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View Full Version : Old Boat, old toilets.....



mkmohn
08-14-2015, 01:04 PM
We currently have 2 Jabsco electric toilets on our 1979 Bluewater Sports Sedan. This boat is new to us. They are both early model electric heads. We have discovered that both toilets have issues, seemingly requiring rebuild kits. They both appear to flush with "dirty" water on occasion, its supposed to be clean water. The Jabsco site tells me this is an indication of a bad main seal by the impellar We are wondering if it would be wise to invest in new heads. Has the technology improved enough over the last 20 years to justify new toilets over rebuilding these. I am leaning that way. I will replace all of the hoses to the holding tanks at the same time. Each head has its own holding tank, why is a mystery to me. I am thinking of plumbing both into a single larger holding tank, and increasing the size of the vent tubing. Currently, both holding tanks are interconnected with 1 inch tubing for venting......seems inadequate. What do you think?

OLD HOUSEBOATER
08-15-2015, 06:15 AM
Strongly suggest you rebuild the Jabsco's and use the money saved to pay for your fuel for the next 3 to 5 years.

Doing the changes you suggest won't add a dollar to the value of the boat. However: If you have operational problems or just like to project go for it.

It ain't broke don't fix it.

Stmbtwle
08-15-2015, 12:59 PM
Seal kits are (relatively) cheap and not that hard to install. New, quiet toilets are nice, but pricey. I'll concur with OHB.

mkmohn
08-15-2015, 07:20 PM
Okay fellas, I will give the seal kits a shot. Thanks for the advice!

Stmbtwle
08-16-2015, 05:41 AM
I had to replace the motor on my Jabsco head a couple years ago, (not cheap). The seal between the pump and the motor had failed, and the void between the the seal and the motor had filled with water, which then of course got into the motor and killed it. So when I installed the new motor (still cheaper than a new head) I cut a drain in the void so any leakage would dribble out on the deck and alert me to the problem, before it got expensive. Why Jabsco didn't do it I don't know.

Amelia
08-16-2015, 08:46 AM
Not meaning to gloat, but I am SO happy I have no idea what y'all are talking about! Seals? Motors? Drains? Dirty water? Holding tanks? Stinky hoses? Pump-outs? Clogs? Valves? It's a mystery to me.
It's good that there are choices, and people who are smart enough to figure all that complexity out. As for me, as technically-challenged as I am, the inexpensive C-Head simplicity is wonderful. And still entirely odor-free, so far.

OLD HOUSEBOATER
08-16-2015, 05:31 PM
Hmmm But you still have to empty the chamber pot.

Amelia
08-16-2015, 06:37 PM
And you have to empty the foul holding tank, too. Until we get that whole human waste thing eliminated from our physiological make up, $%*# happens. This seems a good bit easier, less unpleasant to deal with and MUCH less fraught with technical peril. So far.

easttnboater
08-17-2015, 05:44 AM
Amelia, I am glad your type of toilet works for you. But, you are in a unique situation with a custom designed, home built boat that you will probably never try to sell. Composting heads in a production houseboat would hurt its value and reduce its marketability.

Amelia
08-18-2015, 03:48 PM
You're absolutely right, East. I've never bought or modified anything with an eye to resale value, only how well it works for me. I tend to hang on to the same old same old forever. When we built our forever house in a tiny midwestern town, its architecture was odd, its passive solar orientation and insulation made it cheap to heat...much admired, but never emulated. When I designed my kitchen, the architect squawked that I needed to reorient it, make it a standard U shape like everybody else's. I said just draw what I sent you. He did...complaining about lower countertops and oddball floorplan. My husband joked that we'd never sell it, because the new owner would have to be as short and lefthanded as I am. Years later, we did sell it, promptly, and the buyer was short and lefthanded. Now every fancy new kitchen looks exactly like the one I insisted on. Just ahead of my time is all.
But you are also right, in that we'll never sell this silly boat. It was, and remains, my husband's flight of fancy, his building project, not a go-places machine, or fashionable entertainment venue. At least he doesn't play golf.

I just still don't understand how anybody could buy a boat with a nasty pervasive sewage smell, and there are a lot of them out there.

OLD HOUSEBOATER
08-18-2015, 07:17 PM
Amelia

FYI Most boats (I would guess over 98%) DON'T have any sewage smell. The 2 or less% that do get the bad press and attention and cause the Newbies and uninformed to seek out other than mainstream alternatives . Some of these alternatives work out and some don't.

In many cases the boat is devalued and when sales time comes the unit becomes a hard sell. By never planning to sell you are in the minority. The normal ownership cycle on boats large enough to have a head is from 3 to 7 years. If an individual is a long term boater he/she will usually upgrade from 4 to 7 times in his/her boating lifetime. Most of these people prefer a boat that has not been altered in any significant way from when it was produced at the factory. The quality boats That were built in the 70's and 80's, that are selling for good prices, are much the same as when they were built except for electronic and cosmetic interior upgrades.

