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Outhouse deluxe

Composting toilet in former ice fishing hut

The outhouse updated! This Envirolet composting toilet, the deluxe AC electric model, is possibly the most unusual farm purchase I’ve made so far, mostly because it was quite expensive and I’m not 100% sure why I got it. With a hefty $500 off on special, it was still somewhere around $1,200, which on the tiny farm budget counts as a major purchase (the used John Deere riding mower cost the same, and it does fieldwork!). And considering that you can build a composting toilet for little or no money, from scrap wood… Call it divine inspiration, like: “You must get this toilet”? Anyhow, it’s here, it’s been here since around Feb. 2007 (the special offer was expiring), it hasn’t gone unthought-of or unmentioned,…and it’s finally, slowly, getting installed for this season! The general idea is to have facilities in the field, which is a lot more convenient than heading into the house. Still… These toilets do sound quite amazing: odorless, comfortable, able to compost six months of humanure into a thin layer in a slide-out tray. Models range from no power, to AC/DC (has a fan), to regular AC plug-in (fan plus heater for the coldest days). The more power, the higher capacity, as the fan or fan/heat speed up evaporation: this one is rated for 8 people x 3 “uses” per day. I guess I had visions of LOTS of toilet traffic from the field. And this attractive little waste-handler is quite an inviting intro to personal waste recycling, compared to a hole cut in a board (and you can use these in homes to replace regular flush toilets as well!)… For installation, the original plan was to build an enclosure, but this discarded ice fishing hut came up as a ready-built alternative. Converting it is only a few hours work, but it’s being done in little bits and pieces. First, the rotting door was removed and the frame widened to let the toilet in, the various built-in ice fishing conveniences—bench, shelves—were removed, and some rotting floor replaced. Next step, fitting the toilet’s ventilation pipe through the ceiling. And then, interior decoration! A coat of whitewash for a start… Coming soon!

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13 Comments

  1. Briel

    Awesome upgrade. I have a basic question about composting toilets which I’ve never had answered. How does the “waste” get into the bottom of the toilet without water? Is it just an open hole into the bottom? So, what does it look like Under the Lid?

  2. willing hands organic farm

    Mike,

    Very glad you posted your composting potty.  At least you have a house to go to.  There is no infrastructure at all where I farm.  It is just a 1/4 acre of ground-no buildings, no water, no electric.  When nature calls I have to go down the road to the mulch business I rent from.  Needless to say this is not convenient!!! 

    I have been thinking of a composting toilet but the cost is soooo crazy expensive.  The Humanure Handbook is a very cool book written by a guy Jenkins, can’t remember his first name.  He has had his 5 gallon bucket, set in a lovely custom framed “box”, for many years.  After use sawdust and lime are sprinkled over the waste. When the bucket is full he composts it and uses it on all non-food plants. Fascinating read.

    So far I have not delved into the humanure system.  I am certified organic and get inspected.  I can’t imagine the inspector’s face if I had that set up.  With all the food borne illness in the news I am very aware of sanitation stuff.  I did get a Lugable Loo from a camping supplier with a little privacy tent for when the business is closed. But I do not like, nor is it acceptable, to not have running water for handwashing. Disinfecting wipes are not the same as hot water and soap.

    I try and practice GAPS, Good Agricultural Practices. HACCP certification would be nice but they won’t approve no running water.
    Anyway I am intrigued with your project. Please post more on the tech aspects.  Real Goods sells a bunch of composting toilets, AC, DC, fuel etc. They are a very good company. I purchased my solar system from them.

    Julie

  3. Andrea

    What an upgrade from the proverbial shit in the woods! Now I HAVE to come back to visit!! I will be back in September for the a Southern Ontario wedding tour but I’m not sure I’ll be in the neighborhood…

  4. Briel: I’ll include pictures in another post, when the toilet is ready to go into action! I imagine you can find picks at the Envirolet web site elsewhere online. It’s basically just a compartment, with filtering and aerating gear inside.

    willing hands organic farm: Yeah, I hear about the Humanure Handbooka lot, in fact, it’s been on my Amazon to-buy list for a year or two. Here, the amount of compost from the toilet won’t be significant compared to the size of the garden. I’ll probably spread on flower beds somewhere around the house. Your land set-up sounds pretty hardcore, I know someone who tried a really small, remote garden last year, and found it really hard to have to commute all the time, even though it was only 20 minutes each way. The whole access to land issue, including real estate prices, zoning, the whole bit, is quite disturbing, none of it favors real small-scale…

    Andrea: It’d be great to see you again!!!

  5. I’ve been researching composting toilets myself. What do you like about the Envirolet, or was it just the “special” price? Here is a good composting toilet review if you want to compare other brands. I might have to go look at the envirolet now too, but from your pictures the chamber looks pretty small. Good for an outhouse, but maybe not a full-time indoor toilet?

  6. Everett: I wonder why Envirolet isn’t in that set of reviews? It seems like a big, established company, the tech support by phone was good (I called with pre-purchase questions), and the ordering and delivery were all smooth and no problem. I’d definitely check ’em out. But no, I didn’t do an any real research, it was kinda impulse, plus the special. But I also chatted with a couple of students at a local environmental and forestry college, and got the impression that Envirolet was a “best” name in composting toilet fan circles! They have a full line, including flushing toilets for homes that have a central composting tank. Their web site has tons of info.

  7. crystal alba

    hi i know you know my name now.i want to find out that were can i find the people.

  8. Susan Heino

    I am interested in comments from people who have installed and used composting toilets–what did you like/dislike?  Should I go this direction even though my health department says I will regret it?  They say it is messy, stinky etc.  The envirolet sounds good, has anyone had experience using it?

  9. I am curious how your composting toilet is performing a few years later?
     Everyone is excited when they first install their new toilet but the stories seem to change later on.  That was the case with my experience.  I had an Envirolet self contained 120vac model that I tried to operate for almost 2 years with no success.  I spent many hours on the phone with their support staff.  At first I thought I was alone because all of the reviews on the Envirolet website are positive but now I am finding that any independent reviews tend to be quite negative for those people trying to use their toilets full time.  In an effort to get the truth out there I have published the story of my Envirolet experience here: http://practicallyoffthegrid.com/2010/03/envirolet-composting-toilet-fit-for-the-pit/
    My advice now is to put the same $2000 into building your own working composting toilet.   I will avoid Envirolet like the plague for the rest of my life.

  10. Susan Heino

    Please get it up and running–I am very anxious to hear what you think of it.  We still haven’t made a decision on our composting toilet.  Looking forward to hearing more.

  11. These small self contained units (envirolet, biolet, clivus, etc..) are definitly limited at best ie: 1-2 people full-time and you’ll be busy maintaining these buggers. They will work on an intermittent use type basis (camp, cabin, etc..). If you want a maintenance free/perfomance guaranteed system for a full-time home a “box” off the shelf doesn’t work, a performance designed system for your particular geography and usage can be found at: http://www.best-composting-toilet.com
    These systems are guaranteed to work, if you leave your e-mail and request a contact list they will supply phone #s of 45+ public systems some over 10 years in service with little to zero maintenance.

  12. Hi everyone, well we think we have the best composting/earth toilet for the money only$200,  http://www.lodge-tech.net   we also have Geodesic Domes, Greenhouses and Yurts, at some of the best prices as well, let us know what you think?

  13. Black Elongated Toilet Seat

    Can the compost be used on the fields with crops for human consumption? I thought that there were rules preventing the use of human waste on crop fields due to the transmission of human parasites? Does the composting process remove these making the waste safe?

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