Installing a composting toilet.

Kris Cringle

Super Anarchist
3,267
2,906
 I've been anticipating doing this for a couple seasons. I'm struggling more and more with overboard discharge these days, that's the main reason for this change. 

I talked/corresponded quite a bit with two users I know and trust.

One couple with an Airhead cruising/living aboard full time overseas. 

The other couple with a C-Head coastal sailing in Maine pretty much as we do. Also very happy. 

Their experiences made for an easy choice: C-Head. We just didn't need the capacity of the Air head.

So online I check specs on the C-Head to fit our space. We have a raised platform due to hull curvature, like our friends. C-Head had a model that fit the ledge fairly well. None of them fit most boat heads that well as they're bigger than most marine heads. Several emails with no response. I finally connected with somebody at C-head via facebook messenger of all things. I sent a photo and specs of the space. That model was discontinued. He would go through their storage thinking they still had a few of the discontinued available. 

A week or more later, no response. I went back to emails and through messenger to try to re-connect. No luck. Should I have called? Maybe, but phone calls seem a tedious mode of info/detail exchange on a subject like this. Blame raising millennials. 

Meanwhile, I stumbled onto this. When I realized it was electric, I passed - at first. I'm enjoying removing another complex system, plumbing granted, but still maintenance/repair heavy (I have 3 boats and nearly 40 years mostly with a family of 4 using marine head/holding systems).  

OGO1-07.png  

But after some thought and no reply from C-Head, I kept going back to check the design. https://ogotoilet.com/

A smaller footprint than the C-Head. That would help with the raised platform. 

One mention from my friend with the C-Head was the daily urine container draining. OGO is nearly 3 times the volume, and like Airhead, spares are easy to get. 

On the electric auger: It's too new to tell how that will hold up but each important component; the container with the augers (and seal), and the motor, are seperate and replaceable. The more I researched, the more I like the idea: Slide solids door closed, press button - auger works for 2 minutes and shuts off. 

The light when the urine container is nearly full: That's a good thing from what I read from all composting toilets. 

C-Head claims you don't need to vent. I believe them, but,...the vent arrangement on the OGO just makes sense for me on our boat. With light usage - weekends, solid waste capacity means likely weeks between removal.

A muffin fan pulling air through the composting toilet housing and sending it out a small clamshell on the house makes sense to me. Our head has a 4" cowl vent on a dorade box so it is very well vented but I like the idea of the composter having it's own air circuit. 

Then, the design for use all around just seems an improvement in most areas of use. I'm not squeamish (I remember changing diapers) but there is a huge difference between an 'outhouse' and your toilet at home. This design leans away from the outhouse,... a bit more than some composters. 

It's a done deal and ordered, and the best part can begin ripping out head, holding tank, pumps, valve, yards of hoses. I'll even zip off the 1 1/2" thru hull, original, that's about due for a new one. It smells better in my mind, already. 

I don't know what life will be with a composting head (I've used them ashore of course) but I'm already on the other siding of storing waste in the slurry form on a boat. 

This new simple waste system keys into my quest to simplify our life on the water as well as extend the time systems (fuel, water, provisions/ice, trash/waste treatment) affect where/when we sail.

I've named it, R2-D2. 

Head wide angle (1 of 1).jpg

 
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ProaSailor

dreaming my life away...
6,123
809
Oregon
Looks good, more civilized (no hand crank to stir after pooping) though more complex so many more points of failure than the C-Head.  The hole in the bottom of the "solids bin" for the agitator drive shaft will surely leak at some point?  Even the mechanism to open the trap door looks potentially weak.

For comparison: https://www.c-head.com/




 

Blue Crab

benthivore
16,506
2,717
Outer Banks
The C-Head guy was very responsive to me when mine came with a crack ... 7 years ago, no vent.

Too late for you but others may read ... so here's the reality: The C head cabinet is a cover for the real truth: it's just a bucket inside. The cabinet is easily modified to fit where ever, and it wouldn't even matter if the entire back were absent. It's a cover for a plastic bucket.

And now you have an electric auger replacing the simple hand-turned crank of the C head. The higher liquid volume storage would be nice but here's the drill for me: LIFT LID AND SEAT, GRAB GAL MILK JUG CONTAINER ... DUMP. RINSE AND REPEAT. It doesn't have an indicator light which sounds really nice. Instead, it has a slot that allows you to actually see the liquid level, caveman style.

This new simple waste system keys into my quest to simplify our life on the water ... 
Ha ha. Good one. 

I call mine the C-Head.

 

kimbottles

Super Anarchist
8,055
784
PNW
The Bob Perry designed Sliver Class Daysailer FRANCIS LEE has been using a C-Head since she was launched in 2014. We found Sandy was very easy to reach by phone in 2014, maybe he has been swamped with business as his very simple straight forward composter appeals to those of us who want simplicity. The C-Head in FRANKIE has performed flawlessly now since it was installed. One hint: use coconut coir as your composing medium. (Ours is not vented, but here in the PNW we have mild temperature. Might need a vent for warmer locations.)

