Benefits Of Having A Composting Toilet

Having a composting toilet in the RV was one of the things we were adamant about. There are so many benefits to switching out the traditional toilet for a composting toilet. We sold the toilet that came with our RV (yes, it is possible to sell a used toilet and one perk is that it kept that toilet out of the landfill!) and replaced it with an Air Head Composting Toilet.

 

On our way to sell the RV toilet.

 

We will be writing a few posts about having a composting toilet for those who are curious or on the fence about it. This post will focus on the benefits of having composting toilet in an RV (some of these benefits can also apply to installing it in a boat, cabin, tiny home, or regular house).

Environmental

The amount of water used to flush toilets is mind-boggling. I always knew it was a lot of water, hence my previous house had a high-efficiency dual flush toilet and we followed “If it’s yellow let it mellow”.  But I didn’t realize exactly how much water until recently. Here are some quick numbers that will probably blow your mind (data below is from this site):

In 1992, Federal plumbing standards specified that all new residential toilets could use a max of 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF). This means that if your toilet uses 1.6 GPF and you flush 5 times a day (American Water Works Association estimates that average), then you would use around 2,920 gallons of water per year. If you have a high-efficiency toilet that uses 1.28 GPF that means you will use 2,336 GPF. Now if your toilet is an old school one that uses 5 GPF then you will use 9,125 gallons per year.

That is a lot of drinkable water that is wasted on flushing bodily waste.

While I haven’t been able to find out exactly how many gallons per flush RV toilets use, I do know that it’s a less than even the high-efficiency toilets. But those toilets are still using fresh water that could be used for drinking, cooking, or simply conserved.

As we all know, water is a finite resource. Sure, some cities recycle their wastewater to be reused in homes, but that takes a lot of energy and resources to do. Jerud and I believe that we should change our actions to reduce what we use, rather than using whatever we like and relying on technology to come up with more resources. And we find the composting toilet to be perfect for that. Switching out your traditional RV toilet to a composting toilet is the biggest water conservation move you can make.

BOONDOCK LONGER

RV dry camping is limited in length by a number of capacities:  Freshwater, grey water, black water, propane, and battery.  Our battery capacity is solid and we don’t need propane anymore.  The “Air Head Composting Toilet” eliminates the need for a black water tank completely (so we removed it), leaving us with only grey water and fresh water to manage.  In our case, removing the black tank cleared the way for us to permanently connect our galley and bathroom grey tanks, effectively creating a single, 80-gallon greywater tank. 

While RVers who boondock are typically pretty aware of how much water they are using and find ways to conserve water (although often by using a lot of disposable products), any fresh water that you don’t use for flushing a toilet could be used to drink, cook or shower. Our fresh water tank holds 40 gallons of water while our combined grey water tanks hold a total of 80 gallons. This means that as long as we can get our hands on fresh water while we are boondocking (more on that in another post), we can stay out until our grey water tanks are full –without a single drop of black water.  This makes it easier and less stressful to boondock, more often, and for longer periods.

Black Tank

We’ve only had to dump a black water tank once, before we renovated the RV. And that one time was enough for us to never want to do it again. In addition to that, we’ve also heard disgusting stories from other RVers of things gone wrong while dumping black water tanks - just Google “dumping RV fails” and that will help convince you to convert to a composting toilet. That is an entire category of gross things we never need to deal with again! When you have a black tank there is the need to add chemicals into the tank to control the odor and to help break down waste. And in spite of using chemicals a lot of RVers who boondock still complain about the smell after several days of not dumping. Our “Air Head Composting Toilet” doesn’t have any stinky smell issues, and it's easy to see how full it is, without relying on tank sensors that full-timers know are never really reliable. And by not having a traditional toilet we don’t have to clean out the black tank with freshwater.  Conserving water is good, even if it's the washout-water at the dump station!

 

Good bye black tank!

 

Weight

Not having a regular toilet in an RV will save weight on your rig.  Some folks are cutting it closer than others to stay within their axle or tow vehicle’s ratings – we are very close due to our extra off-grid equipment.  The table below summarizes worst-case weights for both systems.

 

Conventional Toilet

Air Head Composting Toilet

Toilet, empty

10.5 lbs.

25 lbs.

Blackwater Tank

33.5 lbs.

0 lbs. – removed!

Sewage / Compost (full)

320 lbs.

40 lbs. *

TOTAL WEIGHT

364 lbs.

81 lbs.

 

 

* Assumes that both the 2-gal. urine bottle and 5-gal. solids chamber are completely full; data provided by the manufacturer.

Saving that much weight with a composting toilet allows RVers to use that weight for other things like adding another fresh water tank, bringing more tools or toys, or adding more batteries to a rig.  We'd never have the space or weight capacity for our batteries without making the switch to a composting toilet.

Having an “Air Head Composting Toilet” allows us to have the off-grid lifestyle we want on the road and achieve our sustainable goals. Give us a shout if you have any questions about composting toilets or the “Air Head Composting Toilet” specifically. And keep an eye out for more posts about our "Air Head".

 

Our Air Head composting toilet.

 

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