You are unique as is your boat. Most of us are happy following traditional paths. Were just as happy as you are.

easttnboater
08-20-2015, 05:19 AM
What OHB said. The great majority do not smell. If they do, then their owners are doing something wrong.

42gibson
08-20-2015, 07:25 AM
I actually put small chlorine tablets in my water strainer for the head and the flush water always smells swimming pool clean, plus it keeps the lines spotless clean. I have enough room to add more tanks if I wanted to use fresh water to flush but this works great.

desimulacra
08-20-2015, 07:31 AM
Speaking of those that DO smell. Used to be a Gibson at our dock that had a stench that would get into your clothes if you went in, heck if you walked by!! Not sure why, know he had bilge problems also. Made me not want to fix my toilet as recommended in this thread, but I did and no smell for 6 years now. Guess you just have to take care of issues eh.

GoVols
08-21-2015, 01:09 PM
Isn't it somewhat normal for it to smell when the toilet is flushed? When pushing water into the holding tank, you're pushing air out the vent tube. When the new waste water hits the top of the holding tank, it disturbs the holding tank treatment stuff that forms a barrior over the top of the surface of the waste. That barrior holds down the stink. When you disturb it, it's pushed out the vent tube. Mine only stinks briefly when flushed.

Do all your boats have carbon canister air filters in the vent tube? Mine does not. I wish I could add one to my vent tube, but I don't really have good access to the tube b/c it's inside the walls. The area I do have access to it practically next to the tank. Any time my tank would get full, it would fill the carbon canister with waste, which would kill the carbon in the canister. I'd then need to replace the carbon inside the filter or the canister altogether. Since I don't have a tank level gauge, this would likely occur regularily and I don't want to screw with that.

OR, I could just be like the rest of the people on my dock and dump into the lake. They complain about my boat briefly stinking when I flush the toilet, then they jump in the water and swim with their turds.......

easttnboater
08-24-2015, 05:41 AM
I put Odorlos in the tanks and use a "Big Orange" vent filter. I swap out the charcoal every other year or so.

OLD HOUSEBOATER
08-24-2015, 12:46 PM
Isn't it somewhat normal for it to smell when the toilet is flushed? When pushing water into the holding tank, you're pushing air out the vent tube. When the new waste water hits the top of the holding tank, it disturbs the holding tank treatment stuff that forms a barrior over the top of the surface of the waste. That barrior holds down the stink. When you disturb it, it's pushed out the vent tube. Mine only stinks briefly when flushed.

Do all your boats have carbon canister air filters in the vent tube? Mine does not. I wish I could add one to my vent tube, but I don't really have good access to the tube b/c it's inside the walls. The area I do have access to it practically next to the tank. Any time my tank would get full, it would fill the carbon canister with waste, which would kill the carbon in the canister. I'd then need to replace the carbon inside the filter or the canister altogether. Since I don't have a tank level gauge, this would likely occur regularily and I don't want to screw with that.

OR, I could just be like the rest of the people on my dock and dump into the lake. They complain about my boat briefly stinking when I flush the toilet, then they jump in the water and swim with their turds.......

To answer your question, It's not normal to get a smell when you flush. If your tank is working right with a proper charge of Odorlos you should not have that problem. How long do you go between pump outs and flush. If your plugging your vent filter your letting your tank get too full.

GoVols
08-24-2015, 01:57 PM
I pump out weekly and treat the tank with Healthy Boater / Happy Camper chemicals. My system only smells when the toilet is flushed. I believe this is due to the fact that the toilet vent tube has no filter on it at all. To install one, I'd have to be creative. I have a very difficult area to access the hose that's above deck, but it would essentially would be right above the holding tank. So, if it gets too full, waste would easily get into it and kill the carbon. I let me holding tank get too full once this season already and waste actually dribbled out of the vent tube that's 1/2 way up the side of the boat. I washed it off, once I noticed it.

I wonder if I could make my own canister using PVC tubes and some hose barb fittings......

easttnboater
08-25-2015, 05:57 AM
You can make your own canister. Most people buy one, use it, then cut it in half, replace the activated charcoal, and use a no hub band to put it back together and reuse it. I used Happy Camper for a while. Odorlos is better. I only pump out maybe four times a year and using Odorlos and the Big Orange filter, I do not have any smell.

GoVols
08-25-2015, 06:06 AM
What is your vent tube made of? Mine is made of that white wirlpool spa hose. I'm afraid it's permiated and needs to be replaced. Problem is, I don't think it can be replaced unless I rip the wall apart to get to it. I'm at the point I need to buy more waste tank treatment. I'll buy that Odorlos and give it a wirl. I'll also roll by Lowes and see if I can build myself a carbon canister for the breather tube. Thanks for the advice!