 
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ProaSailor

dreaming my life away...
6,123
809
Oregon
And now you have an electric auger replacing the simple hand-turned crank of the C head. The higher liquid volume storage would be nice...
Despite the inherent reliability of its simple design, manually stirring the shit is a hassle that many would prefer to avoid.  Best would be a powered system for cranking the C-Head with the manual crank only as backup.  I strongly prefer the standard bucket of the C-Head with no hole in the bottom!  Five gallon buckets, and apparently many other parts of the C-Head, are available anywhere.

 

Alex W

Super Anarchist
3,346
322
Seattle, WA
Don’t underestimate how quickly you’ll fill the pee tank.  We empty the 2.5 gallon one daily when cruising (2 adults, 2 kids) and twice daily when doing long sailboat races with 8 crew. The tiny c-head pee tank always scared me away.  I’ve often thought of making an external pee tank for our NH that is 6-10 gallons (or just route the pre hose directly overboard), but haven’t done it because it would be hard to hide that we do overboard discharge with it.  

That Ogo looks like a nice size improvement over our tall Nature’s Head. 

 
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Kris Cringle

Super Anarchist
3,267
2,906
The Bob Perry designed Sliver Class Daysailer FRANCIS LEE has been using a C-Head since she was launched in 2014. We found Sandy was very easy to reach by phone in 2014, maybe he has been swamped with business as his very simple straight forward composter appeals to those of us who want simplicity. The C-Head in FRANKIE has performed flawlessly now since it was installed. One hint: use coconut coir as your composing medium. (Ours is not vented, but here in the PNW we have mild temperature. Might need a vent for warmer locations.)
Coir sounds like the medium. Peat is out for environmental reasons. A question: What form/brand of coir do you buy?

 

Blue Crab

benthivore
16,506
2,717
Outer Banks
I strongly prefer the standard bucket of the C-Head with no hole in the bottom!  Five gallon buckets, and apparently many other parts of the C-Head, are available anywhere.
Big time. That hole has to be trouble ahead. pun intended.

When you get this deal unpacked, you think "Heck I could build one of these in an afternoon." Then I looked at the cabinet, and had to honestly say, my work wouldn't look this good. 

I found coir to be a real hassle and use peat. We conscientious boaters don't make a dent in the evolutionary picture. When it's not a huge hassle, I deposit the solids in the woods where it continues to compost. After a couple of good rains, ya can't tell where I deposited the solids. I checked and continued to use the same spot for several years. Now there's a condo there. 

 

Blue Crab

benthivore
16,506
2,717
Outer Banks
I buy coir in this big and dense block (many kg) that you break up with a pick and hammer. It’s about $20 for a multi year supply at a good hardware store. 

This smaller pack would probably work well with one slice per use:

Coco Bliss Premium Coco Coir Brick 250g, OMRI Listed for Organic Use (10 Bricks) https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07DPTWBQZ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_i_WX7V53JNVA0DAKQR5MZW
Like I said, this is kind of a big hassle in the marina parking lot. Then there's the storage. Day sailers can keep the medium at home but it's a hassle if you're on the go or a liveaboard.

 

Kris Cringle

Super Anarchist
3,267
2,906
 I strongly prefer the standard bucket of the C-Head with no hole in the bottom! 
Me too! That was my first concern. It has a raised hub above the bottom of the bucket,  and in theory, liquid shouldn't be much of an issue. The motor and bucket have a simple cog connection. 

Screen Shot 2022-03-05 at 10.41.50 AM.png

Plus the tank with the mechanism is available as a single part if that connection wears ($105). I do see that as a wear out spot (I think I've seen notes on C-head of wear issues at the crank handle hole). 

In the end, they have a 5 year warranty on that so I'll take the chance (and watch it).  

 

Sail4beer

Usual suspect
10,372
3,678
Toms River,NJ
The idea of a larger “liquids” holding tank is important for any time on board. There should be no reason to vent a composting head as peat or, as Kimbottles suggested, coconut husk shavings. The “solid” portion of the waste is dropped into a pile of peat and covered after “blending” and there are no “leftovers” exposed to the atmosphere and our noses.

Thanks for posting this thread, I’m just planning the same type of retrofit for the cutter so I can liveaboard this summer. I don’t want to be a slave to the pump out station. I already removed the old head, lines and holding tank.

 
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Bull City

A fine fellow
7,187
2,824
North Carolina
My youngest son was in the Peace Corps in Panama, and is a fan of composting toilets. He used saw dust.

If you're on a mooring or in a marina, how do you dispose of the "end product?"

