… potties…toilets…crappers…commodes

Note of interest:  Thomas Crapper might not have invented the toilet, but his plumbing company helped bring bathroom-type supplies out into the open – previously it wasn’t polite to discuss such a thing.  It seems that Mr. Crapper’s company was the first to open up a bathroom showroom on King’s Road, not a shabby side street, with an actual product sitting in the window right out in the open!  And Thomas Crapper invented some means of making potties more workable.

 It also seems that the name ‘Crapper’ is perfectly normal in England, only in America has it become a joke, thanks to WWI servicemen who saw the name.  However, there are Dutch, Latin and French versions of the word ‘crap’ meaning ‘refuse’, ‘siftings’, ‘to separate’, ‘chaff’…thanks to the venerable Wikipedia for that information.

 More on Mr. Crapper and available products here:  http://www.thomascrapper.co.uk/contents.htm 

So what kinds of water-saving potties are there?  Dual flush, composting, gray water and incinerator are those we will be explaining a bit more.

 High-efficiency means that they use less water than regular potties, sometimes by using less water with each flush (anyone here put a brick in the tank?  Or a gallon jug of water?)  and sometimes by giving you a choice as to how much water to use, as with ‘dual-flush’ potties.

Dual flush means that there are 2 buttons or 2 levers on the toilet tank; one when the need for water is low and the other when the need for an effective flush is high.  You’d think that would mean one for #1 and the other for #2.  But, not really.

 We bought 3 American Standard dual flush toilets a couple years ago to go in our spec project.  Each cost about $300 and used .8 gallons of water with a low-flow flush.  We discovered that one button was for when guys went #1 and the other was for everything else.  Either that or the low-flow button was getting pushed multiple times in order for any paper accompanying event #1 to be flushed.

I know there are dual-flush potties with a higher water per gallon value for the low-flow flush.  It’s not efficient when you have to keep pushing the button to get results.

Of course, there are kits to turn your existing potties into dual-flushers.  Don’t toss a perfectly good crapper.  This company has them for about $30.   www.twoflush.com   But I haven’t tested them (nor am I getting a kick-back) so do your own homework

 Our local city water company www.sjwater.com is giving rebates for high efficiency toilets, clothes washers and landscape/irrigation upgrades, check with your local water provider to see what’s available in your area.

 Composting toilets are just what you’d expect except that you don’t necessarily have to shlep the stuff out to a pile, like with household compost. 

The potty is above a chamber that processes the waste.  Some are small, with the composting bin right below the potty, some require an area such as basement or large crawlspace beneath in order to easily access the composting chamber and some systems come with 4 bins on a carousel and by the time your using the 4th bin, the 1st one is completely finished.  You add a peat moss or straw layer to the bin to help with the composting process. 

 The EPA says that most disadvantages to these systems (smell, mess) come from improper maintenance, not a problem with the system itself.  The sites I perused said that the average tank could hold 80-100 ‘events’.

Still you must be careful because the finished compost product (humanure!) might be harmful – those pesky pathogens – so you shouldn’t use it on top of the soil in your garden, but you could bury it 12” underground and then it’s considered ‘safe’. 

stand-alone unit

An interesting sidenote:  The urine is already considered to be sterile, so it is separated from the solids (eewww) and sent to a different bin or a leachfield and it can be discarded wherever it’s legal to do so…hmmm…

 More info:  Nature’s Head toilets http://www.sustainable-solutions.info/?gclid=CKnk9eaxkqUCFQg3gwodvH6XNg

 Incinerator Toilet is just like it sounds, using propane, diesel, natural gas or electricity, the waste is burned to a crisp, saving water but perhaps the smoke should be mitigated.  According to one website, it costs about $4000 to set up a propane-based incinerator toilet system.   It takes 10 minutes to incinerate  #1 and  #2 takes about a ½ hr.  The sterile ashes must be emptied every 3-6 months for a family of 4.

For more info:  www.incinolet.com  but there other types.

 There are 2 types of gray water systems.  One is with water collected at the sink and sent to the potty and the other is at the potty itself.

The first one requires a tank in the cabinet below the sink which becomes the supply for the toilet tank.  The water is filtered and disinfected before it is pumped to the toilet tank and any overflow is sent to the sewer.  This site by Aqus had lots of info on the idea:  http://www.watersavertech.com/ 

 The other idea is a sink on the toilet tank lid itself, which then drains directly into the toilet tank.

But, why discard a perfectly good potty in order to save water?  www.instructables.com  shows how you can build a sink toilet tank lid yourself.   And www.gaiam.com has a toilet tank lid with a sink and faucet that you can buy for $99-119.  www.sinkpositive.com has another product – AND it was featured on HGTV…oooh…

I think the concept is good, but awkward to use.  I can see this being more helpful in an RV or boat.

Gray water reclamation systems:   Check with your local city/county jurisdiction before trying to install a system at your house.  While anyone can use buckets, barrels and cisterns to collect rainwater, collecting gray water from dishwashers, sinks, tubs and clothing washers isn’t allowed everywhere.

 You may use gray water for landscaping but don’t spray directly on plants, run it below the surface – otherwise plants, dirt, rocks and groundcover will get a film on them, yeah, I know, yuck.    You’ll need to clean the filter every 3 weeks and add a chlorine tablet every 6, but they say that pool maintenance is more difficult than this.  Any overflow goes directly to the city sewer system (or your septic system leach field).   This site has more info on how the process works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/gray-water-reclamation3.htm

 Some time ago we talked with our local Department of Environmental Health about putting in a gray water reclamation system on a property we own in the foothills and they freaked!  We were at a meeting with a bunch of people from different departments at the County and we asked them about gray water systems and they practically turned white!  Started spouting all these worries and concerns.  We were, like, well, we’ll do it according to regulations and have it designed by a professional.  They were all sputter, sputter. 

 We were thinking that we’d do something environmentally helpful in a valley that promotes green, ecologically sound technology, but no.  We have to have a regular septic tank and leachfield…no composting or incinerator potties allowed!  Poohbah, no pun intended…  Well, we can’t afford to build that house of our dreams, yet, anyway.  Maybe by the time we can, our DEH will have been yanked into the 21st century.

hmmm, the family that expels waste together, stays together?

Hey, I got through that entire column without saying sh*t!  😉