Composting Toilet Options For Tiny Houses

One just never appreciates the vital nature of a well functioning toilet until theirs doesn’t work properly. We have gone through not just one, but two composting toilets for hOMe. Granted there are 3 of us living in it full time so I suppose we will put any toilet system to its full test. The first two turned out to not be viable options for us. The odor was awful, they were quite frankly dreadful to clean out, and we began to dread using them at all. The great thing that came out of those experiences is that we became incredibly informed consumers. The key factor in any composting toilet system is to find one in which the urine diverts from the solids. Those two frankly don’t belong together. The other factor to consider is the clean out process. Believe me, this part can be foul and I am in no way squeamish. Fortunately there are fantastic composting toilet options for tiny houses, one being the Separett.

Separett tiny house composting toiletWe recently purchased the Separett composting toilet and we couldn’t be happier with it. It is SO easy to use, to clean and it has absolutely no odor to it whatsoever. This is hands down the best system out there as far as we’re concerned. The only downside we see is the cost (though we honestly believe it was worth every penny).

Richard Brunt, the man that we purchased our new Separett composting toilet from was kind enough to write an article for us regarding how the toilet works. If you are interested in the toilet and have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact him. He is easy to reach and eager to help. He’s a super knowledgeable guy that knows his poop! Without further delay, here is what Richard has to say:

Separett waterless toilets from Sweden are quite different from older style composting toilets. The key feature is the separation of urine and solids. This makes the whole process of dealing with human waste much simpler and easier.

Urine is basically sterile, and does not pose a health risk. It’s easy to dispose of – either in a small drain pit, or even as grey water (check your local codes). Some people collect the urine in a tank, dilute 10:1 with water and use it as fertilizer.

Solid human waste is about 80% water by volume. The fan in the Separett toilet vents the moisture outside, and the solid material begins to dry out. As it loses moisture, the waste shrinks drastically. This is why the capacity of the Separett toilet is so large. A family of 4 will probably empty about every 3-4 weeks. Note: the solid waste often does not completely dry out. It depends on the number of users. This is normal.

Also, very soon after the solid waste begins to dry out, most odor disappears. Any odor that remains is exhausted outside by the fan, which should ideally run 24/7. It is a very quiet fan, but it does make a whispering noise, so you want this toilet in a separate room from where you sleep. The fan draws about 3 watts with the Separett 9210 DC model (for batteries or a solar system) and about 17 watts for the Separett 9200 AC (which plugs in to a regular wall outlet).

Compare this to the older style composting toilets, which combined urine and solids together. Most of that liquid has to be evaporated before composting can occur, so many older style toilets use powerful electric heaters. If the heaters fail to evaporate enough liquid, composting never occurs – and you have a toilet full of raw sewage. The odor inside that toilet is horrifying. Depending on the model, there may be rotating drums, mechanical rakes or other complexities which can (and do)  break down. If an older style ‘all-in-one’ toilet needs repair, and you need to take it apart, it is a very unpleasant job.

The Separett solves these problems, with its simple urine separating design. It does not require a heater or complex mechanical rotating mechanisms.

Inside the Separett is a container lined with a compostable plastic bag. When this bag gets full, you open the toilet, remove the compostable bag, and take it outside to a compost bin. It’s no more difficult than taking out the trash. The inside of the toilet remains clean, as human waste does not contact the inner workings of the toilet itself. The solid material should stay in this secondary container for about 6 months of above freezing temperatures, so the composting process can complete. It is then safe to put on non-edible plants.

Cleaning the bowl after each use is fairly easy. The Separett has a large trap door that opens automatically when you sit on the toilet. Most of the solids will drop into the lower chamber and not even contact touch the sides of the bowl. However, there is inevitably some cleaning required. Most people keep a spray bottle with water and a little vinegar beside the toilet. After each use they mist the sides of the bowl, and wipe it clean with a paper towel or toilet paper. The paper can then be dropped into the toilet.

One question I often get asked is “is the toilet legal?”. In most places, yes. Separett toilets are certified to the ETL standard for hygiene and health care. Some inspectors have asked if it is NSF certified. NSF is another testing agency, like ETL. However, NSF does not have a category for two stage toilets like the Separett, where composting has to complete in a secondary container. Neither certification – NSF or ETL – is a guarantee that a building inspector will approve any given composting toilet. Some counties love them, other counties remain skeptical. In my area, the inspector says “I like composting toilets, and I understand what you are trying to do. But the code books were written before composting toilets were around, and there is nothing here that talks about them. So don’t ask, and I won’t say no”. Use your own judgment and common sense.

Another frequent question is “what about flies?”. Fortunately, most people never have any trouble with flies. It is a bigger issue in the southern states, and tropical locations such as Hawaii – especially in open air homes without screens on the windows. The first line of defense is to keep the flies out of the house, and especially the toilet area. There are entire web pages devoted to keeping your home free of flies, so I won’t repeat their advice here. You can also add a product called diatomaceous earth to the solids bin. This helps a great deal, according to many people. If you do get a fly problem, remove the bin and the rotating plate that it sits on, and clean everything very thoroughly with a solution that will kill all fly eggs. (Do not get the fan wet, as that may destroy it. Do not flush the toilet out with a hose). Remember, the toilet is not producing flies. They are coming from somewhere. Eliminate the source and you eliminate the flies.

In the final analysis, Separett waterless toilets are one possible option for dealing with human waste in a tiny home. They are low cost, compared to a septic system, easy to install, easy to empty and maintain, and most importantly, odor free. You can learn more and purchase the Separett waterless toilet by visiting my Separett page. You can also read frequently asked questions about the Separett here: Separett FAQ

In closing, here is a short Tiny Minute we made of how it works:

197 Responses to Composting Toilet Options For Tiny Houses

  1. Kathleen May 15, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    Gabriella – that was a perfectly executed demonstration of the Separett. Not too long, good visuals. I would still love to have seen how you remove the bag, though I know its good for another 3 weeks. — it really lasts that long??? Great product. Thanks for working out the bugs for the rest of us :o)

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 15, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

      Thanks Kathleen! I guess I should have shown how to take the bag out. It’s as simple as removing any other bag from a trash can. It does last that long. They say 4 weeks for a family of 4 but I think that’s a wee bit longer than it can handle.

      • John Teague May 19, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

        “Wee” bit longer. . . .

        Now that is funny!

        You and I conversed about this, and I have to admit you have me convinced on the Separett. I was thinking of something a bit more involved. But after your review I am asking myself why I would.

        Thanks again as always.

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella May 20, 2014 at 8:00 am #

          🙂

      • Wilson May 26, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

        Can I use any trash bag? How do you avoid bugs from getting in the pee tube since I would rather have the tube outside. Does the seat feel confident to sit on?

    • Anders Hale February 16, 2016 at 7:38 am #

      Extremely informative and well-written! Did you consider the cheaper ‘Weekend’, and if so, why did you eventually go for the ‘Villa?

      • Gabriella
        Gabriella February 18, 2016 at 10:00 am #

        We did consider it though quite honestly, I don’t remember why we ended up with the Weekend model. I am guessing simply bc of usage loads (there are 4 of us using ours full time!).

        • Andrea March 3, 2016 at 11:21 pm #

          Hi Gabriella, Thanks so much for the clip. I am curious what the advantage really is over a bucket if it is a single person in a house who is not squeamish? And have you tried any of the toilets that claim to finish the composting inside the unit itself?

          • Gabriella
            Gabriella March 6, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

            Hi Andrea! I do have to say that I am not squeamish at all. I have a gut made of steel and have done my fair share of animal dissections (animal physiology classes), cleaning out noxious smelling things, taken care of sick children and adults dealing with the stomach flu and food poisoning. I only mention that bc I think it’s important to establish a baseline in terms of my perspective and feedback. I think that the bucket system can work IF someone diverts the urine. Perhaps the smell of feces and urine mixed together in a bucket won’t bother you, but in a tiny house, the smell will be evident for others that come to visit (which may be totally fine for you). If you divert the urine, you can mitigate the odor pretty well. The other thing you can do to create a very inexpensive bucket system (believe me I am all for saving money where I can), is to vent it by installing a vent pipe in the back of your bucket cabinet and installing a small computer fan in the vent pipe. That measure will pretty much eliminate any odors. We had an absolutely nightmare experience with the SunMar NE which is a true composting toilet. We literally had sewage spill onto our floor in hOMe not just once but twice. That said, I have heard good things about the Nature’s Head. Let us know what you go with!

          • Arlene White June 7, 2016 at 8:18 pm #

            I agree with Gabriella. The urine goes to the outside. Very foul smelling when we empty that even though it is diluted. I also think the fan is the saving grace. No odour because it always blows outside. I can still remember no toilet at my grandmother’s and the pot under the bed. One night was bad enough. I could not imagine going 3 weeks like we can with this unit.

    • Michelle February 20, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

      This is supposed to be a COMPOSTING toilet. An entire bag of human waste is “disposed” of? Where, the landfill? I want a REAL composting toilet.

      • Violet February 21, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

        This is a real composting toilet. You “dispose” of the biodegradable bag in an outdoor composting setup to finish the process. Then it can be returned to the soil away from food crops.

    • Annie Soerensen June 2, 2016 at 5:30 am #

      Dear Gabriella, Read with interest your 2014 post about Separett composting toilet. I have a small cabin in CO too. Couple of questions. How do you like the Separett now after two years of use? And, what do you use to power your fan. Thanks so much for great info. Best, Annie soerensen

      • Gabriella
        Gabriella June 2, 2016 at 10:08 am #

        Hi Annie! We still love the toilet. No signs of it slowing down or operating less than optimally. We power the fan just off our regular electric system (it just plugs into the wall).

    • Arlene White June 7, 2016 at 8:26 pm #

      The bag lasts that long. I like to keep it emptied at that point. You will get a slight smell if it is too long, or you have a busy weekend. The bag is not that big a deal. I’m an emergency nurse, but still don’t like it… I lift the toilet body, mostly it is toilet paper in the bucket and very light. (it dries out). I quickly toss the black lid on the bucket so I don’t have to smell it or look at it. Then I carry it up to my composter up the hill and hold my breath and dump it in. I wear disposable gloves and throw those in garbage. I keep a plastic garbage bag in the toilet to prevent spillage. I throw that out too. The urine really smellls foul. I keep that in a large plastic Jeri Can. The screw on lid has an opening the exact size of the hose so I just slide it in and out. We empty that every 2 or 3 days (I have all boys so they tend to use the woods). Our neighbours have one and they have their hose buried in a gravel pit that drains away.

  2. Lori May 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    Would it be diplomatic to ask what the prior two models were and whether the deficiencies were noise, mechanical, or design/functional (or some combination of the above)? I would be specifically interested in knowing if a natures head toilet was part of your experience as that is the one my research currently has me leaning toward. Thank you.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 15, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

      Hi Lori, it was NOT the Nature’s Head. In fact, Richard who we bought ours from has very good things to say about the Nature’s Head. For us it simply came down to an aesthetics preference bc by principle they are very similar.

  3. Jason May 21, 2014 at 2:26 am #

    I’m a bit confused to read the terms “plastic” and “compostable” used together. Are you saying that the whole bag will deteriorate over time? Or will you eventually have to pull plastic bags out of your compost?

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

      Hi Jason! The bags themselves are made out of a composting material that resembles plastic. They fully biodegrade.

