Composting Toilets

1 April 2011 For the Environment

A composting toilet might be the best upgrade you make at the cottage this year. In Canada and the U.S. cabin owners love their outhouses but everyone hates to clean them out. Here are some tips to help you decided on the best composting toilet for your cabin.

How To Choose A Composting Toilet for the Cottage

If you are unable or unwilling to put in a septic system, a composting toilet is the best solution when installing a new cottage toilet.  Not only is it good for the environment, it will also benefit the cottage garden.

A composting toilet system recycles waste by evaporating the liquid components and then converts the remaining solid waste into fertilizer.

Types Of Composting Toilets

Take the time to plan properly and do your homework when choosing an environmentally-friendly toilet for the cabin.

There are essentially two types of composting toilet systems: self-contained and remote or central. Some units require no water and no electricity. Others use some water and electricity in the treatment process.

Self-Contained Composting Toilet
The toilet and composting system are housed together in a single unit. This type of toilet is normally installed in situations where the expected usage will be quite limited. Often, the self-contained unit is only used when a visit to the outhouse is not possible.

Small cabins or cottages that are used mostly on weekends are ideal locations for a self-contained unit. Many cabin owners also use a basic composting toilet in the guest house, or even keep a small one that is mobile for use when there are extra guests.

When the time comes to clean out the outhouse or even relocate the outdoor privy, it is best to have a simple composting toilet for use at the cabin while the outhouse is out of service.

Remote or Central Composting Toilet
The composting system is separate from the toilet and located under the floor or outside the cottage. This type of toilet is more complex and is generally installed in situations where the expected usage is of a higher volume. Larger cottages and year-round properties are ideal for a central composting toilet.

Composting Toilet Installation Requirements

Before ordering the toilet, think about how it will be installed.  Some toilets require water and electricity connections, support pads and elevated platforms.  If you don’t plan to do the work yourself, get the contractor to size up the job before you order the toilet. This way you will know ahead of time that the installation can be done. You don’t want to be stuck with an expensive flower pot.

How much does it cost to install a composting toilet?
Composting toilet prices range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Installation costs can be expensive depending on the system you choose and the location of the toilet, especially for the systems that require water and electricity.

Charges to have a professional do the work might include expenses for plumbing, wiring and a bit of carpentry. Before you start dreaming of the king’s throne, be sure to set aside the cash to pay for it.

The basic cabin toilets that are mobile require little or no installation at all.

How much space is required to install a composting toilet?
Composting toilets come in a large variety of sizes and designs with options available to accommodate almost any situation.  Once you have determined the location of the new cabin toilet, you will need to take a few measurements.

  • Height of the space below the washroom (if applicable)
  • Floor area available for the toilet
  • Distance to the electrical panel
  • Distance to the nearest water line

Composting Toilet Capacity
The amount of “traffic” the cottage toilet will see is a very important factor in determining which  product you will need.  Some composting toilets can only handle weekend usage by a few people while others are heavy-duty.

Give yourself a wide margin when calculating both your current and future needs. For example, if you expect to entertain more or if the family continues to expand, it is best to plan for the extra usage.

Toilet Maintenance Requirements
Some of the composting toilets require daily maintenance while others can be left alone for a period of time.  It’s important to be realistic about how often you will be at the cabin when deciding on the toilet you plan to install.

Research The Composting Toilets On The Market
There are a number of composting toilet companies in Canada, Europe and the U.S.A. that sell composting toilets and deliver worldwide.  Take the time to explore all of the options before making a decision.

Talk To An Existing Composting Toilet Owner
Someone on your lake probably has a composting toilet.  Go take a look at your friend’s environmentally friendly toilet and find out whether it is the best option for your cabin. Ask about the maintenance and installation issues, and whether or not the size is suitable for your situation.

Planning properly will ensure you get the right composting toilet for your cabin.

Go to the Outhouse Maintenance page.
Go to the Outhouse Is Full – Now What? article to get tips on how to deal with a full outhouse.