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Composting Toilet FAQ

1. What is a composting toilet and how does it work?
For a very detailed explination, have a look at these two posts....

What is a composting toilet

How does a composting toilet work

For more information, have a look at what Wikipedia has to say about it.

2. Does a composting toilet smell bad?

Nope! Most modern composting toilets are designed to evacuate the odor via small 12v fans so your home will never smell like an outhouse.

Even better, composting toilets generally separate liquid waste from solid waste preventing sewage smell in the first place.

3. Where can a composting toilet be installed?

Short answer.. Any where you want! Composting toilets come in all shapes, sizes, and options. from no power or water to AC electric plug-in and low flush systems. There is literally a composting toilet for almost any situation.

4. Do I have to use a special kind of toilet paper?

Nope! any old toilet tissue will work just fine.

5. Can baby wipes, tampons, diaper liners, paper towels, or other similar items be put in the toilet?

Since these items do not breakdown as quickly as toilet paper or human waste, we highly recommend against putting them down the compost toilet. Introducing these items to your compost system could effect your storage capacity very quickly.

6. How do I clean the toilet?
The outside of the toilet can be cleaned using any type of regular household cleaner of your choosing. Around the rim of the bowl and inside the bowl of the toilet, we recommend using Compost Quick Cleaning Spray. This is a special toilet and bowl cleaner designed for composting toilets. It contains a compost accelerating agent that will aide in the breakdown process of your compost. If you don't want to use Compost Quick, you can also use a solution of hot water and baking soda. You should not use chemical toilet bowl cleaners in your composting toilet, because these products can kill the aerobic bacteria that are a vital part of the composting process.

7. Is it easy to operate? What kind of ongoing maintenance is required?

If you can go to the bathroom, you can operate these systems. Most systems require no operation at all, just like using an outhouse without the smell. Others require you use a small cup of bulking material each time you use the system. Pretty simple!

Maintenance is minimal. With a properly sized system, you should have to empty and clean it maybe once or twice a year.

8. How do I know which composting toilet is right for me?
There are several things to consider when choosing a composting toilet. First, how many people will be using the toilet each day? The answer to this question will likely impact whether you choose a self-contained unit or a central system. Second, do you want an electric or non-electric unit? And finally, do you want a water flush or waterless toilet? For help in selecting a composting toilet system that's right for you, please visit our Product Selection Guide.

9. Is it difficult to install? Do I need a professional installer?

Some of the larger systems may require you to find a contractor depending on your abilities. In most cases, if you have a minimal handyman type ability and some basic hand tools, you can do the install yourself.

Other systems can be as simple as plugging them in and using it.

10. Will a composting toilet meet my local building code?
In many communities, composting toilets are an already approved method of waste treatment and disposal. However, local building codes and regulations do vary, and in some communities, composting toilets simply haven't been "approved" yet. It is the consumer's responsibility to check with their local building department officials to be sure our composting toilets will meet their local regulations before buying and installing a unit. 

11. What kind of drains and/or water hookups do I need?

It really depends on the system you choose. Some systems require an overflow drain be routed somewhere. You can have this drain down into an existing sewer or septic line, or even create your own drain field yourself.

Water hookups also depend on the system. Most systems that use water, use a simple low flush toilet and require very little water, while others require no water hookups at all.

12. What if I don't have any electricity or water available in the location where I want to put the toilet?
No problem. Off Grid And Green offers different models of toilets that require no electricity and models that use no water. For more assistance in selecting a non-electric and/or waterless composting toilet system that's right for you, please visit our Product Selection Guide.

13. What if I live on a slab, have no elevation, or want to install a toilet in my basement?
In all of these cases, you would need to purchase a self-contained composting toilet. 

14. What do I do in the winter if I have no heat?
For extended winter use, the composting unit has to be kept warm (specifically, warmer than 55 degrees Fahrenheit) for the microbes to remain active and composting to continue. It may be helpful to insulate vent piping on all units to avoid icing, and where applicable, also insulate inlet piping and drain piping. Electric units should remain plugged in to minimize the chance of freezing. To reduce energy costs, you might also want to consider installing a fan speed control on electric units. This reduces cold air intake and heater operation.

For limited winter use, it is okay to allow the compost to freeze. In this situation, the unit can be used as a holding tank, so long as there is enough space in the compost bin. It's important to remember that the drum should not be rotated if the compost is frozen, and if you have an electric unit, be sure to plug it in while in use so that the fan will eliminate any possible odors. For more details on winter use of your composting toilet, please see the Product Instruction Manuals available on each product detail page.

15. How and when will I need to remove finished compost? What do I do with it after it's removed?
When the drum is half to 2/3 full, you'll need to remove some compost to the finishing drawer. This is a very quick and easy process, and no tools are needed. Simply release the drum lock, rotate the drum backwards, and some compost will drop automatically into the finishing drawer. The entire process takes less than a minute, and most importantly, you never come into contact with fresh material.

In the finishing drawer, compost will be isolated from contamination by fresh material. The compost should sit undisturbed in the finishing drawer for at least 4 weeks, or as long as you want. At that point, it will be sanitized and finished and can be removed at any time.

What do you do with finished compost? The finished product you get from your composting toilet will be a clean and dry compost that is sanitary. It is essentially the same finished product you would get out of a backyard garden composter, or the same product you'd go to a nursery or garden center to purchase. We recommend putting the compost on your flower garden or other landscaping area.

16. What if the toilet gets clogged? Can I use a plunger?

If you do clog a composting toilet, give us a call. I have never seen this happen and am curious what it would take to accomplish it.

17. Can I compost my kitchen scraps and/or yard waste in it, too?
We do not recommend composting kitchen scraps, yard waste, or any similar items in your composting toilet. First, adding anything besides human waste and toilet paper will adversely affect the capacity of the unit. When you choose a composting toilet, the most important consideration is the capacity rating. Our capacity ratings are stated as the number of people using the toilet per day. If you add other products to the toilet, this will throw off the capacity and can cause a problem. The other primary issue with adding food scraps and yard waste is that these items can potentially attract insects.

18. Will I have a problem with methane gas or sewer gasses?
No. Methane and other sewer gasses are byproducts of anaerobic composting. This means that the material being broken down isn't exposed to enough oxygen for aerobic bacteria growth. All our composting toilets are designed to encourage aerobic composting through aeration of the contents of the bin. Every 2 or 3 days while the toilet is in use, you will pull out the drum handle (which is recessed on most self-contained units) and rotate the drum 4 to 6 times. This ensures that the aerobic bacteria have ample oxygen to do their job, and thus you won't have to worry about anaerobic composting that could create sewer gas.

19. What is the expected life of a composting toilet?
The expected life of a Sun-Mar composting toilet is 20 to 25 years.