      • Jason June 7, 2014 at 12:00 am #

        Thanks for the explanation… But what’s the timeframe on their breakdown? I mean, if you leave it for a while before removing the bag, will you run the chane of the bag failing as you take it out? Or are we talking “months” rather than “weeks”?

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella June 7, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

          That’s actually a very good question and I don’t have the exact answer. I can tell you that after placing our filled bags that we have generated so far into our Humanure composting system outside, that the earliest bag (which is about 10 weeks old) is just now starting to decompose. That’s outside exposed to rain and all the elements. So I would think that indoors and in the dark, that one would have a few months before breakdown.

          • Jason June 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

            yep, that sounds reasonable. Thanks for the candid feedback. As you’ve said — these are questions that many might avoid. But it’s good information to hear…

          • Elena April 16, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

            Hi, Gabriella,

            How about using this toilet for one person.Do you think using it and having lasted for 2-3 month it is not going to smell inside? What is Humanure composting system is? How appropriate and possible to do this if I am close to the city or suburban area. ? What is in your opinion the benefits of composting toilet vs conventional. I love what I read, just How to dispose of it and period of time it takes before it can be used, I question what to do with it?

        • Arlene White June 7, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

          I have a 9200. Love it. So easy to manage. We have a larger composter that rotates. We dump the composting plastic bag and excrement into this. We have been using the same one for 2 full seasons. Just keep adding to it. We will purchase a new composter this summer and retire the first one which sits behind our shed up the hill. I plan to leave it for 2 full years. That should be plenty of time for the plastic to break down. We are in a cold climate so it will take longer.

  4. j May 23, 2014 at 1:48 am #

    i bought a separett toilet for the cottage in the muskokas a few months ago and am looking forward to getting it installed ASAP – gotta build the outhouse and get power running first….

    ive only heard and read good things about the separett…hopefully it will end up being $1300 well spent — ive gotten used to going in the woods, but im sure the female counterparts in my family will enjoy using a ‘real’ toilet.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 23, 2014 at 8:46 am #

      So far so good here!! Still loving it. And yes, VERY important for the female counterparts to be happy! 🙂

  5. Kat May 28, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    This is such a great post Gabriella!
    My partner and I JUST purchased our toilet for our tiny house we are building this summer. ( so excited!)
    The one we have ordered is EcoJohn, and I cannot give it a review as we haven’t used it, haha, but it seems it compares to the brand you have purchased and has the separating feature!
    Perfect timing on this article, as I have not found it easy to find quality reviews on composting toilets for tiny houses.

    Thanks!
    Kat 🙂

    • Jay October 22, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

      Hi Kat,
      I’m considering an Eco John toilet and wonder how you like it now that you’ve been using it for 4+ months? Pros and cons? Would love to hear what you have to say as I’m in the process of trying to decide on a composting toilet or incinerating toilet for my art studio.
      thanks!
      Jay

    • Mary Henton June 17, 2015 at 8:04 am #

      Kat (and anyone else)….what has been your experience with the EcoJohn?

      Would you be willing to share your reasoning for choosing that brand?

      I’m building a THOW in central Ohio, looking to use systems as sustainable as possible (relying heavily on solar power, for instance). I thought I would go with a SunMar toilet. Macy Miller speaks highly of her SunMar. But reading here about the Separett and reviewing the EcoJohn, I’m very confused!

      • Christal December 3, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

        Just a quick note worth mentioning: Macy has a SunMar Centrex 2000, which is more like a regular toilet since the waste is flushed to a container outside. Gabriella, Andrew, and family had a SunMar Excel, which is a self-contained unit that holds the waste inside the house, directly under the seat.

  6. Helen June 5, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    Thank you! This convinced me that we can use this in our future home! It’s sold everywhere here, and being Swedish design it’s probably good quality. And it looks like a proper toilet – also important. 🙂

    Helen, Norway.

    ps – did you do a post abt how you get water to your house?

  7. K-mo June 5, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    So what if you have to vomit or you have diarrhea?

    Does that ruin the compost? I would have to think so…

    So curious about disgusting things…

    Kmo

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella June 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

      Great questions that most people wouldn’t dare ask! 😉 I don’t think it would ruin anything actually though I would say that I would NOT want to vomit into ANY composting toilet! I’ve wondered the same thing myself if any of us ever vomit again (which is likely). I suppose we would just go outside? Anyways, not sure about that bit. In terms of diarrhea, that would be no issue at all. It’s just a different form of fecal matter and it all will decompose the same.

      • bkydcmpr August 15, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

        If you are sick, should prepare some paper bags like those from the airplanes.

      • Jerry McIntire December 3, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

        My wife much prefers a kitchen pot to vomiting in a toilet. If you’re stuck in bed, or anywhere, you don’t have to go far with a pot at your side. It can be dumped in the toilet later.

    • Arlene White June 7, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

      Diarrhea dries out eventually, there is a steady fan that blows to the outdoors through a vent. (9200 series) We have had diarrhea and no smell at all in our tiny cabin. I would strongly not recommend vomiting into a bucket of toilet paper and poop that is inches from your face. You would need to vomit into a bucket and dump that outside or into your composter.

  8. jefree anderson June 13, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    I am very curious of the stink factor. They recommend letting a small fan run 24/7 that must be venting somewhere AND all those weeks accumulating poop and urine in their respective containers must create quite a foul odor. How stinky is it?

    • Arlene White June 7, 2016 at 8:09 pm #

      No smell at all…. that’s why we went with this model rather than the mixing of peat moss, etc. Your composting does not take place in the toilet. It is a reservoir. A bucket. There is a constant fan and it vents to the wall behind the toilet. We have small cabin, so my husband put it directly to the back. There is very little sound. But you can feel a little breeze past your bottom. We just keep it on low setting. But, when we leave we often empty the bucket so the toilet has nothing in it. It takes just a moment. We could easily use it 3 weeks. If there is excrement in the bucket, we either leave fan running or we empty bucket. In the winter we turn it off. Remember your urine runs out of a thick hose to the outside. Ours we have into a large gasoline plastic can. It fits perfectly into the opening and lid screws around it. (we removed jerry can insert). You always run 1/4 c water behind the urine to keep hose clean. Dilutes the urine. It is sitting on ground behind our cabin. Hose will freeze if you pee into toilet and it doesn’t drain properly.

  9. jefree anderson June 13, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Feel free to delete my previous inquiry. I just saw your tiny minute video where you say that it is odorless. Wow! That is awesome!

    Is there an odor around the outside toilet exhaust vent area?

    • Andrew
      Andrew June 13, 2014 at 11:16 am #

      So far not Jefree, and we have already had some days where it’s been in the 90s. The key here is that urine and solids are separated and honestly, solids aren’t as stinky as we think once they are separated. While the solids are in the holding bag they are being dried by the fan so it’s not super sludgy in there. Hope that helps!

    • Adam November 1, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

      Also if you watch their video the vent for the soil pipe is above the roof line, which carries any odor up up and away

    • Arlene White June 7, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

      There is an odor. Our vent is directly behind toilet, so at chest level. I find it smells if I’m standing where the fan blows out. But you cannot smell it anywhere else. Our neighbours all have them. They have a vent that rises up the side of the cabin and eliminates that problem.

  10. prema June 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    pls excuse my not understanding. when you remove the bag to clean, you would be actually looking at your waste, is that correct. if so how do you deal with that?

    • Brian June 17, 2014 at 5:06 am #

      Facepalm

      • terre October 26, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

        The visual! because I pictured someone with something already in their…palm

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella June 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

      Hi there Prema
      Yes, you would see the solids at that point. If you are super squeamish about those things you could put a couple paper towels on the top so you don’t have to see anything. 🙂

    • Arlene White June 7, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

      It’s mostly toilet paper, be quick with the lid.

  11. Junebug June 22, 2014 at 12:53 am #

    Why did you decide to get the Villa 9000 instead of the Flame 8000? Just curious. =)

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella June 22, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      Junebug, the 8000 is an incinerating toilet and thus requires a lot of electricity (something we don’t have in abundance since we are off grid)

  12. Lorrie Williams July 13, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    So a few months into this new composting toilet, how are you liking it? And how did the new size and different vent position change the design of the bathroom?

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella July 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

      Thanks for checking back in! We love it. We have quite a bit more space in the bathroom now that we took the behemoth Sunmar out. The new one just vents right outside the wall and our large bathroom window is just inches from the vent. We wondered if there would be odor from the toilet coming right back in through the window in the heat. But even in these 100F days we have yet to have that happen. We change the bag every 3 weeks. They had said 4-6 but it would be incredibly full at that point. The only downside is that we just realized exactly how much power the little fan uses. They had said negligible but it’s actually 15watts per hour. Add that up over 24 hours and it’s 360watts. Considering we have just a 600 watt system (that’s how much power we can produce in a day of sunlight) that is a MEGA chunk! We couldn’t understand why we kept running out of power. So we have actually turned off the fan until we get new panels (which we need to do anyways). And the smell is really really minor as all the windows stay open.

      • Tiffany July 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

        Andrew and Gabriella,

        First off, aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!! I love your hOMe! To say I am obsessed with making tiny home living work for us is an understatement and your design is simply the best I have seen out there! I could go on and on (and probably will separately) but wanted to get my reply to your latest review of the current toilet set up. Ok, now that I’ve got that out of my system, I understand your latest response was just yesterday but I was wondering if you had spoken with the manufacturer yet to see if there is possibly a defect, something not installed correctly (although I seriously doubt this given your building skills), or if they truly believe 15watts/hour is “negligible”? I’d be interested to find out if this is truly common. I am doing my research with Backwoods Solar and such for our power needs but definitely may need to rethink the Separett if this is indeed its normal functionality.

        Love the house, love the blog, love the amazing knowledge you have already imparted to me for free, and will continue to follow everything as I continue farther down the tiny house path. Thank you both for sharing your world with us!

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella July 19, 2014 at 11:34 am #

          Just heard from the distributor and the issue is that we are using the 110 system, rather than the 12v system. The 110 uses 18 watts/hour, whereas the 12v just 2.5. There is a conversion kit that we can get and apparently that’s an easy fix. But now we need to figure out how to get 12 volt power to that outlet since all of hOMe is on 110. But good news is that a solution exists and perhaps we don’t need to upgrade to quite such a large solar system now!

      • Lorrie Williams July 16, 2014 at 8:19 am #

        Ahhh, power.
        And from what I read, you all don’t use A/C…
        Southern weather combined with large windows could be a large off grid issue for A/C.
        This is probably an answer I could look up, but are there larger solar systems for more than 600 watts. I also noticed your solar panels weren’t attached during the hoMe tour video. Does that allow for the best placement for the day’s collection of sun, ease of cleaning, both or was that temporary?
        We’re in Germantown TN next to Collierviile, home of Tiny Happy Homes, which has good options, I’m sure.

        One more toilet pertinent question, do you all run out of composting space or do you have multiple composting beds/drums?

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella July 16, 2014 at 8:59 am #

          Hi there Lorrie! No, no A/C for us (don’t need it) but it’s certainly an option. Perhaps a mini split system for you guys (if you need heat and A/C)? If you want to run A/C though you will need an incredibly large solar system which will set up back $10k+ pretty easily. Our solar panels are set away from hOMe for max exposure. Our house is parked under the shade of two very large oak trees (and why we don’t need A/C) but mounting our panels on the roof wouldn’t have made any sense. In terms of composting, we built a very large 3 stage composter and we won’t run out of space. One could also just compost their solids in the provided plastic drums that come with the Separett.

