Archive for Downsizer For an ethical approach to consumption

       Downsizer Forum Index -> Energy Efficiency and Construction/Major Projects

Posh composting toilets

Anyone know anything about Envirolet composting toilets? Our prospective new place has a non-mains water supply and a composting set-up would take a lot of pressure off of the spring. I *think* I saw these installed on a campsite in the second series of INEBG - they are pretty expensive, but it might be worth spending the money as a replacement for a flush-WC in the bathroom 'proper' because it would reduce our water consumption by so much.

Any thoughts? I'm having a good google round Smile.

Is water usage an issue for you? Wales is hardly dry....

We aren't sure how reliable the spring is - the vendors have only been using the house as a weekend cottage. They say that they have never had any problems with the spring; but they haven't been using the water for the washing machine etc. every day for nappies etc..

I'm also looking at rainwater collection systems - but it does look like as though, although the winters are very wet, the summers are getting increasingly dry; so storage is an issue and isn't about 30% of a household's water used for the loo? It just seemed sensible to explore options. Particularly ones that could be actually put in the bathroom Smile.

No mains water?

The reason I'm asking is that Nick Grant (one of the AECB bods and a water consultant by trade) advised me (spring on site with loads of water) that any money spent on greywater usage, reedbeds and suchlike would be better spent on energy efficiency/insulation. He says if you're on mains water/sewage then don't worry too much, as long as you're using low flush bogs etc (he designed the Iso summat or other)

Thanks, I'll explore the site, it looks great - but no no, no mains water. Water from a kind of reedy bit of the field just over the road, blocked off from the farmer's sheep with hurdles, actually. (We are, of course, going to have it tested Smile).

I had heard that about the greywater/insulation payoff - but I am bit yippy about the water because some friends of ours in Devon (less rain than here, admittedly) spend every summer biting their nails waiting for their well to start pumping mud ... .

Then Nick's your man, talk to him (really lovely guy), he's in Herefordshire so not too far away to visit if necessary.

Re rainwater harvesting. I know in France you can buy a 10,000 litre tank for as little as 1200 euros.
Or how about building a concrete holding tank. Can't imagine it would cost that much. Rainwater harvesting is what I'm going to do with my barn conversion in France so it's a subject I've been pondering for a while.

I don't like the idea of concrete - too energy-heavy - but I have seen some HUGE plastic containers around - that used to hold orange juice and stuff like that - about ten feet tall and probably as much in circumference. I was planning on daisy-chaining at least a couple of them together to harvest rainwater for the garden.

However, my feeling is that without some kind of quite complex storage and filtering process, a long, dry summer would leave us flushing the loo with manky green sludge. So a stand-alone, no-water-at-all-required composting loo would be a decent alternative.

sorry I don't have anything sensible to add, just wanted to use this emoticon pottytrain5

pookie wrote:
sorry I don't have anything sensible to add, just wanted to use this emoticon pottytrain5

Look at all the water that emoticon is wasting! Smile
Green Man

I wonder if these composting toilets will allow people to build homes in areas where waste water stops planning?

That's an interesting thought.

They are pretty high-tech and there are versions that don't need electricity to run either. If memory serves though, the ones the INEBG team helped to install were run off a small wind turbine/battery bank set up. The website has all sorts of examples of where they've been used.

Chez, my understanding is that keeping the water 'sweet' in storage is the tricky bit.
One reason for underground tank location is to exclude light - reducing biological activity.

And it sounds like, for security of supply, you could do with a fair bit of storage capacity.

While the garden wouldn't worry about being irregated with stuff that looked like it had come out of a ditch, and you could flush a loo with non-sweet water, you have need of some secure sweet water supply for washing and drinking. All the more so with the numbers due to increase!

Can't help with composting loos. Maybe you should ask Judy about her Mark 2 ideas

But, as a very small part of any overall water management strategy, I'd still recommend fitting one of these to any conventional loo.
and for non-plumbers, its the green bits in the homepage photo.
Small, simple, clever - it enables the person flushing to adjust how much water is used each time.
It stops when you let go the lever.
Simple. Clever.

Thanks Dougal, much appreciated. The spring-fed supply is sweet - the current owners have been using it for drinking/washing etc whilst they are there at weekends and for holidays. It's the worry that our constant use will put a strain on the spring, particularly in the summer, that is making us look at sensible alternatives.

Chez, are you using everything the spring is offering?
It sounds to me as though water storage (for security of supply) could be pretty important to you.

Its more likely that the spring would run dry of its own accord during a drought, rather than that you would "drink it dry".
Put another way, I doubt that the flow from the spring is being determined by your usage.
If you have surplus supply from the spring, that you could store, then the gathering of rainwater need not be part of your 'house' water supply.

However, storing rainwater for garden use (which wouldn't need to be kept 'sweet') would be an additional part of the strategy of reducing your demand from the spring, particularly in time of drought.
And since you never know when a drought is going to start, you should be taking every opportunity to top up your stored supply.

With a supply of sweet water, whether from rain, spring or both, the problem that I was flagging up is that it needs to be kept sweet while in storage.
Give water some air, some warmth and some light and it *will* go green.
Storing it in an underground tank deals with the light aspect and helps to *keep* it sweet.
Similarly, filtration and probably UV sterilisation would be part of making any water storage a 'potable' water supply (drinkable, nothing to do with loos Very Happy).

