Do Composting Toilets Work In The Winter?

With environmental concerns attracting lots of attention from all corners of the globe, more and more people are striving to minimize their impact on the only home we all share; the planet.

Instead of relying on conventional water toilets, many people are using composting toilets because they don’t use any water at all. Plus, these innovative pieces of equipment use natural materials such as wood chips, to break down your waste into useful compost.

Composting toilets are not only relatively affordable, but are also easy to install. Whereas a traditional toilet needs to be connected to the existing pipes or may require the installation of new ones, a composting toilet is a self-contained fixture that doesn’t need to be hooked to anything.

Of course, some are pretty elaborate and may need to be installed by professionals, but most of these toilets can just be placed in a room and are instantly functional. After all, a regular composting toilet only features a five-gallon bucket and a lid.

One of the major benefits of composting toilets is that they don’t rely on water to operate, so if you reside in a drought-prone area, you won’t have to worry about having to keep an eye on the amount of water your toilet is using.

Do Composting Toilets Work In The Winter?

Despite their unrivaled potential benefits, one major concern with composting toilets is whether they can work perfectly even during the winter season. If you have ever used these types of toilets, then you already know that it can be quite difficult to ensure that the microbes available in your composting bin work constantly all year round.

In fact, most people usually think that composting toilets can’t work during the winter, but the truth is that they can also work very well in winter. What you’ll have to do is to slightly alter how you usually maintain your toilet.

So, before we share some tips on how to make your composting toilet more functional and effective in winter, let us first understand how they work.

What Are Composting Toilets?

composting toilet

Composting toilets are devices capable of transforming human waste into compost.

They employ the use of the organic decomposition process to effectively recycle human waste. Usually, the human waste released into toilets has about 90% moisture content, which evaporates before finding its way into the atmosphere via the vent system.

A small amount of the remaining solid material is safely converted to essential fertilizing soil through a natural decomposition process.

How Do Composting Toilets Work?

First and foremost, it is imperative to note that composting toilets are available in two distinct designs; self-contained and remote or central design. The former houses the whole composting unit and are commonly used in boats, RVs, and tiny homes. You’ll have to empty them manually or by hand.

On the other hand, central systems discharge their waste into a remote composter installed at a different location within the property. Larger units can connect many toilets, and this makes them suited for larger compounds or homes.

Irrespective of the design of the composting toilet, a compost pile must initiate or create and maintain the right environment for the decomposition to take place. In other words, it should establish the right conditions for the essential bacteria to decompose the waste.

For this type of environment to be created, there needs to be an optimum amount of moisture, carbon-nitrogen ratio as well as adequate temperature levels. And if these conditions aren’t met, your composting toilet won’t operate efficiently.

Adequate amounts oxygen, moisture, organic material, and heat helps create a favorable working condition for the bacteria, enabling them to effectively change your waste into a harmless yet powerful organic fertilizer. This ensures smell-free operation as well as complete decomposition of the waste.

Excessive moisture in the compost pile can cause the drowning of the oxygen-breathing bacteria. To be safe, you must ensure the pile isn’t overly wet. And this is the reason why most composting toilets come equipped with standalone urine containers for collecting liquid waste that users will have to empty occasionally.

Also, aerobic bacteria usually thrive at a temperature that ranges between 60 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Safe handling of the urine helps eliminate unwanted buildup of nitrogen in your compost pile. Adding materials rich in carbon to the waste such as coconut fiber may help strike the optimal balance between carbon and nitrogen.

For enhanced performance, modern composting toilets come equipped with automatic mixers, thermostats, sensors as well as extra contrivances to ensure optimal moisture control, chemical balance, and temperature maintenance.

So, how can you make a composting toilet operate better in winter?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, prolonged periods of cold temperatures can impact the functionality of a composting toilet. But the presence of the cold weather shouldn’t force you to stop using your composting toilet altogether!