          • Lorrie Williams July 16, 2014 at 9:11 am #

            Awesome! Thanks for your suggestions! Yes, no A/C is just not an option here….unless we drive the tiny house to a new home, lol! Options are awesome!
            Just starting this tiny house journey. Dee Williams TEDx talk was key to starting this journey. Thanks for posting it and all the other things you do to help inspire.

      • Larry September 24, 2014 at 9:34 am #

        Because we use a 24v dc battery system in our off grid home, (120v ac with our inverter), before installing the Separett, I removed the 12v dc fan that came with it, and replaced it with a 24v dc fan of comparable size. I draw less than 2.5 watts an hour, 60 watts a day. This is a great trade off to the energy loss that would have occurred had I used a 24v to 12v dc converter, a 120v AC to 12v dc converter, or AC fan (the latter two which would have keep our inverter on 24/7). Although a very easy install, I had a bunch of other bathroom work to do first, so It took me a few months before I finally got around to replacing our old behemoth Sunmar. Although it has been only 4 weeks since the install, the Separett, in my opinion, is far above our old toilet in utility and design.

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella September 24, 2014 at 11:35 am #

          Great to hear it’s going well for you too Larry! We switched out our AC fan which was drawing 18w per hour (yikes!!) to the 12v one and now we also use just 2.5w. We are still absolutely loving the Separett especially after the SunMar NE model! Plus we have so much more space in our bathroom now.

  13. Colleen August 21, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    Were you in one of those crazy cabins on the mountain in Tride? lol. I have a question. I use a potty squatty! lol! Is there a way to open the “flap” while not sitting actually on the toilet? Thank you so much for all your info and answering so many questions. Super nice of you~

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella August 23, 2014 at 9:47 am #

      Hi Colleen! To open the flap on the Separett without sitting on it is easy. You can either just push down on the seat with your hand or lift the seat and push a blue button that opens it up.

      • Colleen September 3, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

        Aha, excellent, thank you!

  14. Pete September 7, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    Thank you for your experiences with the composting toilets; it is greatly appreciated.

    I assume that men have to sit down to go # 1 on the Separett, is that correct?

    How did Andrew get past the natural aversion to sitting down when urinating? :>)

    Besides the aesthetics issues, the size and using the cranking mechanism, did the toilet in the Full hOMe tour video function correctly?

    • Andrew
      Andrew September 8, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

      Hi Pete. You are correct that men have to sit down to go #1. For me, it’s not a big deal. I either enjoy going outside on our 5.5 acres or sit. No big deal to me. The previous SunMar toilet is one we would not recommend to anyone as a full time use toilet. It was smelly and dirty. In fact, it full on grossed us out two times, enough so that we replaced it with a 5 gallon bucket until we found the Separett.

  15. Scott September 29, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    We’re building a tiny house in Colorado. I was curious how you contacted Mr. Richard. It looks like the only dealers are in CA or MA.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella September 30, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

      Richard is easy to reach. He is out of Canada but can ship anywhere. http://sustainable-solutions.info/ and 888.361.0014. He actually answers his phone! Let him know we sent you. We’re not affiliates but we really like supporting him by sending people his way. 🙂

      • Crystal April 15, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

        Just ordered ours from Richard!!
        He is So helpful and very nice!

  16. Jay October 20, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    This is very informative and helpful. I would like to put a composting toilet in my art studio but it is not kept above 50 degrees F 24/7. Sometimes the ambient air temperature is in the low 60s, but most of the time it’s around 50 during the winter. If composting doesn’t take place at such low temperatures, would this one work for this application? If not, does anyone recommend ones that would?

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella October 22, 2014 at 11:40 am #

      I have a couple options: 1) Incinolet if you have electrical power (there is no mim temp for it to work) or 2) Separett toilet (which doesn’t actually compost inside the holding tank). One that would not work for you is the SunMar which requires a min temp for composting to happen (though you may meet that with your temps). You could also just use the lovable loo (bucket system) but just make sure that you divert the urine from the solids if you go that route so that you don’t create sludge in the bucket. Hope that helps!

      • Jay October 22, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

        Thanks so much for your reply, Gabriella. Do you have any experience with the Separett toilet? I’m wondering if it doesn’t actually compost inside the holding tank and yet feces accumulate there to be emptied periodically, how it is different from a simple bucket and what would keep the feces from smelling as it accumulates not composting?

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella October 26, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

          The Separett comes with 3 black custom buckets that fit inside the toilet frame. The solids are caught inside that bucket (which is lined with compostable plastic bags). When the bucket is full you can either take the bag to your composting pile or put the custom lid on the bucket and leave it outside to compost. I believe they say that the solids will compost in about 3 months (there must be a minimum temp though for that composting to happen).

  17. Keith October 22, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    First off, you two are fantastically informative! Thank You! I am just beginning my planning for my tiny home. I love your design and will likely purchase plans from you. I have been a carpenter for about 14 years and I cannot wait to begin. That said I do have some questions. I have my land picked out (not yet acquired but very soon) and want to be as off-grid as possible. I would like to use rain water or creek/pond water and run it through a Berkey filter. How do you get/maintain any water pressure? Would a 55 gallon drum be enough water (rain catch system I’m working on) to keep on hand? Could I reused shower water (again run through a Berkey) for laundry or visa versa? lastly what kind of water heater do you use, and would it work with a fairly low pressure system? Thanks so much!

  18. Cindy October 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Hi Gabriella, loved reading all your post. I learned something new today. I am looking into buying a small cabin in the mtns. of VA as a weekend getaway. There is no septic system, so I was wondering if the Separett toilet would be a good alternative. My concern would be not being there on a regular basis to empty the bucket. Do you think this would be a problem?
    Thanks,
    Cindy

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella October 29, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

      That’s great Cindy! I see no reason why the Separett wouldn’t work for you. As long as you have your fan running there will be no odor whatsoever, even if you don’t empty the container each time that you leave for an extended period.

  19. john November 1, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    These toilets are not fly proof. We put our separett in an outhouse and have been plagued by maggots and flies. There is no mention of the fact they are not fly proof in any ads.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella November 3, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

      Thanks for the heads up John! We have had absolutely zero issue with this but it is indoors. Our SunMar on the other hand did come with a fly infestation even indoors. I wonder if there are any composting toilets in the world that would be able to be fly proof outdoors? Seems like it would be really hard to keep them out. Let me know if you know of one that can do that. 🙂

    • Sylvia December 17, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

      I have big problem w flies and maggots.. My separett is in an out building but it is properly enclosed and screened… It’s becoming difficult to use the separett, as a result.

    • Richard Brunt January 21, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

      Flies are an easy problem to solve. Diatomaceous earth, added to the lower bin, fixes it most of the time. Occasionally there are people living in tropical locations without screens on the windows, and it does not work. In that case, you buy inexpensive “fly cakes” at the hardware store which are small metal cages containing mothballs. Attach the fly cake inside the lower bin using velcro tape. Flies will avoid the toilet like the plague!

  20. Kirsten December 5, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    I just finished watching the tour of your beautiful home! I just love it!! I have a question though about the composting toilet that was in the video tour and the one in this post, and wondered if the toilet in the video tour was the SunMar? From your last response it looks like you’re still using the Separett, but was curious as I’m getting ready to head off-grid and looking at the different composting toilets. Thanks in advance!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella December 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

      Great observations! Yes, we currently use the Separett. We got rid of the SunMar. We were too many using it. We love the Separett!!

      • Kirsten December 10, 2014 at 6:31 am #

        Thanks! If I’m the only one who would be using it (other than periodic guests), do you think the SunMar would be a good investment? I like the idea of me not having to do anything with the contents until they are done composting 😉

        • Andrew
          Andrew December 10, 2014 at 8:30 am #

          I can’t say for sure Kirsten. The chances of it working are pretty good if it’s just you, periodically and if you can keep the ambient temp above 70F constantly. In order for composting to happen, there needs to be warmth. Let us know what you decide!

  21. Sylvia December 17, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    Yes, flies are a big problem…I get the tiny flies. Notice that the lid of the separett has a rather large gap underneath. Even large flies could get under the lid. I’ve draped a light weight towel over the seat to cover the space…but still get flies and maggots…
    Also, the bag decomposes in a matter of two or three weeks. I’ve been doubling the bags and even putting newspaper on top of the new replacement bag, but the bags deteriorate none the less. The other problem is that because the turntable under the bucket is not removable, it is difficult to vacuum all the maggots. I have to use a blower, only hoping that all all the debris under the turntable is removed, since I cant visually inspect it. I’m liking dor a solution because I do like the design, but these are design flaws.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella December 19, 2014 at 9:24 am #

      Sylvia, it would be great to contact the folks at Separett. They have amazing customer service and really want to create the best product they possibly can. In terms of the bags, we found a great work around with that and now just take our entire plastic tub with the bag inside straight up to the compost. Because the bags are compostable, they will begin to degrade.

    • j January 23, 2015 at 9:26 pm #

      i installed the separett in our outhouse. no flies, maggots, or anything of the like after two seasons of use. that being said, the design would make it possible for flies to get in since the unit draws air from the room (as you noted, from around the lid)

      what that really means is that you have flies getting into your outhouse. thats probably fairly common since most outhouses are built like….

      well, the point is, if you want the unit to be functional, you have to address the insects getting into your outhouse.

      ive been using a temp door on the outhouse until the weather warms up and i can install the final one, but even at this stage, ive ensured that the outhouse is airtight, and havent had any bug problems (fingers crossed – id say ive been the most skeptical user of the separett, and am always waiting for the other shoe to drop)

      what i will agree on is that the bags deteriorate too fast. ive tried doubling them up, but even then its been a problem. fact of that matter is we live in a very humid climate, so we typically run the fan on the second (high) setting, while trying to combat the general humidity.

      all in all, the unit was purchased to please the fairer sex in our household, (since the 5 gallon bucket and sawdust was vetoed) and it’s done it’s job as well as could be expected

      • j January 23, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

        forgot to mention the flies could be coming in through the exhaust vent, if you neglected to put the screen that comes with the unit on it, or it fell off….

        • Sylvia Baker December 22, 2015 at 1:51 am #

          Yes. Tiny flies were coming through the exhaust vent despite the screen cover. I added a piece of no seeum mesh to the original screen which took care of that situation. But still got the tiny flies. I have no bugs in my outbuilding. It houses kitchen and washroom and is completely and properly enclosed…until the door is opened. I live on a remote island in the Caribbean. Now I notice, another problem. The metal bar inside the toilet cabinet to which the seat is attached allowing it to pivot, is entirely rusted. I may also mention that the turntable which turned adequately for a month or two, hardly moves a quarter inch, now. I tried adjusting the cable, but that did not improve the operation of the turntable.. And has anyone mentioned that the plastics holds odor? True, I don’t smell the poop, but gracious, the plastic bins and the inside the toilet stink to high hell. I have resorted to using the solid fragrances of the old days…the ones hung on the inside of a regular flush toilet because bleach and other cleaners do nothing to eliminate the odor. The toilet is still looking good, but there are design issues that the company should be responsible enough to address and correct… Oh. I really do wonder if young women are comfortable using the separett at that certain time of the month.

