5 November 2015
Innovative and minimalistic or tedious and granola? Some say living in a house averaging 90 square feet is life-changing others simply scoff and write it off as an excessive way to save resources. Tiny houses are gaining popularity, so I say it’s time to untangle this eco-friendly mess.
Do composting toilets really “not have any smell”? Why is it better to have heated flooring? And what’s the deal with fold-up porches? In an attempt to answer these questions we’re going to explore the elements of tiny houses that claim to be inexpensive, eco-friendly, and low-maintenance. In the end, we’ll decide for ourselves…
Never seen a tiny house? You probably missed it parked in that weird triangle-shaped lot in the historical district or tucked in the very back of that quaint dairy farm on the main highway. Tiny houses are an alternative way of living that eliminate mortgages and soften one’s ecological footprint. They can be built on top of a trailer and parked pretty much anywhere. The idea is to strip a house down to only its most necessary components. No guest room, no extravagant pantry, and no walk-in closet. Think minimalistic.
When I first came across the idea of a tiny house on wheels I immediately thought of one of those horrendous family campers. I then became stuck to one issue that has haunted me for weeks. It’s the, what I like to call, “sewage situation”. We’ve all seen it in movies, the happy family full up to the RV dump station and (I’ll spare you the details) something doesn’t go quite right. The answer in bypassing all notions of hose, clamp, and valve? A composting toilette.
Composting toilets aren’t just buckets with dirt anymore. They are sanitary, have a general aesthetic, and my favorite, “don’t have any smell”. The most popular composting toilette, it seems, is one made by Nature’s Head (http://store.natureshead.net/p/27-Nature-s-Head-Composting-Toilet-with-Spider-Handle.aspx) for $925 with a 5-year warranty. It looks similar to the type of a toilet you might find on recreational boat. There is a large compartment underneath where all the composting action takes place, a “liquids jug” near the front, and a handy spider handle on the side to mix up your personal vat of fertilizer. Nature’s Head composting toilets are easy to install with one vent hose and one 12V power hook-up. The maintenance is pretty simple too, just lift the top section off and transfer the solid material to your compost twice a week. All you need to get started is peat moss, so there’s no need for added chemicals.
Now for the smell. Apparently there isn’t one. It does make some sense after looking at pictures online. There is a trap door in the bowl that closes in-between uses, and the composting compartment is designed to be air-tight. I recently watched a YouTube video that has really convinced me. They do a blind sniff test, and the guy can’t decipher the dirt from the compost. You really should watch it for yourself.
The price is a bit of a downer. I say it’s worth it though. No sewage, no smell, and no plumbing? Count me in. Composting is usually reserved for the severely environmentally conscious, and one usually thinks of composting as just one more separation you have to do when throwing away your garbage. But in this case, a composting toilet is actually much easier to handle than a traditional toilet and would be a great addition to your tiny house.
Composting toilet: untangled.