OLD HOUSEBOATER
08-25-2015, 10:21 AM
Most camper chemicals are "Odor Masks" that work on small tanks that are frequently dumped. Many/most actually kill the good bacteria that is needed to prevent the sulfide gasses from being formed.

Odorlos is a nitrate containing product that promotes bacterial action in the tank to mitigate and reduce the sulfide gasses.

Below is a wordy article that you might be interested in.

http://www.rvlifestyleexperts.com/fulltime-rving/RV_HOLDING_TANK_CHEMICALS_AND_BEYOND.pdf

Suggest you give your tank the best cleaning it ever had and start fresh with KO or Oderlos.

Come back in a month and tell us your results. Can I suggest a bigger tank or more frequent pump outs.

Another thing to look at is the amount of flush water you use with each flush. Is there a way to regulate it?

easttnboater
08-26-2015, 09:05 AM
Most of my system is plumbed in hard PVC. The little bit of the vent that is flex pipe is the white pipe that you described. I wrapped mine in aluminum foil to offset any permeation.

One other question - rather personal - do you and your guests use the toilet for both bodily functions? If there is no number two in your system, then it will always smell.

GoVols
08-26-2015, 12:47 PM
We let our toilets have it with both barrels! LOL!

I'm going to need to look at my system to see if I can replace the hose inside my wall. I can access ~ 1' of it inside the wall as it comes up from under the the boat, through the floor, and travels on up the interior of the wall toward the top of the boat. Under the boat, I have access to the entire length before it goes through the floor. Outside, there's a simple round vent opening, but I don't think I can pull the vent off to access the hose barb / fitting on the other end.

Maybe I can run a new vent hose somewhere else?

OLD HOUSEBOATER
08-26-2015, 02:47 PM
Running a new hose isn't going to help if you flood it. Is your current vent connection as high on the tank as possible?

easttnboater
08-27-2015, 05:35 AM
Does the vent line come up inside a cabinet? If you drilled a hole from the outside through the vent opening, would it come out inside a cabinet?

easttnboater
08-28-2015, 05:42 AM
FYI - the purchased canister filters use a piece of foam at each end to keep the charcoal inside the canister. You could use anything that you can easily blow through - foam, coffee filter, ....

GoVols
08-28-2015, 06:04 AM
Ok, so I spent some time carefully taking apart the wall in the guest cabin in order to access the permiated vent hose. It didn't take me long to expose the hose and determine I'm working with a 3/4" ID hose. Next, I went to Home Depot where I spent ~30 minutes combing the pipe isle to gather the stuff needed to build myself a refillable carbon canister out of PVC pipe. $50 and an hour later my solution is complete. I'm replacing the complete run of the worn-out hose inside the cabin wall with 3/4" ID high density PVC pipe. I'm splicing in a foot-long 2" ID PVC "chamber" I built that'll contain a whole bunch of aquarium filter carbon pellets I bought at walmart. To keep the carbon in the chamber, I'm simply stuffing the aquarium filter media in the bottom 1st, pouring the carbon on top, and placing another piece of filter media ontop. 1 end of the chamber can be removed, which makes it refillable / reuseable. I'm tying in both ends of this complete contraption to the existing system using 3/4" hose barbs. There will only be maybe 6" of hose on top connecting to the external vent and maybe 6" at the bottom where the hose comes from underneath the boat. So, I'm replacing about 7' of this permiated hose altogether, which should definitely keep the stink out of the cabin from now on. I plan to finish installation tonight or this weekend. If everything works correctly, I should be stink-free when flushing -- I HOPE!

Under the boat (between the pontoons), I still have 2 - 1.5" spa hoses running from my 2 toilets to the holding tank as well as ~7' of the 3/4" vent hose. I may get brave and replace all of them with PVC as well, but that would be more difficult, since I'd be swimming in the water while working on everything. Maybe I'll just beach the boat and do it there instead. Fun stuff!

easttnboater
08-31-2015, 07:43 AM
Sounds like you have it well in hand. I would replace as much as possible with PVC. It is a one time effort that will last forever.

GoVols
08-31-2015, 09:53 AM
Completed my project Friday evening. I have pictures, but this site won't allow me to post them. I've tried every which way to resize and rename the pictures, but it still doesn't work.

At any rate, the odor we've put up with for the last 4 years magically disappeared the moment I completed this project. It was always a little musty in the guest cabin and I'd clear the dock any time the toilet was flushed. I have no idea why this wasn't built this way to begin with. I sent my suggestions and pictures to my boat's manufacturer as well. Hopefully he's changed his system design / construction since my boat was built 9 years ago.