          • Gabriella
            Gabriella December 23, 2015 at 8:35 am #

            How cool Sylvia! Where do you live? Have always dreamed of living on an island in the Caribbean (have spent a lot of time traveling there over the years). Interesting feedback on your toilet and how it’s doing in the tropics. You are the first person I have heard about that is using it in a very humid climate. Maybe the Separett isn’t quite designed for tropical climates. In terms of the odor, we flush a little bit of water down the urine shaft each time we use and also use the Separett brand blue tabs and that has taken care of any urine odors. We did go through a while where we weren’t quite so diligent in doing this each time and was beginning to smell of urine but that issue has been long gone. With using the Separett during our period, we haven’t had any issues with it at all. We don’t have any other toilet options so that it all that we use. So far hasn’t been any issue at all for any of the women that has used it.

          • Richard Brunt January 21, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

            Hi Sylvia.The turntable should only move 1/4 inch each time you sit on it. That is normal. The metal bar, like all metal in the tropics (even stainless steel), may start to rust. I’d clean the rust off, and coat it with something. On boats we use vaseline on metal parts – works great. I have never heard of the plastic taking on odor. I’m a bit confused because poop is contained in the bag, and never comes in direct contact with the toilet or bucket. I’d be very interested to hear if anyone else notices an odor. You could wipe it down with a mild bleach solution. If flies occur, it is easily solved, as I mentioned elsewhere. If you have any issues, just call whoever you bought it from. They can usually advise you, and solve most problems quickly.

    • Richard Brunt December 4, 2015 at 11:49 am #

      Problems with flies are actually pretty rare, and can usually be easily solved. First, keep in mind that flies are coming from somewhere. Check the screen on the vent pipe. It has to be a fine mesh screen with no rips, tightly fitting. The vent pipe itself must be well sealed where it exits your home. OK, nothing coming in from outside. How about inside? Fruit bowls are a prime source of fruit flies. Are the windows screened? In the Southeast you may need to keep the toilet room door closed, possibly with weather stripping on the bottom. A screen in the bathroom window is critical.

      You can clean the toilet quite thoroughly with paper towels, and a solution that will kill fly eggs. Don’t run water in there or you might destroy the fan. Once it’s clean, spray it with a fly spray. If you are able to do everything here, flies probably will not be an issue going forward.

      • Gabriella
        Gabriella December 5, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

        One thing to add too…don’t put any food in the toilet! I actually heard of someone putting banana and fruit peels in their composting toilet and low and behold, they had flies. They were upset they were getting flies too.

      • Holly December 20, 2015 at 7:39 am #

        Hello Gabriella! Thank you for this amazing post. I’m just looking into eco loos for a tiny earth bag house and your post is so informative. I was wondering about the use of potash to keep down flies and smell. In the past when a cat left a smelly gift in the garden, I’d put a scoop of ash from the BBQ on it then scoop it into the compost. Would this work also with a composting toilet?

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella December 20, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

          Thanks Holly! In terms of cover material for composting toilets, I don’t know a whole lot honestly. With the Separatt they actually recommend that one not use any cover material at all. A lot of organic cover materials actually create breeding grounds for flies and insects. That said, I know that lovable loo systems do encourage organic materials as cover material to keep odors down (the Separett uses an electric fan to do that job). Sorry to not be of more help!

    • Richard January 30, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

      The turntable is removable. You just undo the small bolt holding it in place. It takes a few seconds. Then you can clean in there. However, I don’t think a toilet has been invented yet that the tiny flies cannot outsmart. The best approach is to keep the toilet in a room that has fine mesh screen on the windows. It’s important to remember, the toilet is not producing flies. If they are in your house, they will find the toilet. If you reduce or eliminate flies in the house, then the problem is eliminated. If you do what you can to keep the flies out, and use diatomaceous earth, you should be fine.

  22. TJ Houston December 23, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    The only problem I see with a composting toilet is that you can’t use PooPourri.

    TJ

  23. Kelly C January 27, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    I am wondering about what type of maintenance the outside composting pile requires. Do you add material to the outside bin? Do you have to “stir” it or rotate the contents in some manner? I am reading a lot about how easy it is from the indoor experience, but what happens outside, where you deposit the bag?

    • bob January 27, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

      Oh, Oh, Oh, I can assist on this one… Get the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins and you’ll find out all about that issue.

  24. Christa February 22, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

    Gabriella – thank you for all the info. You should sell for the company :)! Quick question – how close do you need to be to the vent output area outside to start smelling anything? I am considering putting these in our new studio for my elderly mom and venting through the roof but I don’t want her to be smelling anything while enjoying her patio which would be about 8 feet down and 8 feet over :).

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella February 22, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

      Good question! On a really hot summer day, about 4′. When it’s cold we don’t smell it at all

      • Christa February 22, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

        Thanks Gabriella :)!

  25. chris February 25, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    Hello:

    When you sit, the trap door opens. Then you stand in order to wipe. When you stand, the trap door closes. You toss in the toilet paper which will likely stIck to the sides. So my questions are….how do you get the tp into the solids container when you’re standing, the trap is shut, and the paper is stuck to the sides? Do you have to sit back down and somehow reach between your legs?
    Thank you,

    Chris

    • bob February 25, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

      Now this is a “touchy” part of this subject. Most guys that I know of don’t stand to wipe. In the stalls at work I can always tell when the guy in the next one over is standing or sitting and when they pull off gobs of tp to take care of this. I’ve never known any guy at work to stand and wipe. Just lean over. :O

      If it doesn’t work that way the door does open on this unit when you push on the seat. If you were sitting on it then it shouldn’t be a bother to push on it to open the door. Washing of hands soon follows anyway. 🙂

  26. FL February 27, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

    Hi,

    Another “difficult question”
    I was wondering where menstrual blood should go– in with the solids or liquids?

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella February 28, 2015 at 7:34 am #

      Hi FL! That goes down in the liquids. After each time we urinate we pour a little bit of water down the liquids side to ‘flush’.

  27. Horser01 March 3, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    Well… I was all for it until I read the part about having to be above freezing for more than 6 months… That’s not going to happen in Canada. Lol!

    Is it a huge deal if it freezes? Our compost heap freezes all the time and it just continues on when it thaws… I’m new to all this, so any advice on composting toilets in Canada would be welcome.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella March 3, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

      Great question. That is one way to compost the material. The other is to build your own compost system. We are using the Humanure 3 stage composting system and in time, even with more than 6 months of freezing temps, it will all compost. You certainly don’t have to use those containers (we sure don’t). We only use them to hold the composting bag for the solids. 🙂

  28. kristen ogrady March 11, 2015 at 6:06 am #

    Hello! We are considering a composting toilet for our seasonal beach cottage. I wasn’t sure where the liquids go? On the video it shows them going down a pipe–what happens after that? Do they just drain into the ground? Not sure if our association would allow for that as we are near the ocean. Any insight you have would be helpful. Thanks!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella March 11, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

      Hi there Kristen! Very good question considering you are so close to the water. The urine just goes straight out through a hose. Urine is sterile and since we live in a really forested area with porous soil, we just have it go straight out. I have heard of people attaching hoses to 5 gallon gas cans or other containers though and then moving the urine and disposing of it in another area. Please let me know what you find!

  29. Jessica March 28, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Does your Separett have the child seat, and have you (or your children, rather!) used it? I’m really curious how well that works, as the toilet is obviously sized for an adult. My littlest tends to just barely hang her butt over the edge of the toilet seat when she goes, so I would be worried that the poo would get nowhere near the hole it needed to go down and/or the urine would go into the poo container.

    Thanks for all this great info! It has really helped me narrow down the composting toilet choices for my tiny house.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella March 31, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

      Hi there Jessica,

      Our Separett did come with a child seat but we have never personally used it; though, I am sure it works quite well!

      Cheers

    • Amber January 20, 2016 at 11:44 pm #

      You could always make a home-made child-sized Separette if you had a mind to….. pass it on when your kid graduates! :3 Just dump the contents into the big-kids potty when it gets full.

      • Andrew
        Andrew January 21, 2016 at 9:13 am #

        The unit actually comes with a child seat that fits into the regular seat so that little kids can use the unit too. Ahh the Swedes. They think of everything!

  30. Chad Sullivan April 8, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    Hey There,

    Was wondering what was the Conversion Kit you installed to make the 12volt fan work with your 110volt outlets…. any info would be greatly appreciated… am going togo with a separett (mainly because of your review of it) but need to figure out this detail

    thanks so much….

    chad

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella April 9, 2015 at 11:38 am #

      Hi Chad! It actually was just a different fan with the option of plugging into a battery terminal or with getting power from a plug. I thought it was going to be a whole different thing but literally it’s just a plug that you can plug into your 110 socket. I will say though that the 12v fan wasn’t quite strong enough for us and we were getting some odor leaking out. We went back to the original fan and that works great. It does draw more power but that’s something we are willing to live with.

  31. Robert Garlow May 1, 2015 at 9:27 am #

    Hey Gabrialla and Andrew,
    We are purchasing a composting toilet soon and the Separette is the front runner. Recently however, while considering a ceiling bathroom fan vent (with intentions of expelling shower moister and maybe venting our whole space) we am becoming concerned with the potential for it to over power the small fan in the toilet vent tube causing a back draft in which odors are sucked back into the space. Do you have a bathroom and/or a range hood vent fan and have you had any prior experience with this? Thanks!

    R+S

    • Bob May 1, 2015 at 11:57 am #

      Why not consider the fan in the Separette vent as doing double duty (pun intended) as the whole bathroom fan/vent? It does draw air from the room and out the vent tube, right? Otherwise for the rest of the house a range vent hood should be sufficient without nullifying the fan in the Separette… I would think… depending how far away they are from each other. What do you think Andrew/Gabriella?

      • Robert Garlow May 1, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

        This has been a ligament thought as well and I thank you for bringing it up, Bob. The kitchen and bathroom ARE on opposite sides of the house.
        I guess we are looking for some sort confirmation that A. a composting toilet vent fan can adequately ventilate bathroom shower moisture and B. that a range hood, even 18 feet away would not back draft the toilet vent in a tightly sealed tiny home. I haven’t come across either of these issues over the last 6 months of browsing forums so maybe its not as big of a concern as it seems like.

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella May 2, 2015 at 7:45 am #

          Super question Robert. This is what we have found in hOMe with the Separett: the standard AC fan set on high is strong enough to combat the draw from our kitchen and bathroom fans. The Separatt fan is not enough to pull away moisture from the bathroom when showering so we highly recommend a ceiling fan in the bathroom. We also have a fan in the kitchen that we use each time we cook. Our bathroom fan has a built in moisture sensor so if the ambient humidity gets higher than what we have it set at, it automatically kicks on. We did run into odor issues after swapping out our AC Separett fan for the 12v one. That one was really not strong enough. We no longer have any odors in our tiny.

          • Robert May 2, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

            Excellent feedback. Thank You, Gabriella.

          • Polly Ann December 31, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

            Same here. 900 sq foot home, bathroom in the middle. The Separett’s fan is not powerful enough to vent the shower steam. However the exhaust fan in the bathroom can overpower the toilet fan a little if left running. For a 15 minute shower it isn’t a problem. The exhaust fan over the stove does not overpower the toilet fan ever, and mine is wicked powerful. It is about 18 feet away. The attic fan I foolishly installed right outside the bathroom door that would suck paint off a car is very much powerful enough to overcome the toilet fan. (Ok to laugh at my less than genius planning) I close the bathroom door when I turn it on. I may add a weather strip under the door this Summer if closing the door doesn’t solve the issue. 🙂

    • Richard Brunt January 21, 2016 at 9:13 pm #

      In my opinion, it’s important to think of air flow in a tiny home. In my area, all new homes are required to have an air calculation done, and have a make up air solution installed if required. Modern homes are tightly sealed for energy efficiency, and a couple of fans can easily move more air than is coming in when the doors and windows are closed.

