Composting Toilets… are they legal?

*Composting toilets*
Graham has discovered that there are a few kinds of composting toilets
that have already been approved by the county, for example, the Sunray.
Per a conversation I had with relevant authorities four or five years ago – any commercially manufactured composting toilet that is NSF approved can be used in a permitted dwelling in place of a flush toilet.
That includes SunMar and Phoenix and various other NSF approved (or maybe ‘certified’ is the word) brands. Kea’au Hawaiian School for example has a high-end Phoenix brand unit.
Mojo says
that most of them are pricey and small capacity,
Yes – cheapest is SunMar NE at $1500 (not including shipping to Hawai’i).
And you still have to have a cesspool/septic for the rest of your household drain water.
for only one or two people.
There are some that can handle more, and, they cost more. The Kea’au Hawaiian School unit is a higher capacity (don’t recall what exactly).
Most use electric heating elements to deal with urine, so if you’re off grid you’re still SOL (so to speak…:-).
In general without electric heaters and/or fans small commercial units don’t work as well as much cheaper simpler DIY designs (double vault or removable barrel). Urine is the main problem. They are trying to make it “just like normal” so that people can pee in them and not have to do anything different, and that is really hard to deal with, especially in small units, without electric heaters vaporizing the excess liquid (urine) and thus the nutrients as well. Quite insane – use hundreds of watts of electricity inefficiently to vaporize valuable nutrients, and call it an “ecological” toilet.
> Anything that is larger will need a special test to get a model
approved, which takes $20,000.
I was told anything NSF certified is good to go – nothing was said about size – someone could verify that.
cheers,
John S.

*Composting toilets*Graham has discovered that there are a few kinds of composting toiletsthat have already been approved by the county, for example, the Sunray.Can we get a volunteer to research this and generate a list?

Per a conversation I had with relevant authorities four or five years ago – any commercially manufactured composting toilet that is NSF approved can be used in a permitted dwelling in place of a flush toilet.That includes SunMar and Phoenix and various other NSF approved (or maybe ‘certified’ is the word) brands. Kea’au Hawaiian School for example has a high-end Phoenix brand unit.
Mojo saysthat most of them are pricey and small capacity,

Yes – cheapest is SunMar NE at $1500 (not including shipping to Hawai’i).And you still have to have a cesspool/septic for the rest of your household drain water.
for only one or two people.

There are some that can handle more, and, they cost more. The Kea’au Hawaiian School unit is a higher capacity (don’t recall what exactly).Most use electric heating elements to deal with urine, so if you’re off grid you’re still SOL (so to speak…:-).
In general without electric heaters and/or fans small commercial units don’t work as well as much cheaper simpler DIY designs (double vault or removable barrel). Urine is the main problem. They are trying to make it “just like normal” so that people can pee in them and not have to do anything different, and that is really hard to deal with, especially in small units, without electric heaters vaporizing the excess liquid (urine) and thus the nutrients as well. Quite insane – use hundreds of watts of electricity inefficiently to vaporize valuable nutrients, and call it an “ecological” toilet.
> Anything that is larger will need a special test to get a model
approved, which takes $20,000.

I was told anything NSF certified is good to go – nothing was said about size – someone could verify that.
cheers,John S.

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4 comments to Composting Toilets… are they legal?

  • victorio98

    I’m a relocated New Mexico guy. Many years in the Land of Enchantment have given me direct experience with various types of alternative toilets. They all work and work well when, and only when, they are contentiously maintained. Even the expensive commercial composting toilets require maintenance and vigilance. Often the up-keep is not for the faint hearted. For that reason many eventually opt for conventional systems. Unfortunately, many who base their waste management on alternative toilets don’t really know what they’re getting into, resulting in negative public perception of an otherwise noble endeavor.

  • Per State Dept. of Health, any NSF approved commercially manufactured composting toilet can be used in place of a flush toilet in a residential dwelling.
    This is what they told me some years ago when I called to find out about this. It took a few calls or transfers to find a person who could tell me this and vouch for it being true.
    And, this does not affect the requirement for a septic or cesspool system. That still has to be put in, based on size/occupancy of house, whether one is using flush toilets or composting toilets.
    Eligible commercial composting toilets start at ~$1400 and up to much more expensive units.
    So cost-wise this is not helpful – the toilet costs 10 times and more what a flush toilet costs and the same septic or cesspool is still required. Plus they require owner/user attention and maintenance (more on average than DIY composting toilets that can be built for much less money). There are other practical issues as well with most of the commercial units, I’ll skip the details for now.
    Bottom line, the fact that State Dept. of Health will approve some commercial composting toilets for residential use has little practical or financial benefit for an average homeowner and/or builder.

    Getting something like a “Watson Wick” type of biofilter system approved for DIY or contractor installation would be much more practical and affordable. Flush toilet like usual but “waste” becomes “resource” and costs less than septic or even cesspool to install:
    http://www.oasisdesign.net/compostingtoilets/watsonwick.htm

    I have one of these installed at an experimental dwelling in Panaewa (on DHHL land). Too soon to tell how much of a success it is, however it is not failing in any major way yet.

    John S.

  • OpenD

    According to the NSF website, only Clivus Multrum and Sun-Mar brand composting toilets are currently NSF certified. But I know folks with Hawai’i County approved installation of Phoenix or Nature’s Head composting toilets, so that’s not an exclusive list, merely a list of the EASIEST ones to get OK’d.

    I’m personally a fan of the Nature’s Head brand. They’re made in Ohio, as opposed to nearly everything else on the market being non-US manufacture. They’re Coast Guard Class III certified, and being designed originally for marine use, they’re smaller than anything else available, approximately the size of a conventional toilet minus the water tank. They’re also simpler, using a manual agitation system vs. the electric motors used in other brands. And they do not use a drier, or heaters, but only a small 12v. fan for ventilation, or optionally, a solar powered vent fan. $875 currently, plus maybe $250 shipping to Hawai’i.

    What makes them work so well, and without odor, is a simple principle that Sun-Mar and others are now copying… they separate the urine from the solid waste and hold them in different tanks. Urine, when fresh, is sterile and nearly odor-free, and when diluted with water is a safe high-nitrogen fertilizer for gardens. (Check out the book “Liquid Gold.”) Solid wastes not needing to be dried out actually compost aerobically with little odor, which the vent fan removes. It’s only when urine and solid wastes are combined that you get the stench of anaerobic breakdown.

    New cesspools are not being allowed except on lots zoned Agricultural, so you do need to put in a septic leach field, but when used for greywater only (shower and sink drains) it can be sized much smaller than a conventional blackwater system would require.

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