Have you ever wondered about composting toilets and how cost-effective they are? Of course, prices vary from toilet to toilet, but it is possible to pin down some average costs depending on the sort of toilet that you choose to install.
Besides installation, make sure you consider the costs of maintaining a composting toilet over the years – this will depend on its use and the kind of toilet you install.
In terms of installation, on average, a composting toilet will cost around $1400. If you are a particularly handy person and you’re feeling confident, you can also build composting toilets yourself, often for around $50, depending on how you source materials. You will, however, need detailed instructions and to follow them closely; “winging it” is not a good idea when it comes to this sort of system.
What Costs Are Associated With Setting Up A Composting Toilet?
So, what do you need to set up a composting toilet and why do they cost so much? $1400 may seem a huge amount of money for a toilet, but it’s actually very cheap when compared to other off-grid systems such as septic tanks.
The $1400 is an estimate only; different systems will vary drastically in terms of the price and what you get. Some come with buildings, some without, and different factors such as the ventilation needed and the method of waste removal will all affect the budget.
Some composting toilets cost as much as $13500, while other models may range as low as $750. If you require connection with gray water systems, hand washing facilities, or other “extras,” you may find that costs climb quickly.
You should bear in mind that the $1400 average cost is not going to include setup costs in most situations, and depending on where you are installing the toilet, these could be expensive. Paying a company to install a composting toilet could be pricey, which might lead you to look into doing it yourself.
If you are going to create a composting toilet yourself, you can massively reduce the costs, but you will need to get materials.
Different composting toilets will require different materials, but if you are thinking of trying to build your own, there are a few common materials that almost all systems will require you to source. You will usually need plywood, a proper toilet seat, a bucket, particleboard, the material with which you will cover the waste, and the tools and minor materials (such as nails) necessary to build it.
Most of these things should be available at a relatively low cost, so if you are keen to try your hand at building your own composting toilet, it will be much cheaper, although it will take time to build, and it’s important to get it right. Building a composting toilet improperly could result in hazardous waste, a terrible smell, and the need to remove the whole construction and start again.
What Costs Are Associated With Maintaining A Composting Toilet?
You might wonder what costs you face going forward with a composting toilet. Obviously, composting toilets can represent a saving in that they reduce water use, but in countries with subsidized water costs (such as the US), this cost is probably relatively low anyway – which means that it’s important to think about what a new composting system will cost in the long term.
The most obvious ongoing cost is the cover up material that you use. No matter what you use, it will have an ongoing cost unless it’s completely free. Things like sawdust are relatively cheap to buy, but you should still consider what they will cost over the course of a year.
If you are running composting toilets on commercial premises, the obvious cost will be the manpower to empty them. If you are just running one at home, you still need to think about this; it isn’t a direct cost, but it’s a constant draw on your time and energy, and it needs to be done regularly to keep the toilet composting well.
You should have few other ongoing costs with a composting toilet system provided it continues to work well – and if your system has been well built and is looked after, it should.
A small cost that you may encounter is that if the ventilation system does not work very well, you might want to install a low-power fan in the toilet’s room for use on bad days. If the wind blows the wrong way, some composting toilets struggle to vent properly, and this can result – as you may imagine – in some pretty unpleasant smells.
Installing a fan has an ongoing cost when you use it, but this should be minor as little power is really needed to help clear the air.
What Kinds Of Composting Toilets Are There?
The common kind of composting toilet to install in homes is the self-contained unit. This means that the toilet and the container in which waste is composted are a single unit. These can be electric or non-electric, and they vary in terms of cost and capacity. They do not require any plumbing and they are usually easy to install.
You are likely to build this kind yourself if you opt for a D.I.Y. approach, and they can be very simple provided you make them easy to empty (e.g. a bucket that can be removed).
Alternatively, remote composting toilets have the waste contained at a different site to the toilet itself. This sort of system can be waterless or dependent on water, but only uses a very small amount of water on a flush. The waterless kind usually depends on a vacuum to direct the waste and ensure it does not get stuck.
Often, the composting unit will be in the basement or a separate building, ensuring that what you and guests use is much like a traditional flushing toilet. This can help to reduce odor issues and improve the experience for users and is often considered a “best of both worlds” sort of system.
However, it requires more setup and will probably cost more – and you may find that you can’t build such a system yourself from scrap parts!