      A common strategy is to have a make up air vent. A make up air vent could be fancy, with a heat exchanger, or something as simply as a passive vent that slides open and closed. A consultation with an HVAC person might be very helpful.

      I do know that the 12 volt fan is more than adequate to ventilate the toilet with no odor. If there is odor, it means another fan is overpowering the toilet fan. Make up air is required in that situation.

  32. DM May 4, 2015 at 7:58 am #

    This is a super informative post! Question for the urban tiny house dweller who might not have a compost bin – is it acceptable to dispose of the bag of solids in the local garbage collection system? Or even city compost collection where that’s available?

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 5, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

      To be honest I don’t know the answer to that DM. I believe that it depends on each township. I know that our dump here doesn’t want human waste but I feel like I heard somewhere that some areas actually will accept it. Will you keep me posted about that as I’ve been curious myself. 🙂

      • bob May 6, 2015 at 6:05 am #

        I also wondered about this same question some time ago. I think I read somewhere that for most communities poop is allowed, but not desired. They allow it since that’s where everyone puts their pet waste and they don’t provide other means of disposing of that.They cannot differentiate between pet waste and human waste really. They do have limits about how much they would see coming into the garbage dump. I think it’s more of a don’t ask don’t tell situation if it’s only a few sources. If everyone put their waste in the garbage there would be enforcement of regulation on it. But I don’t see that happening any time soon.

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella May 7, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

          Thanks Bob!!!

    • Laura December 25, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

      My understanding from some other composting toilet blogs and reviews is that most municipalities DON’T want people to put such waste anywhere except into a sewer line or RV dump, effectively negating the eco-conscious persons attempt to handle this issue properly. Fortunately, I bet you could find a community garden somewhere outside of town that might accept the waste if they know you are handling it properly.

      P.s. this blog is fascinating. Might I suggest checking out Amazon.com reviewers of the Humanure book as well as the Natureshead toilet? Mostly for humor value. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard. Some of those folks have an awesome sense of funny and it isn’t crude, just plain old fun. You guys are nice and sensitive here, which I appreciate too, but let’s face it, this can be a funny subject!

      • Andrew
        Andrew December 28, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

        Hi Laura. There are a couple things at play here to consider. The first issue, as you note, is the potential for road splash to enter the walls thus causing mold. The biggest thing to consider here is proper flashing. If the seal at the bottom of the wall is done in a way that directs water away from the base of the wall and allows for any water that does get in to drain out, then you will be in good shape. Gravity can also play in, depending on the materials used for insulation, but it is less likely to be of concern.

        The second issue is moisture found in the wall in general. The biggest reasons for moisture in the wall are improper flashing at the roof, windows, and doors, and improper vapor barriers and house wrap usages. Both vapor barriers and house wrap should be used in home construction and how they are used is very specific. They do not do the same thing and so should not be substituted for each other. If you allow the wall to breathe out excess moisture (as house wrap does on an exterior while keeping water from entering the structure) and stop moisture from entering the walls to begin with from the interior (as vapor barriers do) then you are in good shape, once again.

        Now, to answer your question. Yes, you can use different insulation types in the wall if you want to. You will likely have a leak at the joint, which is not great. I suppose you could use expansion foam to tie the two materials together; however, I have never tried that. I think you would be better to focus on your flashing and waterproofing material installation and opt for the best R value you can get with your insulation (if that is your priority). If you prefer to stay as green as possible with your insulation, then use that as your guide. Whatever your number one priority, do your best to meet it. As I said, I think the use of flashing, vapor barriers and house wraps are more important in solving the issue of mold than what type of insulation you choose.

  33. WJZDL May 5, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    Question re the composting bags – which ones (brand) do you use and how quickly do they break down in your compost pile/bin? Our Separett Villa for our TH arrives today!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 5, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

      Woohooo WJZDL!! I don’t know the brand name but you can use any composting bags (there are a few on the market). I believe they are a kitchen size large. Boy they don’t last very long though. Maybe a couple of weeks outside in the composter? And I will say that they aren’t super heavy duty so we NEVER take the bag out of the plastic bucket inside the house. We take the whole bucket all the way out to our composting pile and dump the plastic bag out then. We learned the hard way with this…yikes!!!

  34. Keyla May 19, 2015 at 7:11 am #

    Hi Gabriella!
    I am thinking about building an off grid tiny home as well in the next coming year or so- and this composting toilet is great! Anything that works well, and is great for the environment is A-Okay with me! You have a composting bin outside of your home, or do you just throw out the bag anywhere outside? If you do have a compost bin outside, where do y’all have that? Just curious and still learning about the off grid style!

    Namaste,
    Keyla

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 20, 2015 at 6:22 am #

      Hi Keyla! We have a 3 stage compost bin that we built to follow the book Humanure’s compost principles. We fill each bin in about a year’s time and then start the next one, letting the other ones compost fully for at least 2 years. Our compost bin is up towards the forest so about 200′ away from hOMe. 🙂

  35. polly May 19, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Curious about the 110 vs 12v issue. I’m not of grid but still don’t want to use power I don’t have to use. I’m 110 like you. I have seen 110 to 12v adapters. I’m thinking I could buy the 12v model and use the adapter. How did you solve the issue? I know you switched the fan but then how did you address stepping down the power? PS. Thanks for posting the video. It helped ease the mind of my 10 year old about going waterless.

    • Bob May 20, 2015 at 6:18 am #

      Just some information to keep in mind on this matter. Any time you convert from one type of power to another there is energy loss. IOW- when you convert from 12vdc to 110vac there is loss of energy. Also, when you have 110vac and convert to 12vdc there is energy loss in that conversion as well. This loss is most often cast off as heat. Since this house runs on solar and has an inverter (I think, please correct me if I’m wrong on that) there is already a conversion from 12vdc (or 24vdc) to 110vac and the associated power loss AT THE INVERTER. If you already have 110vac available, as here and as you say you have, then there would be more energy loss to convert again. Therefore it is best if there is a 12vdc or 24vdc outlet that can be wired directly from the solar system control unit (before converting to ac) then that would be the way to go for any dc applications if you really want to use dc. But if not, it is best to stick with ac in most cases since so many devices or appliances only come as ac or dc leaving no choice about using an adapter/converter or not. There are always exceptions and sometimes using dc will save more energy than is lost in converting from ac to dc. I don’t have enough information on this specific device to give an opinion if the conversion is worth it or not. I hope I haven’t totally confused the issue.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 20, 2015 at 6:27 am #

      Hi Polly! Bob has given some very good food for thought in his comment below. I anticipated having to go through an extensive process of finding a way to install the 12v fan into our 110 system. However, I was relieved that the DC fan came not only with an adapter for installing directly onto a battery but also, a plug that allowed me to plug it directly into a 110 socket. So, no complicated installations at all. I will say though that we ended up going back to the regular 110 fan that came with our original unit. Though the DC one saved a lot of power, we were getting issues of odor when we put our kitchen fan on. Hope that helps somewhat!

      • polly May 20, 2015 at 9:28 am #

        Thx, great note about the kitchen fan.

      • Polly May 23, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

        I hope these questions are not too graphic but I honestly want to know:
        All reviews say it is odorless, I like that you mention there IS odor when you change the bucket. My guess is it would be no worse than emptying a diaper pail. Is that the case? Have you tried putting a scoop of grass clippings or compost boosting material through the trap door before opening the toilet to change the bucket to help with this? Next, let’s face it “fresh” waste has an odor, a strong odor. So what happens when you use the toilet immediately after someone else? Their waste will still have a strong odor and now you are sitting on the seat causing the trapdoor to open and allow that odor to come out. Is the fan powerful enough to prevent this from being an issue?

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella May 24, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

          Glad you aren’t shy about asking these questions! They are important! In terms of how much odor there is when changing the pale, I would say it’s about twice as strong as changing a diaper pail. Diapers get wrapped onto themselves whereas with the solids bucket, it’s pretty much all just ‘solids’. We have thought about putting some peat moss or something on the top but we’ve just grown used to the routine of opening the bathroom window all the way and the front door to air out hOMe when we take it outside. In terms of odor when use the toilet right after someone else, there is actually LESS odor with the Separatt than with a traditional toilet. Water doesn’t do a good job of damping odor in a regular toilet whereas with the fan on, it really does pull down nearly all of the odor. Once in a while, if someone has really been in there for a long time and it’s particularly stinky, then yes, you can smell a little bit. The key is the fan working properly. Hope that helps!

  36. RS May 27, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    Hi – thank you sooooo much for all this info! We are just starting our build and anticipate the toilet to be one of the last items we put in…we’ll make sure we are rigged for 12v though. No questions from me (I just hope your posts will be up a year from now so I can refresh my memory about all the info you provide).

    Cheers!

  37. Mary Henton June 17, 2015 at 7:42 am #

    The video and conversation thread are very helpful. Thank you.

    I had been leaning toward using a SunMar Compact. I am a single person building my THOW in central Ohio.

    Would you be willing to share—
    1. info about which SunMar you tried?
    2. what the problems were that you had?
    3. why you did not go with a Nature’s Head?

    Thank you,
    M

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella June 17, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

      Hi Mary! We had the Sunmar NE (non electric) and the issue was that with 3 of us using it full time, there was not enough opportunity for everything to actually compost inside the unit. So we always ended up with the holding pan filled with sludge since it holds liquids and solids in the same bin. The key, in my opinion, to a working composting toilet is to keep the solids and the liquids separate from each other. Solids can’t compost quickly enough when they are constantly being combined with urine. In fact, I am hard pressed to believe that any toilet could actually allow true composting to happen inside the unit. With the Separatt, the composting happens in our composting bin, and the toilet itself is more of just a holding tank for the solids and the liquids are diverted. The Separett comes with 3 holding bins with lids and you can put those outside when full with the lid on, allowing the solids to compost over several weeks if you don’t have a way to create a composting bin. I just preferred the simplicity and aesthetics of the Separett over Nature’s Head but I’ve heard good things about the Nature’s Head. Hope that helps!

  38. kevin August 3, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    Hi,

    Can I ask which two versions you had before and why you didn’t like them?

    I was looking at the EcoJohn and Natures Head.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella August 6, 2015 at 9:05 am #

      We had the Sunmar NE (non-electric) and then created our own bucket system. It is our believe that any environment that stores urine with solids is going to create a very strong odor. Even with wood shavings or other materials to cover it. No matter what we did with both of us, they just plain stank. I have heard good things about Natures Head though. Don’t know anything about the EcoJohn.

  39. Joe Jenkins August 3, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

    Technically, this is not a “composting toilet.” It is a “dry toilet.” For some reason, dry toilets became known as composting toilets when in fact they do not compost at all, they dry out the toilet contents instead. That is what they are designed to do, hence the urine separation, vents, etc. Actual composting requires three components: an aerobic environment, human management, and the production of internal biological heat. Dry toilets do not produce the correct environment for composting to take place, therefore, there is no internal biological heat. Toilet systems that make actual compost do not require urine separation, vents, heaters or even electricity. Check out the Loveable Loo as an example of a toilet that makes actual compost.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella August 6, 2015 at 9:03 am #

      Thanks for writing Joe Jenkins! I think that Separett would argue that they are a composting toilet in the sense that the buckets come with lids. When each bucket fills, one can close it up with the composting bag inside and set it out in the sun for specified amount of time. Eventually when one opens up the lid, the contents are supposed to have turned to compost. Of course this requires a few buckets (our toilet came with 3) and if there is more than 1-2 using the toilet, more buckets would need to be bought. We owned an actual composting toilet and the smell from the sludge was so horrific that we literally dragged the whole thing into the woods to let it compost out there. We were really surprised at how poorly that system worked. It was disappointing to say the least.

