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Change from sawdust to nature's head toilet?

 
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Hi,
I'm wondering about the logistics of using a nature's head composting toilet versus a Jenkin's model sawdust toilet.
I have concerns about specific details like aiming the solids versus liquids/how much toilet paper is ok/where does menstrual blood go/ does the urine jug smell/ why do people put sugar packets in the urine jug/what to do with the toilet paper when you pee and so on.
Except for the emptying, the sawdust toilet seems to be super easy compared to using the nature's head. At almost $1,000, the nature's head needs to be pretty awesome versus the frequency of bucket emptying.
Thanks!
 
pollinator
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Thanks for this question. I don't have an answer, but hope others do. I just spent a week on a farm that exclusively uses sawdust, and I was so impressed at how little it smells. It was definitely a pain in the butt how quickly the buckets filled, but that was because there were a bunch of us taking a class.

Curious if others have used Nature's Head, and how that is for filling up and the emptying process. It's a little intimidating, looking at the user guide. And do you really have to use large ziploc bags?!
 
Vicky Peterson
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I think the bags are just a suggestion on how to store and measure out the peat or coir.
 
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it's not exactly what you asked, but have you looked at Separett? We were considering natures head and ended up with Separett. it is the most like a "regular" toilet. rather than collecting urine, it has a pipe that goes outside to an evaporation pit (a simple 3x3 hole with rocks sized gravel to medium). paper goes in it, no real issue on what kind or how much. Solar fan eliminates all stink. composting happens inside provided bucket. feminine products go in trash. nothing to add or othewise do.

we made a venting mistake at first and had some unpleasant smell. after correcting that, it couldn't be easier and other than EVERYONE sitting it's the experience that is most like a normal indoor water toilet - this is most useful for guests who otherwise can mess up the mix.
 
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I don't think the sawdust can be beat by the nature's head. The emptying issue is really just a state of mind issue, how you feel about emptying buckets full of waste. I have a double bucket system and I empty approximately 1.5 times per week. I empty so regularly because I have an infant who uses compostable liners and they fill up the buckets pretty quick. Without those I think I would just be emptying one bucket a week. I also don't mind the task of emptying, it takes me 5-10 minutes and I use that time to contemplate the task and why I choose to not flush. I also would have a hard time dropping $1000.

If you do go with the nature's head, let us know how you like it.
 
                                  
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We use a Nature's Head at our off grid cabin.  I purchased it used, so I didn't spend anywhere near what they're asking for a new one.  With just the two of us we can go close to 2 weeks without emptying the solids.  The urine bucket goes to the compost pile every 2nd day or so.  We don't put paper in the "head", and use fine pine shavings from Tractor Supply as cover material.  Since we are totally off-grid, I've rigged a computer fan with a dedicated solar panel for exhaust.  There was a period where the exhaust fan wasn't operating (during the experimental engineering phase) and the gnats were a much worse problem than the smell.  All in all, we're quite happy with how it's all working out.
 
Vicky Peterson
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Mark Mstevens wrote:it's not exactly what you asked, but have you looked at Separett? We were considering natures head and ended up with Separett. it is the most like a "regular" toilet. rather than collecting urine, it has a pipe that goes outside to an evaporation pit (a simple 3x3 hole with rocks sized gravel to medium). paper goes in it, no real issue on what kind or how much. Solar fan eliminates all stink. composting happens inside provided bucket.



I had not looked at the Separrett. The fan issue looks about the same as the nature's head and not too much of a draw.
I might have an issue finding a good, close spot for the evaporation pit and want to use the urine anyway. The videos I watched all talked about a compostable bag (I'm guessing you buy it from the company?) but you mentioned a bucket? And no added peat or coir?

Thanks!
 
Vicky Peterson
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Daniel Ray wrote:I don't think the sawdust can be beat by the nature's head. The emptying issue is really just a state of mind issue, how you feel about emptying buckets full of waste.



Too true! Emptying is not a big deal to me but, like everything, there's issues.
People in my house are sensitive to dust and mold and I wonder about the sawdust dust. Even with a dedicated dry place to store it and  trying to limit the mess inside, there is certainly some mess/dust. Also, using the urine separately would be a plus.
The nature's head toilets seem to hold their value pretty well based on what the used ones go for on eBay. I just need to catch a deal if I want to experiment.
 
Vicky Peterson
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Jimmy Mountaineer wrote:

use fine pine shavings from Tractor Supply as cover material.

 There was a period where the exhaust fan wasn't operating (during the experimental engineering phase) and the gnats were a much worse problem than the smell.  All in all, we're quite happy with how it's all working out.



So, 2 gallons of pine shavings instead of the peat? And just filling at the beginning, not covering at each deposit?