Below are a few tips to get those essential microbes active in your split system:

  • Keep your composting toilet heated and warm: If you have a self-contained system and have installed it inside your house, you won’t need to boost your temperature settings to promote better performance. This is because your home’s temperature should be sufficiently warm to keep your composting toilet up and running throughout the cold season. However, if the toilet is installed outdoors, you can use insulation or heating pads to help adjust the temperatures. You can place the chamber inside a pop-up greenhouse or wrap up the chamber in an insulating material such as bubble wrap or yoga mat.
  • Add a bulking agent to ensure the right balance between moisture and oxygen: It is important to know that a compost pile requires the right amount of water and air, in addition to nitrogen and carbon. During winter, the addition of excess moisture will force out air from the pore spaces in your compost pile, leading to the death of the important aerobic bacteria. You can boost the amount of carbon in the pile through the addition of a bulking agent such as mini hemp to help increase the surface area for the microbes to work on.

It is worth noting that when human waste is adequately composted, the end product is usually free from any viruses or pathogens because these get destroyed through bacterial disintegration. This nutrient-rich manure can then be used on plants as part of the natural cycling of nutrients, significantly reducing your use of industrial fertilizers.

Here Are Some Good Composting Toilets

Today, there are potentially endless bands and models or organic latrines.

This implies that finding the best device that suits your needs can sometimes be a daunting and intimidating task. However, as someone who knows a bit about composting toilets, I’m here to help you choose the best device that suits your needs.

So, in this section, I’ll briefly review the three composting toilets that you might find attractive!

Excel Nun-Mar Toilet

If you are someone short on space, you should always consider this particular device, simply because it is self-contained. It is a highly compact device that requires less installation space but still guarantees eco-friendly and reliable waste management.

Sun-Mar (which is available on Amazon) is the first self-contained and waterless composting toilet that is NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certified! It features a two-inch vent at the back that runs out of the house, ensuring that your home remains clean and odorless at all times.

Thanks to its compact and lightweight design, it is suitable for boats, small RVs, limited bathroom space, and tiny houses. It is fairly costly compared to other regular toilets of this nature. However, if you have limited space, the Sun-Mar Excel is great.

Nature’s Head Self-Contained Composting Toilet with Close Spider Quarters Handle Design

This is another incredible device worth your time and money! It not only guarantees easy and straightforward set-up, but also boasts a much-needed odor-free operation. What’s more, it is very easy to maintain. It is suited for two users thanks to its considerable capacity of 60-80 solid uses while also handling toilet paper.

While initially designed for marine use, this fantastic toilet can equally be used in RVs, outdoor houses, tiny houses, cabins, and more. You will discharge the liquid from the collecting container daily to ensure optimal performance.

Thanks to its stainless steel hardware and robust construction, this composting toilet (also available on Amazon) has been specifically designed to withstand the roughest conditions.

Centrex 3000 Sun-Mar Toilet

Sun-Mar is a trusted brand in the composting toilet industry, manufacturing high-end and performance-oriented devices that are also durable. This particular one is its typical product, boasting numerous amazing features that will surely excite everyone!

It is a large capacity, remote composting unit that is ideal for those looking for a machine that boasts extra-large composting system. It is also worth noting that it is a non-electric model that can easily be installed in any off-grid application where there is no power supply.

It comes fully assembled, and you’ll only need to connect it to a regular, free-standing latrine of your choice. It can support five adults for residential application and up to eight people for regular application. If you are someone who doesn’t appreciate the hassle of routinely emptying a self-contained toilet, then a decent toilet such as Sun-Mar CENTREX (that you’re able to find on Amazon) is what you need. Though, as you can verify, it’s not the most affordable toilet out there.

Composting toilets are likely to be affected by cold weather, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t use them during winter. With a few adjustments here and there, you can still use your composting toilet effectively regardless of the weather.

Hopefully, the tips I’ve shared will give you an idea of what you must do to prevent weather from being a real problem.