      • Sandy Graves August 12, 2015 at 9:09 am #

        The advantages of a separating system is that you can use the urine as fertilizer immediately. The solid waste can be covered with sawdust or peat moss which dries the surface and immediately removes the sewage smell. Actually some form of composting does take place while in the toilet (you can feel it giving off heat) but not enough to amount to anything. What you ultimately want is a system where you can easily transfer the solid waste to a composting mound where it can compost at natures own pace. You can significantly speed up the process at the compost mound by adding a black soldier fly generator. Also the system can be designed to hold an insecticide such as the Hot Shot No Pest strip which effectively turns you toilet into a death trap for any insect that finds it’s way inside. Google “BoonJon” if you want more information on this system. It is economical, super easy to use and maintain and requires no ventilation, electricity or water.

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella August 13, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

          Thanks so much Sandy! Super informative!

        • Sylvia Baker December 28, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

          Hot Shot No Pest Strip…that’s a great tip Sandy! Thanks!
          I’ve ordered it from Amazon and will put it inside the separett housing as soon as I receive it. I’ll let you know if this works. Gabriella, I live in a secluded area on Cat Island.

  40. Lara Zukiwski August 12, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

    Hi Gabriella:
    Just wanted to say thanks for all of your info. I bought one from Richard today. Easy peasy!
    best wishes,
    Lara

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella August 13, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

      Thumbs up Lara!

  41. Polly October 12, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

    Hi! I asked you so many questions going into this I have to post now that my toilet is in and we have been using it for nearly three weeks. I love it! Yes it IS odorless! My tween daughter has no hesitation using it, in fact she went first. I wish I had read more about the install. The sizes are not US but there are adapter fittings to tie into 3 inch pipe to make a longer vent…. So wish they offered adapters for 2 inch. When installing in an existing bath this was more trouble than it needed to be do to my lack of research in that area. The fan works well on low. It does not have an off switch. It is supposed to stay on. I probably missed that post too but it is so quiet that you have to stay quiet to hear it. I could go on but I’ll just say I like it a lot. I’m so happy about the lack of water use, even more than I anticipated. I’ll let you know how the first bucket change goes. It isn’t in need for a couple more weeks. That is with one adult and one tween full time use. We put ” wet” toilet paper in the trash can and ” dirty” in the Separett. Guest put everything in the Separett.

  42. Tanya November 5, 2015 at 8:05 am #

    I LOVE all this information!!! We have just purchased a tiny off-grid cabin in Colorado and are planning to use it for three seasons (and rent it out when we’re not there). We need a toilet that looks like a regular one, feels like a regular one, and won’t make renting guests squeamish. This appears to be the BEST option out there for us (they won’t have to turn anything after making “deposits”, empty urine containers, etc).
    This seems to be the most “normal” toilet out there on the market.

    I do have one very…graphic question tho that I’m dying to know the answer for. The fan dries out the excrement, and when it’s normal that makes sense. But what about…very liquid movements (diarrhea)? Is that more of a problem for smells and messes? I’m sorry to be graphic, but I must know. I sometimes have GI issues and suffer from such episodes and want to make sure that this won’t be a big issue with this toilet.

    Thank you for any insight you can give me.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella November 9, 2015 at 10:16 am #

      Hi Tanya! Great question actually! I think there needs to be a point of clarification. The fan doesn’t dry anything out. It simply pull the odor out. I suppose that if the toilet was used only occasionally and by only one person that perhaps the fan would dry things out to some extent. In our case though with 4 of us using it full time, there is no opportunity for anything to dry out. Because we pull the entire bucket out (rather than just the composting bag which can easily tear) and take the whole thing out to our composting system, it doesn’t matter at all how liquid the solids are. Hope that helps! 🙂

  43. Hugh Owens December 1, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

    Gabriella’s excellent video led me to buy the Separett and I have had experiuence buying 2 other types which were not satisfactory. I have installed the Separett in the tiny house I built but have not used it for number 2. I tested the pee system which I routed through the floor. I will review the toilet when I have a chance. My initial impression is that it is well engineered and cleverly designed. Calling it a compost toilet is a misnomer. It seems to me to be a dehydrating toilet, drying out the solids and routing urine away to avoid introducing liquids. Once the poop bag is full. then it is removed and then composted by following the instructions for a period of 6 months to kill pathogens. My only con so far is that it is flimsy and constructed of thin wall thermoplastic. Initially I used the supplied wall bracket to get the proper wall spacing and in the process of sitting on the toilet the lower chamber must have cracked by the trivial movement of sitting down a few times. There is no reinforcement of the bolt holes and clearly there needs to be. I used the 4 holes in the base and lagged it to the floor. So far no base cracks but the base lacks reinforcement as well. The whole unit flexes easily and it is obvious to this observer that great care will be needed in using it. The base rather obviously needs thicker walls and/or additional beefing up in some areas. It should be constructed of much stronger or thicker material, perhaps epoxy fiberglass or epoxy graphite which would be far superior to the poly plastic . I would say that it is overpriced especially considering that the Euro has fallen about 30% in the past year.
    We do not intend putting toilet paper in it which should give longer use before emptying.

    • Richard Brunt December 4, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

      No, you are incorrect on several points. The toilet is actually extremely tough, and you definitely do not need to exercise special care when using it. We’ve never had a single breakage in 6 years and thousands of toilets sold. The toilet is injection molded polyethylene, with special polymers to ensure maximum strength. It was very carefully engineered and does not break. The base does not need reinforcement, as it has never cracked. Epoxy fiberglass cannot be molded into the complex shape required by any conventional or cost effective means, and would increase the cost of the toilet substantially. The Euro has fallen, but most of our costs – distribution, warehousing, marketing, warranty, customer service – have not. Toilet paper should be put in the toilet. Even with toilet paper, the toilet hods a vast amount. 4 people using it full time typically empty it every 3-6 weeks.

      • Gabriella
        Gabriella December 5, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

        I have to agree with Richard too in terms of strength. It doesn’t feel flimsy at all. It feels sturdy. We haven’t had any issues with it at all.

    • Polly Ann December 31, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      Hello fellow Separett owner! I agree the bracket could be improved. Mine is installed in a finished home so it is screwed through sheet rock into wood studs. I think it needs an additional brace in another location to prevent movement of the unit and subsequent fracture of the drywall. The bracket remains intact and so is my drywall for now though the unit does move a little. The unit sits on a porcelain tile floor. I will drill through the tile and anchor through the base in the Spring. I’ll post if that solves the movement issue and does not cause fracture to the plastic, I doubt it will cause fracture. The plastic lacks western aesthetics but is sturdy enough. I mean you no offense but we Americans are traditionally much larger than our European counterparts. No weight limit is listed for the unit (that I noticed). If this concern does not apply to your situation please disregard. If it does you might inquire with the manufacturer regarding used restrictions. I think high weight coupled with movement could cause fracture at least at the bracket but I have had no issues myself. The bucket reservoir is proving as advertised. I have 2 adults using it full time as the only toilet in the house. We empty it at 6 weeks. We are both female so “wet” toilet paper is discarded into a covered trash can and “dirty” is placed in the unit. Guests use only the unit for TP disposal. This separation is what extends our empty- the-bucket regime from 4 or 5 weeks to 6 or better consistently. I hope that helps.

  44. Rocio December 12, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    Hi,
    I own an alley lot in Washington DC (no sewer or water connection possible, but I do have electric) and I am considering building a house/art studio in it with rainwater collection and some kind of no-water toilet.
    I heard that incinerator toilets are smelly. In researching composting ones, I was considering one from Phoenix, very expensive (I heard min of $3,500), but has an indoor big “storage tank” (could be placed in a potential basement). I would not have any yard, only option would be to have a deck on roof for planting, but since I will collect rainwater from the roof (about 1,000 sf), I assume it’s better not to do a “green” roof completely.
    The separett sounds a good option, but in addition to having to have a separate composting pile outside and having three kids, I wonder how good they would be at enforcing a “real” separation 🙂
    Have you heard about Phoenix toilet systems? About rainwater collection, I am looking at the “rainwater pillow”, I like that it comes with all the necessary filters, etc, and can be stored also in basement/crawl space.
    Any tips on any of these? Thanks a lot for your generosity in sharing your experience and commenting!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella December 15, 2015 at 9:19 am #

      Hi there Rocio! Great that you are wanting to build a studio on your lot! Yes, incinolets are pretty stinky (think burning waxy paper smell). The Separett does actually truly separate liquids from solids even with kids. You can’t really go wrong actually bc of the design and how it forces liquids to stay up front and solids to go in the back. The rainwater pillow seems great. Haven’t heard of the expensive composting toilet. One thing that does come to mind with the Separett toilet is if there are any restrictions locally since you live in urban setting in regards to a composting system that carries human waste?

      • Laura December 25, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

        I’m actually wondering about the Incinolet also. Despite the above posts noting the “grey” area of code and possibly legal dumping of the compost wastes, I am Leary that my SUPER sensitive code maniacs in the Austin, Texas, coding authority will veto any attempt on my part. Anyone out there actually USING an Incinolet in a tiny home bathroom.? I am ESPECIALLY interested in heat gain in the room due to Austin’s high heat 4-6 months of the year (it was probably OVER 70 degrees outside today, Christmas 2015). Can anyone comment? If not, I have a query out to Incinolet today, asking them and will update my own post later.

    • Laura January 10, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

      There is SO much info on THIS blog, but I didn’t see the following information, AND IT MIGHT BE A NEW PRODUCT, so I thought I’d add this to the mix, especially as a response to Rocio’s question above. I found the following on http://www.microshowcase.com related to a “new” type of composting toilet that is almost a low-energy composite of a composting and incinerating toilet. I just copied and pasted the info. I am fascinated since I have a bad feeling my local code authorities won’t like normal composting material being dumped outside. While the product below is NOT something terribly different, it just MIGHT solve the problem I, and Rocio, seem to be facing. Maybe…. Anyway, for your information. And the author of the below was addressing the blog on the showcase website.

      “I thought you might like to inform your attendees about The Sanitizer™ Evaporative Toilet. It’s a big improvement over the current Tiny House sanitation systems – composting, incinerating or honey bucket systems.

      The Sanitizer™ is an appliance that dries and sanitizes solids, evaporates liquids, using air flow and short bursts of heat. The treated matter is removed in a bag. The unit weighs 43 pounds, needs only to be vented, plugged in and is ready to use. It is mobile, works off of 110 volt wall plugs, generators and solar. No special type of toilet paper is needed, there is no composting, no fire, and there are no chemicals or water. The user will simply replace the disposal bag every few days.

      Liquid and solid human waste is deposited into the same disposal bag that sits in a wire bag holder deep beneath the toilet seat. The constant air flow instantly begins drying the deposited matter while also drawing air in from under the toilet seat, down and out the vent.

      When the bag is full it is removed by lifting the top of the toilet unit which is hinged, removing the disposal bag and replacing it with a new bag, and closing the top. The disposal bag goes into the trash, sanitized and dried thereby not harming the environment.