Any reduction in consumption, such as with the Varyflush thing (or a composting loo), would reduce the storage requirement (or put another way, increase the length of drought you could handle) and speed the refilling of your storage.

We use our well (spring fed) for all drinking water and our bore hole for everything else (although we don't waste water). The well used to almost run dry every summer, which was why we had the bore hole sunk. So an answer for you may be to use your spring for drinking and stroed water for the rest i.e. all your grey water needs.

I think we might need to take some advice from the Powys water people re spring reliability. And perhaps have a look at underground storage systems from the rainwater harvesting people.

Thanks everyone!

you're welcome Wink Laughing

Thinking about this a bit another reason for having a composting loo is the excellent fertiliser it produces. I must admit I'm a little unsure of using the compost on veg but fruit crops or to apply to trees etc would seem to be an excellent reason for having a composting toilet as well. Where would you use the compost?

I hadn't really got that far - I was thinking about it from a water point of view rather than a compost-producing point of view. Do tomatoes count as veg? My aunty allegedly grew the best tomatoes in Essex between the wars in the product of her soil toilet. We are planning on having soft fruit and fruit trees too, though.

Using one of these things it's apparently broken down really effectively - the downside of them is that the larger models need electricity to run - so I understand there actually isn't that much solid matter, even after 12 months.

I've not investigated the compost uses and risks at all but going purely on 'gut' instinct I would be wary of growing crops where the edible bits are in direct contact with the compost. So things like root crops or salad or strawberries no; fruits like tomatoes, gooseberries etc where they are away from the soil and even squashes that can be grown away from the soil yes.

I actually plan to grow my own firewood and coppice so having a composting loo would be an ideal way of returning some of the nutrients back to the woodland and I'm very interested in them from that point of view.

I staid in a holiday cottage with one of those toilets. The only problem was that I spent most of my holiday trying to take the loo to pieces becuase I was fascinated by it. I was very impressed. I think there's a little heater in it to keep the solids dry or to help the proccess somehow. The loo was the the warmest place in the cottage.

With regard to springs....they can be derived either from rain water which soaks into the soil then comes out further down the slope, or they can be derived from a water bearing rock (aquifer) discharging its groundwater to the surface.
Its very helpful to know which type of spring you have because:
1) It effects the chemistry of your water- if your water is derived from near the surface, you may be more susceptible to pollution (where’s your septic tank?- I’ve come across quite a few springs were the owners are basically drinking their own effluent)
2) It effects the consistency of flow. If you have an aquifer derived spring, it’ll have a reasonably constant flow all year round, even in dry summers, but if your spring gets its water from near surface (often called a “perched water table” or “drift groundwater”), it may dry up if there’s no rain.

Often, it’s hard to tell the difference. But you can get a really good indication of the character of your spring as follows:
1) Aquifer derived springs by definition need an aquifer. So try to find out what rock lies beneath you. Aquifers are often sandstone or limestone. Rocks that don’t hold much water are fine grained, like grey shale. Springs sometimes occur where an aquifer comes in contact with a low permeability rock (for example mudstone). The soil can also give a good indication of the underlying rock- if you live over mudstone or shale, you’ll have a clay soil (in Powys, this tends to be a grey silty clay, generally thin with frequent angular stones).
2) Look at the small streams and ditches nearby – do they look like they regularly dry out, or do they have a constant flow in them?
3) If your spring is from perched water, the water level in the ground will rise and fall more than if the spring is discharging from the junction of two rock units. So look for the shape of the spring outlet. Usually, there’s a depression in the ground were with a damp/ boggy bit towards the top. Look at the plants, the soil and the shape of the slope- you may get the idea that this damp boggy bit has recently been in different places up or down the slope (such as sedge occurring on now dry ground above the current discharge). This indicates a groundwater table that fluctuates quite a bit- an indication of a perched water table spring. If it looks like the wet bit has always been in the same place, the chances are higher that the spring is derived from a rock unit.
4) Get a pH test- you can often get litmus paper from brewing shops/ independent chemists for a few pounds. If it’s neutral to slightly acidic (around pH 6), the chances are high that its recent, rain derived water. If its on the slighlty alkali side (pH 7.5-Cool, its almost certainly derived from groundwater in an aquifer.

Even a spring that runs dry for a few months per year may easily provide enough water for your needs, you just need to install adequate underground storage- the size of the storage is proportional to your water usage and the flow of the spring.

I’d recommend that you regularly get a flow measurement on the spring. start as soon as you can, and do it about once a month, and maybe shortly after significant changes in the weather. Nothing special, just how long does it take to fill a bucket? It’s so easy to do, only takes a few minutes, and if you’re anything like me (probably not…) you’ll find it fascinating. Also record the recent weather. This information will prove invaluable when working out the solution to your water resource issues.

If you want anymore help with your spring, pm me and I may be able to help.
       Downsizer Forum Index -> Energy Efficiency and Construction/Major Projects
Page 1 of 1
Home Home Home Home Home