 

Happy

Super Anarchist
2,948
1,564
Tropical Oz
I've had a Sun-Mar GTG toilet for the last two years.  Smaller footprint than most composters, same height as a normal toilet.

No stirrer, only moving part is the fan. Urine bottle gets emptied twice a week (one user) when it's about half-full. Easier to handle than a full one. Solids bucket takes about 10 days to get near full. Line the bucket with a heavy-duty bin bag, easy to tie up and walk to the dumpster.

Use sawdust! 

Coir is expensive, heavy, and the dust clogs the fan. It takes less storage room, but uses water to reconstitute and is basically a PITA to work with. I get a bag of sawdust that''s as big as me for $10 from the local cabinetmaker's. Lasts about 14 months. Smells nice too.

 

Fah Kiew Tu

Curmudgeon, First Rank
10,396
3,483
Tasmania, Australia
Interesting topic. A swap to a composting/waterless toilet is on my upgrade list as well. The Lavac works well but you can't get away from the plumbing and around here there ARE no pump-out stations so overboard discharge is what happens.

http://www.abetterwaytogo.com.au/separett-villa~789

This range looks good but I'm not sure about fitting the big one space-wise and the 'tiny' model looks too tiny. They used to have a weekender model that looked perfect but is now apparently discontinued.

As I'm currently building a small boatshed/guest accommodation and these things are actually approved it's likely I'll buy one and fit it, see what I think. Then decide about the boat. We used to have a Clivus Multrum composting toilet at the fishing shack so we're familiar with the requirements.

Anything with a crank handle/auger leaves me unimpressed - it's going to cause problems, the only question is when. It has moving parts.

FKT

 

Kris Cringle

Super Anarchist
3,267
2,906
On 'medium' this seems a good source: 

https://eco-loo.co.uk/whats-the-best-cover-material-for-a-compost-toilet/

Two things they rate highly that are easy for me to get are wood shavings: I can buy a compressed bale from my local farm supply. Also, wood pellets. I burn them so have available in 40 pound bags, at my house.

Each would store easily onboard in the locker that will soon be freed of holding tank, overboard pump and hoses. Neither would need any prep like Coir bricks, just some moistening. 

Any experience using these two options? 

 
Hello,

First time caller long time listener

We’ve lived aboard since 89 and swapped over to a composting head in 2008. Hated every type of head we ever installed until the composter (Natures Head) came along. Sure a composting set up can be more work and maintenance but none of that work includes having to get up close and personal with fresh sewage.

I’ve used peat moss, coir, sawdust, rice husks and mashed up dead leaves.. The only one that didn’t work in our case was the sawdust which may have been because of the type of wood. Out of the lot I like coir the best, yup, reconstituting it is a whole other step which is a hassle but I do like that it packs small. Some peat moss brands sold in the tropics have a chemical in it that kills the good bugs, ask me how I know.

Weirdly, it’s really hard to find coir bricks in Central America. I’ve actually had to have it shipped down to Panama.

I also learned the hard way to always chuck in a sprinkle of Diatomaceous insecticide to keep the fruit fly infestations away. Once those bastards take hold its a real pain in the ass to get rid of them. I basically had to disinfect the whole head.

When I bought the head I also ordered a second bottom half. When its time to swap out I replace the used bottom with the fresh second bottom. The first used one is then stored in or on the lazzerette where it continues composting for a whole month or more. When its time to swap out again I empty that guy and add fresh coir, rinse, repeat. The compost at that point in time is well on its way to becoming dirt. I’m no longer surprised to sometimes find new green plants growing in the well composted bottom. Shitting seeds I guess.

This second bottom idea is not really necessary of course and I can’t recall hearing of anyone else doing this but it works for us.

Also ordered an extra pee bucket for when its too rough to empty the full one. I dump the pee bucket every day for 2 people so its true they fill up faster than imagined.

Never really needed to vent in northern climes but for some reason in the tropics on our boat I had to get serious with the venting. I modified the vent hose to incorporate a water trap and an inline “fan cassette” that allows the computer fans to be replaced more easily. I seem to go through a few of them, salt water I guess.

The water trap and fan idea idea came to me one night in boisterous conditions. Lots of green water coming over the boat eventually filled the composter with sea water via the deck vent. Emptying that thing at 3 am was memorable.

Don’t care, still love the composting head even after 13 years!

Bryan

7225E753-1C8C-46D8-BA0D-868A437C8B20.jpeg

 

smj

Member
141
89
From what I’ve heard Sandy sold the C-Head company to his nephew, so maybe things aren’t what they use to be.

We use a combination of corn cob kitty litter with the coconut coir, best combination we’ve used in the 16 years of composter use, and inexpensive from WalMart.

50E43C20-3446-4DA4-8E5B-95F8BD6F0530.jpeg

 

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