Are gnats a problem when the fan is working? We have lots of fruit flies if I'm not diligent with the kitchen compost bucket.
If I get one, I'll be venting it into a large crawl space. The company suggested this as getting the vent outside would be difficult but the crawl space would be easy. They said to screen the end of the hose to keep bugs out.
 
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We used a Nature's Head on our sailboat when living aboard full time. We emptied the solids every 2 - 3 weeks, no smell, much better than the usual heads on a boat. We emptied the urine bottle every 2-3 days, always adding water to start and when I dumped it at the base of trees-- or anywhere in the drip ring of a tree. At least 1:1 urine to water. It's great fertilizer.
We bought it new, were very happy with the Nature's Head. We considered the Separett but it uses plastic bags-- they're compostable, but it's a continuous expense that we didn't want.
When we build a house on dry land, we will likely use wheelie bins under a toilet or a vault in the ground. The vault toilets at Ecovilla Gaia, where I did my PDC, went years without needing to be emptied (with lots of users), because they used worms in the vault. It takes some explaining, but it is a great system.
 
Vicky Peterson
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Ok, here is my update.
I decided to try a nature's head and have also decided it's pretty good.
Specific details to follow...be warned.
The urine jug gets emptied every 2 days. It smells like asparagus pee to me. I've been pouring it on a compost pile, then washing the jug with a bit of soap and water and pouring that on the pile, too (safe soap).
I've had some difficulty getting the moisture level right on the solids bin. I've emptied it twice over the past month. First time was after only 9 days because of was too dry and too hard to turn. Next time was about the same. Now,  I need to empty it soon, it's been 16 days and I think maybe it's starting to have a very faint odor. I've added some liquid this time (urine-but not much) and it's very easy to turn. Adding water is suggested if it's dry but that brings me to the next point... aiming is not a given. I have to perch towards the front of the seat to get the urine to the front holes and then sit way back for proper positioning over the hole.
As for venting, I ran the provided flexible tube to my crawlspace and hooked that to a large pipe that runs to a vent in the wall away from window and doors. But even the odor coming out isn't bad. It smells sort of earthy but not like poop but then again, I didn't want it under a window.
Where emptying the solids, I would like to have a handle of some sort to make carrying the awkwardly shaped bin easier but it's not a deal breaker and it's not heavier than the full 5 gallon sawdust bucket.
Advice on how wet the peat going in should be would be appreciated.
Thanks!
Sorry for the repost...slow phone.
 
Jerry McIntire
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Hey Vicky, thanks for the update. Turning the crank on the solids stirrer can be difficult depending on what type of carbon is used, and the moisture level. We used the amount of water recommended, or a bit more. The biggest factor was the type of material in there. Wood shavings were difficult. We never used peat moss. Coconut coir was the easiest, we found. It's not a local resource for most of us, but very little is in urban areas. Where you are, sawdust and chopped dried leaves may be plentiful. If I had access to those, I would mix the two.
By the way, my wife found that she had to sit forward on the Nature's Head to hit the urine diverter.
I would like to hear from anyone using wheelie bins or "trash" cans. What kind of carbon do you put in?
 
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We've been using a Nature's Head for 3 years at our weekend/vacation off-grid property. We're very happy with it.

Bought it new, full price, since we wanted a ready-to-go turnkey solution when we bought the land that was also visiting-mother-(in-law) friendly, and were willing to throw $$$ at the problem.
We have a 5x5 foot shed it's in, and we have a fully off-grid set up. We put a vent pipe through the ceiling and have a marine solar fan doing the air extraction/drying. We use peat moss as suggested.
With our usage pattern, we empty the solids every 2 months+-, usually not that it's completely full, but due to the toilet paper accumulation making it increasingly difficult to turn the crank.
The solar fan works great, so there is very little disgust factor in the process, as long as you time the emptying so it's not too soon after someone made a contribution.

We ought to and try to empty the pee container every week before leaving. When we remember, there is no smell problem at all. When we forget, we are reminded.

Both the regular usage and maintenance are no problem at all. You do need to periodically more thoroughly wipe down both the liquids and solids parts of the bowl with vinegar water, and give the liquids container a more thorough rinse, but then again on a normal toilet you'd need to scrub the bowl.

Importantly, even though our solar vent is shaded, we get enough light that the fan is turning most of the time, and enough that drying does happen. In particular, we've had no trouble with bugs.
 
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I cant remember her the brand.  We have a commercially purchased composting toilet that we have used since the early 1980s. There was a short learning curve when we first set it up....after that, we have never has a problem with it.  It cost around 1000, but that was almost 40 years ago.
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