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Thread: "Composting" head user's report

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    "Composting" head user's report

    Just for the halibut, I thought I'd tell y'all about the so-far very satisfactory experience with our C-Head composting head- or moldering head, as the manufacturer prefers to call it. This is a fine example of what happens when an engineer with a good practical bent considers a problem from scratch, rather than starting with preconceptions.

    The C-Head box arrived within a couple of days of our $500 order, most expertly packed. The installation and use instructions were outstanding, and it was ready for use in about 15 minutes. Of course, to rig up the fan and ventilation hoses, tie-downs, etc, will take a very little bit longer, but for right now, it's been just fine for 6 months of light use. We spent every night this past week aboard with two small boys, and it all worked just fine.

    1. This thing works by separating liquid waste from solid waste. This assumes that ALL users will sit to pee. The design of the bowl, with its funnel to the front and a ~5" open chute to the rear, directs urine forward into an ordinary disposable gallon plastic jug, and feces to a bucket containing peat, sawdust, or, best, coconut fiber (coir), and a crank-turned paddle, which churns the contribution, to coat it with fiber and dry it out. We empty the urine once every day or two, rinse out the jug, and put it back in place, or toss it and put in another clean -and free- empty gallon jug. Every week or two, with regular use, we'll dump the peat/poop mix into another container until time to dump the odorless dried lumpy stuff either into a plastic bag for the nearest marina dumpster, or add it to our dedicated-to-ornamentals compost pile.
    2. There is no plastic hose to permeate with sewage-smell. There is no big sloshing tank of waste and chemicals to pump out. There is no complicated/delicate mascerating apparatus. We do ask that nothing but small amounts of TP - and, of course, human waste, go into the toilet, but it's not a huge clog-up maintenance disaster when a guest doesn't listen. It just all gets dumped in due course, along with the coco-fiber-etc. The head has no odor, except, perhaps, a bit of peaty-mustiness. No stink at all.
    3. Some composters are huge and ungainly, but the C-Head is reasonably small, about the same height we are used to at home, with a narrow footprint. In our houseboat, it fits snugly against an exterior bulkhead. Its capacity is less than some other composting head, but that just means we may have less trouble with wee insect-beasties than some composting heads apparently can, as it is dumped more often, before they can hatch. (That is a reason for going with Coir rather than the sometimes troublesome peat. Plus, coir, unlike peat, is a renewable resource, and comes in very compact bricks, and a whole season's worth will fit in a shoebox.)
    4. The manufacturer offers a number of exterior decor options. We went with plain-old white, but if you have a hankering for burnished teak, mahogany, or glossy black, that can be done. I ordered an elongated seat, but shouldn't have. The round seat we replaced it with is just as comfortable, takes up less space, and fits better. It's also a bit less expensive.
    5. The whole thing is simplicity itself to keep clean. The milk jug, and the poop-bucket each lift out and reinstall very easily in one easy motion, without dismantling anything. For cleaning, all is necessary is a damp rag for the exterior, and if necessary (we haven't found it so, yet), a good rinse-out of the waterproof interior and the poop-bucket.

    So far, we are exceedingly pleased, especially after hearing all the stinky horror stories of conventional marine heads and holding tanks. This gadget is cheap, durable-looking, easy to deal with, and entirely stench-free. What more could we ask?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Bamby's Avatar
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    A Very good review on your head Amelia. Sounds as if it's really making natures movements a lot less stressful, which is a good thing..

  3. #3
    Senior Member Tony B's Avatar
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    Has your system been in use when you had guests aboard for a few days?
    I haven't measured my average urination yet so this is asking out of complete ignorance.......If you have a total of 6 people on board for the day, will the urine jug make it through the day or will it have to be emptied several times throughout the day?
    I understand that compost piles have to be turned every so often as does your system, so my question here is......What if you have to unexpected leave the boat for several weeks and there is no one to stir the pile? Will it matt down and stop composting and smell or will the composting process continue?
    I would really like to try a composting system but hesitant because we live aboard and so the system will normally be used 24/7 with many 2 or 3 week vacations off the boat.
    I have been reading most of your posts on various topics and value your opinion.
    Thanks in advance.
    Houseboater at Heart
    1986 Mainship 36 Dual Cabin Pointed Ended House Boat

