This doesn’t just work, it works brilliantly!
As I write this, it’s been over six weeks since the DIY compost loo became operational, so I feel it’s a good time to take stock and tell you how it’s been performing.
A Quiet Revolution
In the part 2, I recounted the problems of buffeting from using an 80mm fan, blowing into a 68mm hole. A 60mm fan sorted out the problem, but highlighted the noise of the fan (this particular model anyway), which in my view became obtrusive. I did some research and found a ‘branded’ fan (Sanyo) to replace than the unbranded units I have previously purchased from Maplin. It was advertised as a ‘silent’ fan, although the decibel rating showed it clearly wasn’t silent, but it would be quieter than the earlier units.
My concern was whether the reduction in noise came solely from a lower RPM, which might not move enough air to enable the toilet to perform correctly! Anyway, I took the gamble and ordered the fan. It arrived and was easily fitted in place of the previous 60mm unit. I was pleased that the wires seemed more sturdy, which made the electrical connection quite straightforward.
The moment of truth came and I turned it on. Good news, it really was a lot quieter and although the fan speed was slightly lower, most of the noise reduction seems to be achieved through better design and components (note to self, if you buy cheap parts, expect appropriate performance!).
…if you buy cheap parts, expect appropriate performance!
Most of the noise is in fact echoes of air movement through the vent pipe – changing the vent pipe arrangement can make a difference to the noise – experiment and see what works best for you.
Since then, we now sell ‘silent’ 12v fans that come in a moulding that will directly connect to 68mm drainpipe. You can find them in our shop here: 12V Silent Fan.
Because I insulated and lined my shed a few years ago, it is quite air tight and I was concerned that there was not a good flow of fresh air into the shed. Without a fresh air coming in, the fan would be working harder than it should be and the whole system would not be working at its best efficiency – possibly reducing the life of the fan. To help with this, I fitted a small controllable air vent to the door of the shed.
Sprucing Things Up
The final thing I wanted to do with the compost toilet was to give it a coat of something to a) make it look prettier and b) give it some protection against spills.
I had some exterior garden furniture/shed paint in a cream colour, so used that. My throne now looks the part and is completely functional.
Six Weeks On…
Since I fitted the fan, six weeks ago (at the time of writing), I can report that I have only used the flushing toilet in the house once for a ‘solid’ deposit. Come rain or shine, I’ve trundled down to the shed to use the compost loo pretty much exclusively. I reckon this equates to saving around 650 litres of fresh, drinking quality water (if you’re on a water meter, this equates to around £4.20 of water assuming each flush is around 5 pence).
The main point to note is that there is no smell at all. In fact, the previous musty ‘shed’ smell that was there (probably because there was very little air movement in the shed) had also gone – in other words, fitting this toilet had actually improved the air quality in the shed!
I’d opted for the Separett Privy 500 toilet bowl kit which comes with a polystyrene type seat and lid (as opposed to the Privy 501 which has a ‘regular’ seat and lid). I was initially concerned about the durability of the seat material and thought that at some point, I would replace it with a standard loo seat. I still am slightly concerned about the long term durability of the Privy 500 seat – kids will undoubtedly pick at it over time, but the up side is that it’s so comfortable and warm on your bum compared to a regular loo seat! We’ll have to see how it stands up to the rigours of daily use, but if it does wear, I will be tempted to get a replacement polystyrene seat.
Although the toilet was fitted and working, I wanted a way of washing my hands in the shed. I had previously purchased a 2nd hand ‘Whale’ hand pump (the type often fitted to caravans and boats) from Ebay and fitted this onto the worktop in the shed. A length of hose goes from the bottom into a Jerry Can on the floor, which I periodically fill with water. A plastic bowl under the tap means I have hand washing facilities on tap. When done, I take the bowl and pour the dirty water into the urine part of the loo bowl – this will also help stop urine crystallising in the pipes and prevent any ‘latrine’ type smells.
Using the Toilet
As I mentioned above, the polystyrene seat makes using the loo on a cold November evening not as bad an experience as you might think. As I sit there on the loo, in my shed, under the warm LED lights powered by the 12 volt battery, charged from the solar panel, there is a degree of smugness that comes over me! This doesn’t just work, it works brilliantly!
This doesn’t just work, it works brilliantly!
There are a few different aspects that you have to get used to. Sitting on the loo, you feel a slight draft on your ‘undercarriage’ as the fan draws air into the loo – it’s not an entirely unpleasant experience, but probably one you’re not used to! When you’ve done your business and wiped your bum, the loo paper all goes into the solids hole and there’s no getting away from the fact that you are looking into a bucket of poo. I’m not entirely used to that yet, but I’m getting there!
When the Bucket is Full
The one thing I haven’t had to do yet is empty the solids bucket. After 6 weeks, I guess it’s nearly full – hard to tell exactly as the loo paper bulks it out a bit, but I might get another week before it needs changing. Separett say that the Villa 9000/9010 models will serve the average family for around 3 weeks before the bucket needs changing and my experience is pretty much in line with that.
I hope that my resolve holds out and I continue to use the compost loo over the regular loo throughout the winter and beyond. I’m sure that there will be times I’ll cave in (when it snows perhaps), but I’ll give periodic updates.
I think one of the main reasons this is so successful is the ventilation system (12 volt fan etc) which ensures absolutely no smells at all in the toilet area and accelerated drying of the solids in the bucket. In a future blog, I will look at alternatives such as using cover materials as several of my customers have opted to try this route first, so I can gather their feedback for your benefit. I fully appreciate that there may be times or places where you cannot fit any type of fan so we’ll look at alternatives and how effective they are.
I’ve made a short video showing the loo in place and discussing how it’s used etc.