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Biolan Naturum experience?

 
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We are about to move to a cabin in a field while we build our house. We will have an indoor bathroom, but it will have a composting toile at as we aren't allowed a septic tank on the site. We will have well water and electricity, but we don't want to use a fan for the toilet. We don't really want to breach the floor of the cabin and it won't be high enough for a bin below the floor anyway. We have looked at various options and the Biolan Naturum looks good on paper as it appears self-contained with low-maintenance, but it's really expensive. Has anyone tried it? Any other recommendations? Many thanks.
 
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Location: Putney, Vermont
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I don't know that system, but in general it seems people have mixed results using self-contained composting toilet units for full-time use. Often the issue is with liquid management or having to remove incompletely composted material.

The type of system I like best when it's impossible to have a remote composter under the floor: a urine-separating toilet with a removable bin for poop, paper, and wood shavings. Keeping the urine out of the rest of the compost helps SO MUCH with making maintenance pleasant and keeping the system non-smelly. When the bin fills you empty it into a larger composting container that is outside where there's plenty of room. It's like the humanure sawdust bucket system, but drier and more odorless. I've built systems like this that people liked more than the commercial self-contained units they'd had before. I like to incorporate a low-power (and quiet) fan to make it 100% odor-free, but even without a fan it's OK if you use enough wood shavings. (I definitely would be hesitant about a self-contained composter that had no fan and handled urine because of smell potential.)

You can make your own system using a urine diverter, but there are also some manufactured units that follow this strategy made by Separett and Nature's Head. I've worked with the Separett Villa and think it's a great system with a lot of capacity. They also make a simpler and cheaper unit called the Weekend that I've never used, but I think it's a lot like the units I've built and should be good as long as you don't have many bends in your vent pipe. There's also a low-power version of the Separett Villa that looks good but I've never used it.

Of course, the diverted urine is a fantastic fertilizer. If you have extra and live near southern Vermont you can even save your pee to donate to the Rich Earth Institute's Urine Nutrient Reclamation Project!

I hope this helps.

--Abe
 
Yolanda Dolling
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Thanks Abe. We've been looking at the Separett Villa too. That might be the best option for us right now. This will be our only loo for at least 18 months while we build our house and we've got 15 acres that has been abandoned for at least seven years. We're trying to keep day-to-day maintenance as low as possible or we will never get anything else done. Not that there's any rush, but all those little jobs add up and before you know it, that's another day gone!

We're in Galicia, Northern Spain on the Atlantic side. The area is very beautiful, with a fair bit of the natural oak and chestnut forest still standing. Most of the farming here has been small-holdings for generations, but the young people are leaving in droves for the cities so they have become abandoned. There is a perma-culture network here we've joined, but we've only been here six months and our Spanish is still basic and the local dialect, Gallego, is impenetrable. I'm very glad for this site and its members!

Cheers,
Yolanda
 
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Hi Yolanda, we are in Andalucia, Spain and are looking to source a composting toilet. Has it been a positive experience for you? Would you do anything differently? And where did you source your toilet in Spain please? Any advice gratefully received!
Debbie
 
Yolanda Dolling
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Hi Debbie,

We have been using our Biolan Naturum for six months continuously and are very pleased with it. We bought it from Germany: http://www.oeko-energie.de/produkte/komposttoiletten/index.html as it was 1,300 euros as opposed to the £2,000 for the same thing from the UK. It took about 4 weeks to arrive, but was very simple to buy and install and the owner of the supply company was very helpful. The only problem we had is that when we installed it we didn't vent it properly, meaning to come back and add the extra piece into the vent (it was only a drainpipe) but we got some insects before we got around to it. Once we vented it as per instructions, above the roof, the insects went and it was fine. It is easy to use, doesn't smell and only needs emptying once a month. We don't use special compost, just the local organic stuff with a few wood shavings. It is expensive, but it is our only toilet and as we are building a house as well as starting a garden from scratch, this has allowed us to save some time and hassles. I completely recommend it, worth every cent.

Good luck!