The systems are also known as central composting systems at times.
These are the two most common kinds of composting toilets, although there are others. They both depend on aerobic composting to break down waste, which can then be removed and used elsewhere.
Obviously, the costs between the two systems will vary depending on the different factors, but you may find that a non-electric self-contained unit is the most economical, especially if you are prepared to build it yourself. Adding electricity and increasing the capacity will increase the costs.
A central composting system requires more work in terms of design and the movement of the waste and is usually much more complex. For that reason alone, these systems can be more expensive, and few individuals will have the skill or tools to install them. However, if you are particularly handy, you may be able to do it!
What Are The Pros Of Composting Toilets?
There are many advantages to composting toilets and the biggest one, obviously, is the reduced use and need for water. In places where connecting mains water is difficult or impossible, and in places where we need to focus on water conservation, composting toilets come into their own.
Secondly, composting toilets provide you with valuable food for your garden. Aerobic decomposition will turn the waste into something useful, and you can combine this with the composting of kitchen waste to maximize the reuse of materials in your home.
If you aren’t sure about that idea, remember that by the time a composting toilet has finished its job, the waste you remove should be indistinguishable from other compost – and it is just going to go back into the ground as all other animal waste does.
While the sanitary “flush and it’s gone” toilet may seem more appealing, particularly in a society that is highly aware of germs and bacteria, we also need to be realistic about the future. It is thought that composting toilets could save over half of the water used in households.
When you consider how much energy it takes to keep cleaning water used for toilet flushing, it’s clear why composting toilets are an important part of building a green future.
It’s also a great way to reduce marine pollution and our dependence on harsh chemicals that are otherwise needed to clean water used for toilet flushing. If you are looking to turn down your impact on the environment in more ways than one, composting toilets are an obvious step.
Composting toilets have a degree of flexibility that most modern building does not offer. They can be installed pretty much anywhere, regardless of surrounding amenities and building restrictions. They also offer off-grid communities a chance to get going, and they can decrease maintenance in regular households as well.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Composting Toilets?
Some of the disadvantages may be more obvious. One of the disadvantages is that if you don’t build the system yourself, you face relatively high setup costs (depending on your circumstances), which could be unattractive.
Another obvious downside is the maintenance – you need to constantly empty and maintain a composting toilet. It does not have the convenience of flushing water and forgetting about it most of the time. It may have to be emptied on an almost daily basis, depending on your use and the type of toilet you have installed.
If you are troubled by the idea of handling human waste, you may find that the requirements to empty it and deal with it – especially if something goes awry – are too much to manage, and this might put you off the system altogether. However, you will likely find that your tolerance increases over time.
Another disadvantage is that you may have to use it in conjunction with a gray water system, and this obviously reduces the advantages it has in being installed away from plumbing systems. Toilets that are not connected to a system will certainly require manual emptying and disposal of the waste.
Furthermore, composting toilets do not make an allowance for hand washing, so you will have to think about an adequate system to deal with this. This may mean that plumbing is needed, even if the toilet is not dependent on plumbing.
If you only have a small system, you will find that it struggles to deal with large amounts of waste, which could be an issue if you have guests to stay. An overflowing composting toilet is not something that anybody wants to have to deal with.
A further problem lies in the need for a power source for some of these toilets; if you don’t have electricity readily available, some systems will be unavailable to you, which may limit your choices.
Finally, two smaller downsides are the smell (which should only be an issue if something has gone wrong, but is still something to consider nonetheless) and the poor aesthetic. Composting toilets rarely look attractive.
This may be partly because they have a negative reputation, but it is something you should consider when installing one. Ensuring that it can be cleaned to an excellent standard and that you minimize any aesthetic defects such as cracks and crevices which could harbor bacteria is a must. While composting toilets can be perfectly clean, they must look and feel so too!
Composting toilets can vary enormously in cost, and the first thing you’ll need to determine is whether you are looking at a self-build or a company-built option. Doing it yourself will massively cut costs, but does require a good level of skill and an understanding of how the system is going to function. Getting it wrong can be both unpleasant and expensive.
In general, budgeting about $1500 for a purchased system should be reasonable, but it will depend very much on what you want and how sophisticated it is, so talk to some companies and get quotes before you make a start!