If you missed Episode 8 where we discuss liquids, be sure to check it out before diving into the solids hatch ; )
Living with Our Airhead – the solids container, Part 2!
Okay, the part you have all been waiting for, the solid’s container on the Airhead Composting Toilet! Don’t forget to put your food to one side before you read any further!!
When we set up the solids container we filled it with the coir to the correct level stated in the instructions, which is slightly more if you are using it continuously.
We decided not to use the coffee filters supplied with the toilet because once again, using it full time, we felt that would be too much paper in addition to toilet paper.
Everything was simple from the start and we got used to opening the hatch before making a deposit. However, as a woman, it is much harder to not ‘pee’ while having ‘poo’!!
I had already read about other women finding this a problem and soon discovered how to shuffle backward and forwards as required. Yes, a trickle of urine might get into the solids, but it is unlikely to have any drastic effect.
The agitator/stirrer has caused great fascination to both of us and there has often been extra stirring done just as you walk past the toilet!
We watched with amazement as each deposit disappeared within the coir and were really pleased with how well it was going. The best part is absolutely no smell!!
I confess my neighbour did catch me outside ‘sniffing’ our vent to check there was no smell coming through!! Fortunately, he is also about to fit an Airhead toilet and so was interested in whether I could smell anything, and pleasantly surprised to find it is just an earthy smell. Good… that means no smells to annoy the neighbours!
Suddenly after two weeks, we noticed a problem!
The consistency within the container was like stirring cake mixture – sorry but I did warn you not to be eating when reading!! Was it due to the sudden increase in temperature or had we done something wrong?
So we began searching online to find out if other people had experienced the same issue and if so what was the remedy. After lots of discussion between us we felt there were only two options:
● Empty immediately – this was likely to be extremely difficult as it was not dry enough to simply fall out of the container if we tipped it up. We would then need to involve an implement or do it by hand – with gloves on of course!!
● Add more coir to try and dry it out to a better consistency.
What a surprise we chose the second option!
Nick started to break down another coir brick and it was at this point he realised that in his hurry to prepare the coir the first time, he had probably made it too wet.
Maybe this accounted for our current ‘cake mixture’ but we wouldn’t know until after we emptied the container and put our second coir brick in. So the extra coir was added and we began using it again with even more fascination than at the start, as we wanted to see if our remedy had worked!
Yes, it definitely improved the consistency and dried it up to make it less wet.
This is probably the point at which I should mention we are vegetarians and this means a couple of things in relation to the stools we pass!
● More bowel movements per day.
● Softer stools with a higher average wet weight.
This applies to vegans also and could explain the ‘cake mixture’ in our container!
After exactly 3 weeks the solids container was full and required emptying. We knew we would need to leave approximately 8 hours between our last ‘poop’ and emptying to allow some breaking down of the last deposit.
So there we were on a Friday evening getting ready to empty our container – it doesn’t sound as exciting as going out for the evening BUT we were excited!! We couldn’t wait to see exactly how it looked and what had been happening.
As Nick always tells me, ‘it’s all about the preparation’ and so we got ourselves organised with everything that we hoped we needed for the process. Our marina is in the process of purchasing a composting bin but it had yet to arrive on site so we had already got 3 large plastic boxes with lids that were the exact size and shape to fit under the floor in the bow of our boat. We would need these when we were out cruising the canal anyway so they were a good investment.
So, we had an order of how we were going to complete this ‘delicate operation’!
● Prepare a coir brick.
● Prepare the plastic box with a thin layer of coir.
● Remove the urine bottle.
● Loosen the connectors on the solids container – so you don’t end up with your face too close to the open container!
● Remove the seat part.
● Lift the solids container from the brackets carefully!
● Tip contents into the plastic box.
● Put the new coir into the solids container and secure it into brackets.
● Replace toilet seat and liquids container.
*Warning – photos will follow of the full solids container*
Our plastic box with its layer of coir added.
Nick carefully disconnected the venting hose and lifted the toilet seat placing it on paper towels that we had already laid out on the floor to catch any drips or bits that might be on the underside.
Now we were ready to lift the solids container and empty it straight into the plastic bin, but first, we inspected the contents!
It was much more decomposed than we expected and most of the toilet paper had already disappeared but there appeared to be a number of ‘clumps’ of what we presumed was coir and faeces mixed!.
BUT, there was no horrible smell, just an earthy smell. Great result!
It looked wetter than we expected so I was dispatched to get the longest implement that we could think of to assist the emptying (a very long screwdriver) – it also had to be an easy to clean implement!!
The challenge now was to tip this into our plastic box without it going everywhere. Once we had transferred the main bulk with a little assistance from the screwdriver we noticed that there was an area at the back of the container where there was coir sat that hadn’t really got mixed in with everything as shown in the picture below. We were uncertain why this had occurred but wondered if it had anything to do with either the agitator or because we had ended up with ‘cake mixture’!
Once we had cleared this last bit with our trusty screwdriver – it insisted on being in the last picture – we were left with a container that was obviously marked, with small amounts of coir still visible, but the instructions were not to clean it, simply refill with coir and we were ready to start all over again but with much drier coir this time.
So how did we feel the first three weeks had gone?
Very well with only minor issues that we were able to resolve quickly and easily. What lessons had we learnt?
Maximum of 20 hours for emptying the liquids container i.e. daily. If in doubt check BEFORE you sit down, it’s too late when you are in full flow!
You need to tip the liquids bottle to remove it, so you need to have enough space in front of the toilet to do so.
You need a decent amount of space for the agitator/stirrer to be able to hold and turn it without hitting your knuckles on anything.
ALWAYS put the toilet seat down – it seals and helps to prevent any smells – and remember to tell any visitors the same!
How do we keep it clean?
A mixture of water and white vinegar in a spray bottle to spray the toilet bowl after each urine deposit.
How should we prepare the coir?
The second time around Nick used approximately 400mls for the coir brick and broke it up by hand once it was damp.
How often will we need to empty the solids container?
After a further 3 weeks, we had to empty the solids container again because it was full, so we think that this will be the optimum time for us. The contents were much drier this time making the process easier but we also used a different technique. We used a black bin bag to tip the container into and then used this to transfer it into the plastic box. This was much easier and meant no spillage of contents!
Yes, we have kept the black bin bag to reuse each time as we do not want to waste it!
What would we tell anybody thinking about getting an Airhead?
Go for it!!
Although we have had little challenges, we love our new toilet and are really pleased to have gone down the composting toilet route.
Much easier to look after, cleaner, comfier to sit on, and NO SMELL!!