    www.FreeBoatProjects.com

  4. #4
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Hi, Tony--
    Yes, in addition to a number of day-cruises with guests, the C-Head system was in use over Christmas for a week with grandkids. I emptied the 1-gallon jug- urine collection container daily, and after all, our dock is only 40 feet from shore-based plumbing, so there was no worry about a middle of the night overflow. If we hadn't been docked, I might have simply screwed the caps on the full ones, and set them aside to be emptied at the next opportunity. But since the jug is a simple gallon milk/water/juice jug, and disposable, there's no reason not to have several spares. The level of liquid waste is easy to gauge from a glance at the slot in the front. Also, some people keep a bigger jug (like the ones kitty litter comes in) on hand as a urinal for male guests who really can hardly countenance the idea of sitting to pee . That should help with the capacity. (Or you can simply direct the appropriately plumbed guests to the lee rail if you are worried. )

    There's a bit of a misnomer, to call these heads 'composting heads.' Real composting takes quite a lot longer than that. What they really seem to do, more than anything else, is stir the s(tuff) in a crumbly medium, coating contributions with coconut fiber, peat, sawdust, or whatever is being used, and let the lumps dry out. Although we can only claim light use, we have gone weeks and weeks without stirring, and have had no problem with odor or compacting. What apparently causes the stench common to holding tanks and outhouses is the mixture of urine and feces. When the pee is funneled away from the poop-container, there's no lingering odor.

    I hope to have a more complete report by the end of the summer!
    Last edited by Amelia; 01-22-2013 at 08:16 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Stmbtwle's Avatar
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    I dunno, seems like a lot of work. I think I'll stick with the holding tank, it holds 100 gallons and I pump it out a few times a year.
    She's a tired old barge but she's paid for... http://s71.beta.photobucket.com/user...24993.pbw.html

  6. #6
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Total investment in complete waste handling system so far: C-Head $500, coir bricks $23. That's it, and at this rate we shouldn't need more fiber for a year. And it is surprisingly inoffensive to maintain. No nooks and crannies to scrub. When we eventually decide it is time to dump the head's poop container, here is how it will go: Open the lid, lift the seat and its base, lift out bucket, dump dry lumpy stuff into plastic trash bag, leaving only a light dusting of peat behind. Replace bucket and close lid. All done. Total time, two minutes. No stink. No spill. Nothing to hose off or mop up. Bag goes to dumpster with the Pampers. Or we may start a compost pile behind the azaleas. Not sure yet. One last thought: All of our fresh water will go for higher purposes, like a hot shower or washing dishes. For lake boaters this is hardly a concern, but we do hope to spend more than a day or two at a time away from shore-based amenities, and will want to use our water carefully.

  7. #7
    Senior Member easttnboater's Avatar
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    Not my thing either. But, it seems to have its advantages. And, we have a real life story on how it works.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Whatever works, Willie! I couldn't be bothered with maintaining the state-mandated pump out log, dealing with the stink and mechanical problems, keeping spare parts on hand for inevitable worst-possible-timing foul-up, or schlepping around up to 1000 pounds of raw sewage, desperately hoping the next pump out station isn't padlocked. or replacing foul-smelling hoses in inaccessible places, or trying a succession of odor-killers. The best part of this C-Head is its utter simplicity, of design and of maintenance. There is nothing to jam or break or even leak. And it doesn't stink. I may have to eat my words and humbly retract every word of this after a proper test, high summer with guests who can't read the big sign saying Sit Down. This Means YOU!!! But it doesn't seem very burdensome so far.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Stmbtwle's Avatar
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    But I DO thank you for the info Amelia... I've wondered about those composting heads and wondered if they might be a better choice. But both systems require that you eventually dispose of the "results". Now if we could use Star Trek's transporter to beam it straight to hell for incineration.....
    She's a tired old barge but she's paid for... http://s71.beta.photobucket.com/user...24993.pbw.html

  10. #10
    Senior Member easttnboater's Avatar
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    What will you did when, not if, someone pees in the wrong place? It is inevitable.

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