If you have an off-grid property with no water supply and limited or no electricity, a composting toilet is something you might be considering to make it more comfortable for you and your guests.
Composting toilets come in all different styles across a range of price points. Some are better suited for properties with no structures, while some are best for a cabin, cottage or RV situation.
Here’s the basics of what you need to know about composting toilets from the cheapest to the most expensive options, with the pros and cons of each one.
The composting toilet bucket (“Luggable Loo”)
The cheapest composting toilet option is a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat lid. It will cost you under $50 to get up and running, which includes the bucket, toilet seat lid and composting bags.
These are sometimes sold as a kit under the name “Luggable Loo“. Buying it as a kit is more expensive and offers no extra benefits.
Unless you’re planning to dump your goods in general garbage, you can avoid the more expensive heavy duty “Double Doodie” bags they sell for the “Luggable Loo” and use any general kitchen composting bags.
If you’re going to use one of these bucket setups in a group it’s recommended you get a privacy tent to place it in (a camping shower tent works great for this since it has no bottom for any accidents that might happen).
PROS: Cheap, easy to get and setup, portable.
CONS: Can only be used for solid waste (if you have to pee, you need to either go somewhere else first or hold it in until you’re done), little privacy without shelter around it, not the most comfortable to use.
The hole in the ground
Moving up the list, digging a deep pit surrounded with a box with a hole and seat on top (also called a thunderbox) is another cheap option. This is way more labour intensive though given you need to do a lot of digging, and unless you’re putting up walls and a roof to make a full outhouse around it, there’s very little privacy to this method.
Because you won’t need composting bags to remove, the maintenance required for this is minimal, which will save you some money. But if your pit becomes too full, you’ll need to retire it and make a new one somewhere else.
PROS: Very little maintenance required as there are no bags to remove, can be used for solid and liquid waste.
CONS: The hole you dig will need to be extremely deep, lack of privacy without shelter around it, non-portable, can smell, might need a permit to install.
Before getting into the next batch of composting toilets it should be noted they will all require a more solid shelter around them. Doesn’t matter if it’s a wooden-style outhouse, a shed, cabin or an RV, you will want (need) to have them inside to protect your investment.
The basic composting toilet that feels like a real toilet
If you want something better than a bucket or a box in the woods, the Sun-Mar GTG is the best basic composting toilet available for under $1,000.
Besides it looking and feeling more like a real toilet, the Sun-Mar GTG has a chamber for solid waste and one for urine. It can be mounted and vented or used in ac more portable fashion. Because it’s compact and easy to clean, it’s one of the top choices for RVers.
With the smaller size of the solid waste container though, it is not recommended for large groups and will need to be emptied frequently even with two people using it.
PROS: Easy to install, looks and feels like a normal toilet, can be used for urine.
CONS: Urine and solid waste chambers fill quickly, venting requires a small amount of power.
The mid-tier composting toilet
If you’re looking for a more permanent solution without breaking the bank, the Separett Villa is an ideal choice for under $2,000.
Like the Sun-Mar GTG, it looks and feels more like a toilet at home, but it diverts urine outside and the solid waste bin is covered until you sit. The vent on it is also unique as the fan not only helps exhaust the odor, but dries out the solid waste to keep the smell to a minimum.
The solid waste bucket requires a composting bag and can handle the use of a group of four for about 2-3 days before needing to be emptied. It also spins when you sit to help keep everything in the bucket compacted and dry.
PROS: Diverts urine outside, large solid waste container, unique venting system.
CONS: Requires power in order to run the fan, can take a bit of getting used to in order to hit your marks.
The high-end composting toilet
If you’re in the market for a composting toilet that doesn’t require you to be constantly emptying buckets, the Sun-Mar Excel Electric Waterless Toilet is the next step up.
This self-contained composting toilet can hold a large amount of waste and unlike the others, liquids evaporate inside the unit so you don’t need to worry about emptying a container or running a drain hose (there is an emergency drain that should be connected to a hose if you expect heavy use).
The unit composts waste directly inside via a drum, leaving a tray of clean compost to empty every once in a while. The venting system helps it produce no odor and it can also be converted to an AC/DC system with a separate kit.
Because it’s all self-contained, the toilet does sit higher and therefore comes with a detachable footrest.
PROS: Limited maintenance required, can be used in residential homes or cottages.
CONS: Sits high, larger body than others, requires more power to run than other models.
The composting toilet for royalty
If money is no option and you want the best of the best when it comes to composting toilets then you want the Cinderella incineration toilet.
The Cinderella incineration toilet comes in an electric or a propane model with a starting price of around $5,000. It does what its name says though – it uses high heat to incinerate solid and liquid human waste and in the end you’re left with a small pile of ashes in a tray that only needs to be emptied on occasion.
Because of the high heat required to run, more safety measures have to be taken to install the Cinderella toilet, especially the propane model (see video above), to ensure the venting is correct and everything is set properly. The payoff of course is the ease of use and no smell or mess to deal with.
The Cinderella incineration toilet requires bowl liners to help catch waste for the incineration process. These come in a box of 500 for about $70.
PROS: Only have to deal with a small amount of ash, no smell, very hygienic.
CONS: Very high cost up front, pro install recommended.
Other notes about composting human waste
Before installing or using a composting toilet on your property, check local by-laws on the rules of composting human waste. Also ensure you have a spot on your property to compost human waste safely away from where you spend most of your time.
Have questions about composting toilets? Other tips or tricks of using composting toilets to add? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.