      Features:
      • Very small and light weight: 25″ x 17″ x 21″ and 43 lbs.
      • Strong air flow: 50 cubic feet per minute,72,000 cubic feet per 24 hour
      period
      • Uses very little energy: one kilowatt per day
      • No odor due to killing the bacteria and constant venting
      • Easy installation: just connect the vent pipe and plug in the unit
      • Numerous safety features (see below)
      • Lab tested to meet or exceed health safety standards
      • A wire bag holder sits in the heating element
      • The heating element cycles and is controlled with a timer periodically
      heating the disposal bag contents.

      Safety features include:
      • A Ground Force Inhibitor (GFI) prevents electricity arcing
      • The timer holds the temperature when the heater is on and lower than what
      is required to burn paper
      • Waste matter is sanitized: the pathogens are rendered harmless or killed,
      as confirmed by lab tests
      • A safety latch to hold the toilet seat closed when not in use.

      I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

      Cordially,
      Ted Knight
      Vice President
      Clean Up America, Inc.

    • Jerry McIntire June 18, 2016 at 10:47 pm #

      Yes, I’ve heard of the Phoenix system and used some of their installations. They work well with their large composting drums in the basement or in a vault below ground. Well made in the USA! I would set one up with a urine diversion system which would reduce smell, extend the period before you needed to remove composted material, and give you an immediate supply of fertilizer. Urine holds most of the nutrients we excrete, is sterile, and can simply be diluted 50/50 with water and used on trees, ornamentals, etc.

  45. Polly Ann December 31, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Hello again,
    The blog feed is a bit too long to look for others who may have asked this so:
    1) Where is the best place to buy biobags for replacement.
    2) I want solar back up fan for possible power outages. The one from separett USA is pricey. They say it is the best due to being a high powered fan but they don’t list the power, wattage, HP, or anything of the fan. Anyone try it?
    3) where can I buy those little absorptive pads the Separett came with. I had zero odor with the first use (bucket change). But now I have odor. I don’t know if it is urine related, it doesn’t have a distinctive urine smell. The only change I’ve made is the lack of that pad. I di extend the vent pipe but had no odor after that, instead the change in odor only came after use without a pad. I am pouring H20 through the urine cup now to see if that fixes it as well. Any other thoughts?

    3 months in and like my toilet!
    Thx,
    polly

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella January 2, 2016 at 9:44 am #

      Thanks for the great info about your toilet Polly Ann and for letting us know how it’s going for you! We just buy composting bags from our supermarket now. SO much less expensive than the ones from Separatt and they work fine. They are not as strong and they don’t have those handy handles which makes tying a knot in the bag a bit trickier but we do appreciate the savings. We buy kitchen size Large and they fit. The other thing is that we never ever take the bag out and walk it across our floor (we always take the whole bucket out of the toilet with the bag inside) and so it doesn’t affect us that the supermarket biobags are not as strong. We are still buying the blue scent discs from Separett and they are really expensive. The company did say that I can just buy any urinal odor capsule and use that but so far we haven’t done that. If you find one that works, let us know. Would love to hear!

      • Polly Ann January 4, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

        Thanks. I took head of all the warnings about how well the bags biodegrade and thus have always doubled up. I too hadle my bucket chages this way: open the toilet then place the lid on the bucket and then take it out of the toilet and then outside before reopening to pull out the bad and lastly place the bag on the compost pile and wash the bucket with the garden hose at let it sit outside to air out. I ise tue nezt bucket to reset the toilet.I never take an open bucket or bad through the house. Do you still use absorptive pads in the bucket? And thx for the reminder that I can use any urinal cake. I will buy some next week and let you know.

  46. Patricia January 6, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    Gabriella
    Great article ! Very thorough.
    You mentioned that the toilet has to be wiped down with Geror and water solution after each use. That seems like a bit of a hassle especially if you’re renting out your place to Airbnb guest or accommodating visitors. Is this really a necessary step? And, if it’s not done after each use will you damage the toilet?
    Thanks! Patricia

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella January 9, 2016 at 5:47 am #

      Oh dear…I said that? I better read through this again. Gosh, no we don’t wipe it down after each use. We just put a little water to ‘flush’ down any urine in the bowl. I clean it about once per week with a wipe cloth. I fully clean the entire toilet, including the bottom compartment which collects dust, etc. about once every 3 months.

  47. cathy January 19, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

    Where is fan off n on button on villa DC model??
    And do I understand correctly that DC model
    Can use that extra plug to plug into ac
    120 vac???

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella January 20, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

      The DC model doesn’t have low and high power options. It’s just stays at the same setting. You won’t want to turn it on and off (they’re supposed to be on 24/7 to keep odor down). Yes, the extra plug just plugs into regular 120 outlet. We haven’t had that issue with the screen. You should call the person you bought it from and ask for a replacement.

  48. cathy January 19, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

    Also I bought my toilet in Aug last year 2015
    We r barely opening box and installing it
    I notice fan screen very loose won’t stay on
    The one inside toilet.
    🙁
    Flimsey
    And no absorber pads were included
    🙁

  49. Off Grid And Green January 25, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    Great article Gabriella!

    For those a bit squeemish about looking at the poo, there are other options available too. A few of my favorites are the Dry Flush and the Natures Head. The Dry Flush seals up the waste after each use and you never see or smell it, and it couldn’t be easier to install. The Nature’s Head has a flapper inside the toilet that seals off the compost bin so you don’t see inside.

  50. Alan February 9, 2016 at 8:38 am #

    I wonder for city dwellers, modifying a diaper genie…. each “deposit” individually wrapped and sealed, and all cities take diapers, it’s the same packaging.

    Or putting kitty litter in a heavy garbage disposal bag with the dry toilet biodegradable bag and city wouldn’t know poop was not animal

  51. Sarah February 23, 2016 at 7:04 pm #

    Has anyone used the EcoJohn yet? I see some commenters on your thread ordered it, have you heard any feedback on their actual usage? Looking to establish solid reviews for evaluation.

  52. cheryl February 28, 2016 at 7:57 am #

    Hi Gabriella,

    First, thank you for providing so much helpful information. Great!

    So I’m ready to purchase and I’m torn between the Separett Villa (do you think the Ejector Tank is necessary?) and the EcoJohn Composting or Incinerating toilet.

    I’m already sold on the Separate, but I’d like to know if the Ecojohn incinerating toilet is an equal or better choice?

    Thank you!

    Warm regards,
    Cheryl

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella February 29, 2016 at 9:39 am #

      Hi Cheryl! Great that you are getting so close to making a decision. In terms of the EcoJohn I can’t really speak to it bc I don’t have experience with it specifically. That said, we did have the Incinolet and the two main challenges with it were 1) it uses an awful lot of power so it was certainly not an option up here at hOMe where we are off the grid 2) the combustion process smells quite a bit (think burning wax smell). I don’t know if the EcoJohn has the same issue. We love the Separatt because it draws hardly any power at all to run the fan and because there is no smell. So best of both worlds for our needs and wants. Hope that helps!

  53. Valerie March 26, 2016 at 5:19 pm #

    Hey Gabriella,
    Thanks for providing so much information about all aspects of tiny living. Your website covers everything for those of us looking to make the switch. I was wondering how you manage composting waste in the winter?
    Thanks!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella March 29, 2016 at 11:30 am #

      Hi Valerie! We continue to put our solids in the compost pile and wait until it starts to warm up in the summer. We are new to composting so really are struggling to make it all work. We will though! 🙂

  54. Tom April 7, 2016 at 9:31 am #

    Hi Gabriella, great thread, the Sepparet looks like a nice unit. I have been living with a SunMar NE for a little over a year now and there was a learning curve. I first want to point ou that the SunMar does separate liquids from solids. The urine drains through the bulking material into the holding chamber below and there is also an overflow diversion tube in case evaporation is not fast enough. The one time I did have an overflow problem it was due to this diversion tube freezing in Winter,I live in Canada. No probs this Winter as I now have insulated skirting around my 12×40 off grid mobile. Granted there are only 2 of us and we divert all of our toilet paper, I think 3 people full time would be pushing the SunMar to its limits. My vent stack goes directly up as compared to yours that had a couple of bends in it which inhibits evaporation, I think you have a loft above yours.
    I had a fly problem at one time but this was solved by cleaning out the the toilet,puting a insect cartridge (Raid or similar) from the hardware store in the bottom pedestal beside the finishing drawer and on the couple of occasions when I have seen a fly in the bathroom since I have a spray bottle of diluted Malathion that doesn’t stop the composting process but kills flies,eggs an larva that I spray in the toilet. Less than half a dozen times in the last year.
    Air management is something everyone will have to figure out. When I shower I leave the bathroom door open as when it is closed the bathroom fan was drawing air straight down the toilet vent stack. With the door open, no problem. When cooking, withe the stove fan going I just shut the bathroom door,again, no problem.
    The SunMar does require bulking material which is a stupid price if you buy the SunMar brand but costs next to nothing if you buy a bag of peat moss and a bag of wood chips and mix together. The SunMar enzymes you can purchase but I have heard you can avoid that by putting a handful of dry leaves in on occasion. I haven’t done this yet as when I purchased my toilet they threw in a bunch of the enzymes with the sale.
    All that being said the SunMar is big and I would worry about anyone elderly or unstable getting up on that little step every time they have to go.
    I do think you have a quality new toilet there but I think you gave the SunMar the bum wrap so to speak. If you had sludge overflowing onto your floor a couple of times your toilet wasn’t set up right.
    I think people get the impression these sorts of toilets are labour intensive, they’re not. Just different requiring a bit of trial and error.
    Love your site and will be ordering your dvds. Keep up the good work.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella April 9, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

      Hi Tom! Thanks for giving your perspective. You are in the very small minority in terms of the NE. Actually, you are the only person I have heard of that is having a reasonable experience with it (though I wonder how long you have had it for since you mentioned you haven’t gone through all of the enzymes yet that came with the order). When we were using it there were two of us using it full time for the most part (our kids were visiting from time to time). We actually were draining the liquid line straight down through our trailer floor and outside. No freezing at all since both times it was warm. There is just so much bulking materials and solids that fall down there that the line got clogged twice. The thing is that the drain line is all the way in the back of the unit, requiring one to reach in there with gloved hands to unclog things. Or as we did, using a Shop Vac to suck all of the sludge out of the bottom of the unit and unclogging the drain line. But the BIG thing for us was that OK, let’s say that everything is working fine and the drain line is working properly, with the Sunmar NE, the urine drops straight down into the where the solids are, when liquids build up and they drain out of the line, one now has black water going straight to the outside. It is absolutely bizarre that this unit is approved as a legal composting toilet option bc black water on surface is really not good. With the Separett, only sterile urine goes outside bc the urine and solids don’t intermix. Anyways, like I said, I am genuinely happy that it’s working well for you guys bc it is so expensive and I hate for anyone else to have as bad of an experience as we did! 🙂

  55. Tom April 11, 2016 at 6:45 am #

    Hi Gabriella, we have been using the SunMar going on 18 months now. I haven’t gone through all the enzymes yet as when I purchased mine it was a floor model at a local hardware store and when I bought it I made them an offer on the toilet and all accessories they had in stock. I really got one heck of a deal on it. It wasn’t a big seller for them and they were happy to free up the floor space.
    I do add more bulking material than recommended after each bowel movement, almost 1/2 full scoop supplied with the toilet as opposed to the I think 1/2 cup SunMar recommends. Urine in the bulking material is essential for composting to take place as is adherence to rotating the drum every second day. At first I was rotating the drum too often and too fast and this disrupts the composting process. My overflow drain goes into a buried 50 gallon plastic barrel, checked it yesterday and it is almost empty. If this were going directly into the ground it wouldn’t concern me at all. I suspect mine is evaporating better due to the vent stack having no bends.
    I’ve never had solid waste fall into the evaporation chamber as the drain screen is far too small to allow that, though I have seen compost from the finishing tray get knocked out while removing the tray. This was always dry composting material that was easily picked up.
    Anyhow, mine works great, I have No odour in my place and am pleased with it after some frustration in the beginning.
    Glad you’ve found a loo that works for you. Not knocking the Separett, it may indeed be a better product for some but for our purposes the SunMar has been a champ and has required no electricity which is a big plus being off grid.
    Cheers Tom

    • Tiny Houses Inside May 9, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

      Hi Tom,

      Have you ever had any problems with Flies? If so, could you recommend a solution that worked for you?

