can buy a similar self-contained Envirolet unit that actually heats the contents of the composting chamber, dramatically increasing its capacity.   

Or you can buy a waterless whole-house composting toilet system in which all of the toilets look just like regular toilets, but they empty into a heavy gauge plastic composting chamber that's located outdoors or in the basement.   

If you have a residential septic system that's beginning to fail, consider installing a low-water whole-house composting system, a great way to save yourself the expense of digging a new tile bed.  Plus, a composting system is a lot kinder to the environment than traditional septic systems.

Oh, it's a wonder, the composting toilet. 

More glorious details when we get this baby home and start installing it.   

P.S.  As of fall 2007, I still haven't finished the floor in the new bathroom, after deciding to make the room larger to fit the dang huge window I bought at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore.  My beloved Envirolet is still in the box.  I renovate at the speed of geology. 

Comments

PAM GARRATT DUNLOP

WE HAVE SOME INTERESTING THINGS IN COMMON I BELIEVE, MAG!
I LOVE TO FIND UNCONVENTIONAL USES FOR ITEMS - LATEST PROJECT - SALVAGED THE CEDAR FROM MOM'S RE-DONE DECK, HAD RE-SAWN INTO THINNER BOARDS, THEN PLANED, AND INSTALLED ON MUDROOM AND LOWER LEVEL WALLS OF BRAND NEW HOME. LOOKS AND SMELLS GREAT, AND IT WAS NEARLY free!!!! AN ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN IN ONE OF THE LOCAL PAPERS LAST MONTH, TALKING ABOUT THE VARIOUS THINGS THAT I DID HERE, THAT ANYONE COULD DO, JUST NEED TO THINK ABOUT.
HAD A HOME SHOWING LAST MONTH TOO - LOTS OF PEOPLE CAME BY TO SATISFY THEIR CURIOSITY ABOUT THE SMALL RED HOUSE ON THE BRINK OF THE HILL!!!
I BUILT A LITTLE GETAWAY OVER LAST 2 YEARS - 2 1/2 STORY, BELOW CODE PERMIT-WISE, THOUGH I OVERBUILT IT IN MY CONCERN TO MAKE IT STRONG. I ALSO USE IT TO WRITE - JOURNALIZE, READ, AND SLEEP TOO. NEAR MY OLD HORSE AND LOOKING OUT AT THE STARS FROM MY LITTLE TINY SLEEPING LOFT.
I INVITE YOU TO COME BY IF EVER IN MUSKOKA -

PAM D

Jennifer

Hi Mag,
My husband and I are building a log home from scratch in the Northwest Territories. So far we have done everything ourselves from cutting and peeling trees to milling our own lumber. We are starting to look at the plumbing side of things now and were contemplating a composting toilet. Do you know how well they work at -40C??? It would only be that cold for a week or two tops but that's a long time without a toilet. Always the great outdoors...
Thanks!
Jen

Mike

Hi:
Just stumbled accross your web-site while I was searching used building supplies. I just wanted to say that I'm a big fan. I have watched you on your home improvement shows, many times. I can't believe how elaborate your web-site is. You are one busy gal. Keep up the good work.
We are AAA Atlantic Dismantling and Demolition Ltd. and in the process of starting up an on line catalog for our salvage items that we'll be rolling out on April 10th.
Because of all your articles and creative home improvement tips, I was wondering if we could add a link to your site from ours.
Let me know if you are agreeable and thanks again.
Mike Barkhouse

Jacquie Otis

Thank you to all that make this site and the show possible, we love it! As we are in the business of Home Improvements, and are Women, and deal mosly with Women we think its great to show that Women CAN do Home Improvements! We Love the laid back, relaxed, calm, attention to detail approach, thats us to a tee. We've come a long way baby!
Thank You and Have a Great Day!
Jacquie & Vikki @ Chicks

Chicks with Tools
Home Improvements
905 646 9843
Serving the Niagara Region

gary ezma' cherry

There is such an oppertunity to make a pun here, but it's just wrong. God bless the Queen, and her little thrown.

Penny Mills

Hi Mag, I saw you being interviewed on tv and you said you were considering making a line of tools for women. It has been done. Check out www.tomboytools.ca These are tools designed for women, by women and sold by women. I have seen them and held them myself and can assure you they are ergonomically perfect for our smaller hands and designed smarter and better than man tools. Penny Mills, Victoria, BC

Penny Mills

Hi Mag, I saw you being interviewed on tv and you said you were considering making a line of tools for women. It has been done. Check out www.tomboytools.ca These are tools designed for women, by women and sold by women. I have seen them and held them myself and can assure you they are ergonomically perfect for our smaller hands and designed smarter and better than man tools. Penny Mills, Victoria, BC

suzie Heino

What is the update on your envirolet toilet installation and use? I am considering one for my project.

Home Repair Tips

Cool thing! i read and saw it on TV and planning to have it. Is it really real for the project such kind of think? I will give a try on this and glad to hear it any updates from you!

ugg boot sale

The flowers and candels are just beautiful, looks like your ready for Christmas. Did you start your Christmas shopping yet? I havent we always wait til the last minute to even go Christmas shopping.

canadian sphagnum peat

I love composting toilet. I have seen this one at my friend's vacation house. He said, he'll use it whenever he will go for a trip or whatever gimmick.

solar phoenix

Wow, I didn't even realize they had toilets like this already. That is super awesome!

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