Waterless Toilets. Are They Sanitary and How Do They Work?
Waterless toilets have been gaining in popularity over the last several years. Whether seeking them out due to a lack of plumbing, a desire to save money, or concern for the environment, many are interested in learning more about these toilets. But before you run out and make a purchase, there are some things you need to know about toilets that do not use water.
What Are Waterless Toilets?
Contrary to the name, waterless toilets may or may not use water. However, when they do use water, it is in minimal amounts. This water is just used to rinse the bowl and generally amounts to less than four cups.
There are several different types of waterless toilets, so the specifics on how they work will vary from toilet to toilet. The best choice for you — if waterless toilets are a good choice for you — will depend on various circumstances. Read below to learn more about your options:
Your Basic Waterless Toilet
Your basic waterless toilet has been in use for millennia and goes by many names, but outhouse might be the most familiar to you. The idea behind this is pretty simple; you create a septic space underneath a toilet and allow the waste to be directly deposited into the septic space. However, using a waterless toilet this basic has plenty of downsides, including inconvenience due to the fact that it cannot be attached to the home, and the spreading of disease.
One waterless option that might work in your home, especially if there are plenty of men and boys living there, is a urinal. While many do have water to help clean it out, there are waterless options that are designed to keep cleaning to a minimum. This won’t remove all of your toilet-related water consumption, but it could significantly reduce it in mostly-male households.
When it comes to waterless toilets, composting toilets are garnering the most attention. Composting toilets are toilets that transport waste into well-ventilated containers that encourage decomposition by strictly controlling aerobic conditions within the container. The waste is broken down by natural bacteria and fungi, and in some cases organic matter like peat moss is added to facilitate breakdown. Once the waste is fully decomposed, it is transformed into an odorless waste that is only about 20% of its original volume.
Composting toilets come in two varieties: self-contained units and centralized composting systems. Both may or may not require electric lines or battery power. With self-contained units, waste decomposes in a box that is directly attached to the toilet, requiring regular removal, disposal, and cleaning by the owner.
In centralized composting units, the waste is taken from the toilet or toilets to a central composting station. With this model, you still must remove and dispose of the decomposed waste, as well as complete the required cleaning. However, depending on the size of the central unit, you may be able to go longer between disposals and cleanings that you would with a self-contained unit.
Incinerating toilets are an interesting option. Rather than using biological processes to break down the waste over time, these types of toilets burn the waste inside of an incinerator, turning it into a sterile ash. Unlike composting toilets, incinerating toilets require a source of electricity as well as an exhaust pipe that runs through the roof.
As with composting toilets, you can choose to have a self-contained unit or a centralized unit. Some might feel nervous about these toilets due to the use of flames; however, the flame will not operate when the seat is up, so you are always fully protected. And unlike with composting toilets, there is very little to clean since all that is left is ash.
High-Tech Waterless Toilets
Believe it or not, there is a market for upscale toilets, and waterless toilets are no exception. These high-tech toilets use special, electric-powered mechanisms to remove waste from the toilet, reduce odor, power vacuums that aid in pervaporation, and even charge your phone. Some go so far as to coat feces in a nanopolymer to reduce the chance of pathogens spreading. If you are uneasy with the idea of a waterless toilet, these options are for you.
Benefits of Waterless Toilets
Below are some of the benefits of waterless toilets:
- Easy to maintain
- No plumbing required (urinals being the exception)
- Less money spent on water bills
- In simple systems, there is less that could go wrong
- Allow you to live comfortably without a septic or sewer system
- Reduces the demand on a septic system
- Environmentally friendly
Downsides of Waterless Toilets
Below are some of the downsides of waterless toilets:
- Until the waste is removed from the toilet, the smell is strong without the water barrier of traditional toilets
- With compositing systems, you must remove the waste and dispose of it
- While they can save money in the long run, they do cost significantly more up front
- Visitors might not understand the toilet and could need some instruction, especially with incinerating toilets
- When used improperly, composting toilets can become a health risk
- Waterless toilets in general require higher maintenance
Here at Biard & Crockett, we have more than 50 years of experience taking care of your plumbing needs in Southern California. If you are interested in learning more about how waterless toilets might work for your home, contact us for a consultation.