      Thanks for sharing the specifics on how often you should rotate the drum. We’ve installed a Sun-Mar Excel NE aaaand a Nature’s Head for a side by side comparison test. We’ve got a YMCA camp that are the guinea pigs all year long, already have the winter data. It’s a win win, the kids learn more about sustainability, and we get real data about the two going head to head, pun intended, in cold and hot weather, so we can flush out any problems that may arise.

      Could you elaborate on what your initial frustrations were with the Sun-Mar?

      • Gabriella
        Gabriella May 14, 2016 at 9:05 am #

        Tiny Houses Inside…how great you are using both at the camp!! I would love to hear what your study finds! Feel free to shoot me an email at gabriella at tinyhousebuild dot com or just to post in here 🙂

  56. Tom May 26, 2016 at 8:51 am #

    Uuuummm, time for me to eat a little crow so to speak. Though my SunMar works fairly well with no real odour issues I recently realised I too was having problems with the urine overflow drainage. With my vent stack going straight up I think it evaporates as best it can, I do not have the in line fan to draw air up. The problem seems to be, as Gabrielle said earlier material falling through the drainage screen into the evaporation chamber. In my case none of this appears to be solid waste as the screen wouldn’t allow that but fine peat moss dust. The cumulitive effect of this mixing with the urine eventually created a sludge mass that just would not drain. I discovered it before any unpleasant overflow occured but as Gabrielle said in an earlier post cleaning it out is quite unpleasant. This is a real design flaw.
    As far as flies, as I posted earlier I had a problem but it was resolved by cleaning out the toilet. I then put a fly killing cartridge from the hardware store in the bottom of the toilet beside the finishing drawer. I dont recall the brand but it is from one of the regular manufacturers. It is rectangular, about 8x3x1/2 inches sold in single pouches. Listed as not for use indoors but as it is in the body of the toilet and is vented I do not worry about it. On the odd occasion I do see any flies in the bathroom I picked up a bottle of Wilson 50% Malathion liquid at my local TSC store. I hear it is also available at garden centres. Dilute as per directions on the box and put in a spray bottle. Be sure to diute it, it is strong stuff. I read on another forum that it does not stop the composting process. As I said in my previous post only rotate the drum every 2-3 days. Rotating too often will not give enough time for composting to take place and rotating too little will not aerate it enough. Rotate the drum 4-6 complete revolutions. 1 revolution equals 7 turns of the handle.
    I too am interested in hearing how the 2 toilets compare.
    My apologies to anyone I may have unwittingly misled with my previous posts on the SunMar.
    Cheers Tom

  57. Sandy Graves July 11, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

    If you are looking for a really good alternative toilet system, may I make a suggestion? I’m reading about all the issues surrounding the Sun-Mar and Separett toilets and no one has mentioned the BoonJon urine diverting toilet and system. It is the simplest urine diverting toilet on the market and solves all the problems mentioned above by being so simple. I’m the designer and manufacturer. The website is full of information and my customers seem to love it. Google “BoonJon” or “C-Head” toilet. I’d be glad to answer specific questions about it.

  58. Ron July 31, 2016 at 7:54 am #

    Hi Gabriella,

    On the Canadian web site they list wood burning incinerator as an option to dispose of the waste material. Has anyone disposed of the poop in this way?

    Thanks Ron

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella August 2, 2016 at 9:00 am #

      Hi Ron! I haven’t personally but incineration is used in many municipalities around the world for disposal of waste. I’m also thinking about the Incinolet toilet. Let me know if you end up doing that!

      • RICHARD ROSSMASSLER August 17, 2016 at 8:25 am #

        hi gabriella… i enjoyed you article and comments… i’m building a floating house and about to select a toilet… you seemed so happy with your separett aside from the fan issues you experienced… why are you now thinking about the Incinolet toilet?

        i also have limited energy so a high powered fan is not ideal for my situation…

        is it because of the energy use that you are looking for alternatives?

        thanks!

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella August 18, 2016 at 8:58 am #

          Hi Richard! Sorry, there must be some confusion. We actually had the Incinolet years ago (would pretty much never get one again for various reasons now that the Separett is available), and we aren’t going anywhere from our Separett toilet. We are still just as happy with it as we were two years ago or so since we got it. Even the energy draw has turned into a non-issue for us 🙂

        • Gabriella
          Gabriella August 18, 2016 at 8:58 am #

          Hi Richard! Sorry, there must be some confusion. We actually had the Incinolet years ago (would pretty much never get one again for various reasons now that the Separett is available), and we aren’t going anywhere from our Separett toilet. We are still just as happy with it as we were two years ago or so since we got it. Even the energy draw has turned into a non-issue for us 🙂

          • RICHARD ROSSMASSLER August 21, 2016 at 7:09 am #

            ok great! thanks for clarifying gabriella!
            much appreciated

  59. kmou August 13, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    Hi, I can see for a female that there won’t be splash back when we use the toilet to pee, but what about men peeing? I noticed from my past boyfriends that they tend to pee towards the farther end of the toilet (where the solids would go in this case) and (sorry for the “TMI”) that they pee at a faster and more “aggressive” rate than women. Won’t there be splash back since it’s so “close” to the person?

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella August 16, 2016 at 1:22 am #

      Hello kmou! Great question. As long as men are sitting down while using the Separett (not standing), there is no splashing. As men get older though and their stream isn’t quite as aggressive anymore, they can stand up while using the Separett. 🙂

  60. Nadia Marshall October 1, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    Dear Gabriella,

    We’ve just built a tiny house in Australia and, after watching your video and reading your blog, bought a Separett toilet. We’ve been using it for about a month so far an love it but we do have a couple of issues. First of all, we seem to be filling it faster than others – it says each bucket takes 60 uses. We tend to go twice a day so we’re the bucket is getting pretty full in just 2 weeks for us! Also, we vented the loo straight out the back wall and we certainly notice an odor at the back of the house. Our outdoor shower is not far away so that’s a bit unpleasant and we live in a suburban area so it’s not ideal. We’ve told the neighbours to let us know if they smell anything but we seem to be the only ones noticing it. I’ve ordered some of the absorbant pads to put in the bucket to see if that makes a difference. There is no odor at all inside so that’s good. If it doesn’t improve, we’ll vent upwards above the roof. Getting 75mm PVC pipe in Australia is the next challenge as it’s not readily available…

    Our next challenge is managing the waste. It isn’t clear how long you have to keep the waste in the little black buckets before moving it to another compost. Originally I read keep it in the bucket for 6 weeks and then transfer to another compost. And we’re a bit nervous about the other compost actually working well enough to take care of the business (and I have odour paranoia). Luckily we live next to a big a paddock so we think we might buy a few black plastic garbage bins and use them for storing the waste for 12 mths (with sawdust added perhaps) and then empty the (hopefully) composted material in the paddock.

    So far I’ve added soil to the two black buckets we’ve used and kept them slightly vented and put them in the backyard. I’ve bought two more buckets because we’re going through them quite quickly but can’t have hundreds of poo buckets lined up in the backyard! Do you or Richard have any suggestions as to how to best manage the waste if we don’t have woods nearby or room for a three stage composting system?

    Many thanks!!
    Nadia

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella October 17, 2016 at 9:05 pm #

      Hi Nadia! This is the response from Richard Brundt who distributes the Separett here. Hope it helps!

      Hello Nadia,

      Thank you for bringing up these issues. There is a bit of a learning curve, and I’m sure that in a short time everything will be working fine. The bucket holds about 60 solid “uses”, and that was very carefully determined in extensive testing. However, this varies on the volume of the waste and also the quantity of the toilet paper you use. If it fills up in two weeks, you might try less paper, otherwise you’ll have to empty it every two weeks.

      If you notice odor out the back of the house, you will need to move the vent pipe. I explain to my customers that you can vent out a wall only if it can exhaust in an area not frequented by people, and not near a deck, door, or window. All toilets will smell at the vent pipe, even regular flush toilets. It sounds like you need to extend the pipe to the roof line.

      The vent pipe included is not widely available. It is metric, and slightly smaller than typical 3″ PVC. That is why there are numerous couplings in the box, to allow you to transition to standard 3″ PVC. It’s very easy to do. The dealer you bought the toilet from should be able to guide you if you have difficulty.

      Separett recommends you store the compost for 6 months – not 6 weeks. This is similar to WHO guidelines for warm climates. Other guidelines are suggesting even longer, but I am confident that in 6 months the material will be safe to use on non-edible plants.

      Forget the bucket storage system, in my opinion. I have found the best method to be as follows. Dump the contents of the bucket, including the compostable bag, into a sealed compost bin (not an outside pile or a bin with holes in the bottom. You don’t want leaching of the waste to occur). I like the off the ground rotating bins. Two of them should suffice, and won’t take up much space. Keep adding material until the compost bin is full. This typically takes a year or so, but maybe less in your case. Then start using a second bin. When the second bin is full, the contents of the first bin are ready for the plants.

      I hope this helps. Your Australian dealer can also help you. Once you have everything sorted, I’m sure you will be very pleased at how easy it all is. You can read more on my site, under Separett and Separett FAQs.

    • Féidhlim Harty November 28, 2016 at 7:46 am #

      Hi Nadia, In terms of disposal of the bucket contents – one option outlined by Anna Eday of Solviva.com is to upend the buckets onto a dedicated woodchip area and let the worms drag the compost down into the woodchips as they digest it.

      The methods I’ve used for dealing with faecal material for composting have been to trench it in shallow covered trenches to let the soil biota do their work; or to compost it in a dedicated compost bin with tiger worms (and then trench it afterwards just to be sure, planting comfrey over it to recycle N, P and K).

      I’m wary of sealing the contents into an airtight bucket – but since I haven’t tried it, I can’t comment from experience and I’d be interested to learn more about the speed of breakdown.

  61. Richard Brunt October 27, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    In response to many questions, I now have a post on my site specifically dealing with flies. It is fortunately a pretty easy problem to solve. One new development is we have found that a naturally occurring pesticide called Gnatrol is very effective, in addition to the other things I have mentioned.

  62. Kayshla Torres January 11, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

    Hey, I looked at your video twice and I was wondering what do you do with the bag when you have to replace it with another one? I am sorry if you answered this question but I still do not understand the process. I am really interested in living in a tiny home and I want to have all the information so that I can be prepared for when I do.I thought your article was very informative and great! Thank you!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella January 12, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

      Totally fair question Kayshla! Once we remove the bag, we carry it up to our compositing pile where we compost our solids as well as food scraps. We then replace the old bag with a new compostable one and start anew. What you don’t see in the video is our walk up to the woods where we have our 3 stage composting bins. 🙂

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