Yolanda
 
Casa Girasol
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Many thanks for replying so quickly Yolanda! Whilst we can't afford that much money we will continue searching as it's definitely the way forward for us.
We have lived here for three years now with a low electric supply (15v) and only well water. Climatic extremes are becoming normal... Last year we had 9 months without rain followed by four-year's worth of rainfall within a matter of weeks. Our summer temps sometimes go into 60 degs in the shade whilst in winter we have dropped to 8 below zero. But I love every moment and wouldn't change it for the world!
Best of luck to you too, Debbie
 
Posts: 40
Location: Málaga, Spain
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Hi Yolanda and Debbie,
we're in Andalucia as well. I have just ordered the Envirolet Flushsmart for our house. We can't dig down, so we needed horizontal flush. It is ridiculously expensive! So I hope it works as expected. Once we've been using it, I'll give an update on how it works.

/Marcus
 
Casa Girasol
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Hi Marcus,
I am thinking about the Nature's Head make...separates liquid from the solid compost-waste and seems to be half the price ...if I can find a supplier.
Yes, do let us know how it works out for you!
We are Cordoba province between Priego and Almedinilla.
Good luck, bueno suerte
Debbie
 
Marcus Hoff
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Location: Málaga, Spain
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So, here is the 10 week update on the toilet. I obviously can't comment on the composting process or results yet, but I do have some points about the usage.
It's easy to install.
It's easy to use: people who don't know it's composting toilet, just use it naturally.
It needs constant electricity. The vacuum pumps stop sucking after they have created a vacuum, but they still need to have power.
You have to be careful, that nothing gets stuck in the toilet. It will break the vacuum.
I'm glad that we got the model with a flush, because the bowl gets dirty almost every time and often we still need to clean it, causing another flush. So the water calculation should be about 1-2 times flush per usage.
The compost tank separates the solids from the liquids, so we do have a little black water we need to treat.
The water connection is on the left side of the toilet, which means that in (most of) Europe the supplied tubes aren't long enough, because the water connections is normally on the right side.
You need to make sure you can take the vent shaft up high from the compost tank, since it does give of a slight odor when the wind is int the "right" direction.
 
Marcus Hoff
Posts: 40
Location: Málaga, Spain
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Some more updates.

First of all, if you buy one of these RTFM - the whole thing, and understand how it works in detail! I didn't
The reason I point this out, is because in a "high-tech" integrated system like this, problems are not always easily fixed, especially if you don't understand what the problem is.
We had an issue of liquid buildup - to the point where the whole thing was leaking. The problem turned out the be, that we had shredded a piece of tissue paper, by using the rake instead of the aerator. This piece of paper is the only thing preventing the solids from dropping down into the emptying bin, thus preventing them from clogging the drainage pipe. The support at Sancor was very friendly and helpful, but use the phone to get hold of them - we didn't get any reply on email.
You need to understand the system, to be able to diagnose the problem together with them. They can't do it on their own.

When using this in Europe, you need to know, that you might have to make some adaptations to install the system properly. For instance, they have been helpful enough to provide the went pipe in 110mm. The problem is, that went pipe in Europe (at least here in Spain) is 120mm. 110mm is drainage pipe. I have no problem using drainage pipe as went pipe, the problem is, that there are no adapters for a 110mm flex pipe (supplied) to drain pipe, nor from drain pipe to 110mm fan (supplied). This is nothing, that screws and duct tape can't solve.
Also, the black water drain pipe is in imperial measures. Not a big problem, since you can stick it into a bigger pipe and seal that. Or not! The drain has a T-piece, this allows you to blow air into the tank in order to clean the filter on the inside. For this to work, you need to close the end of the drain pipe (otherwise the air just goes out that way). How do you do that, when it's sealed in a bigger pipe or installed in a cesspit? You have to undo the whole installation. I recommend sealing (air tight) the connection between the supplied drain pipe and the bigger extension pipe and installing a valve somewhere convenient on the bigger pipe (you can't get a valve for the supplied drain pipe, since it's imperial). Why Sancor didn't put a valve in the supplied drain pipe, I don't know.

Finally, you have to think about the emptying process. Before you empty the system it needs to rest for at least 48 hours. This is for any recent liquid to evaporate. What do you do during that time? You need an additional toilet of some sort, maybe you can just dig a hole - but you have to think about it.

 
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