One of the best things about going off grid is reducing your dependency on utilities like water, electricity and gas. Making the move to an off grid home isn’t one people take lightly and it takes a lot of planning, effort and dedication to live in a self sustainable way, at one with the environment around you and being in a synergistic relationship with the plants, animals and environment around you.
As with most things in life, there is a veritable smorgasbord of options when it comes to off grid solutions and the humble toilet is no different. When looking at off grid toilet solutions, there’s a few different options.
But what are the pros and cons of each and how can you figure out which off grid toilet option is the best for you and your family?
We go through a range of different offgrid options available in Australia so you’re able to make a more informed decision about the type of toilet you want to install in your offgrid home.
What options are available for toilets for off grid homes?
A septic tank is a system that consists of an underground tank (typically made of concrete or sometimes steel) that receives a range of grey water (water from sinks, showers, etc) along with black water (water from your flushing toilet).
The water separates from the solid waste and a series of pipes move water into the soil in the surrounding area (you’ll usually know exactly where this is as the grass and vegetation around this area is super, super green!). Whilst a septic system is an off grid system, you will still need to have the system emptied every three to five years, depending on your usage.
Pros of a septic tank for an off grid home
- Concrete tanks can last up to 40 years
- Steel tanks can last 15-20 years
- Only needs emptying every 3-5 years
Cons of a septic tank for an off grid home
- Needs to be emptied by sewage truck
- Tanks can crack and need repair
- Can overflow
- Can break and leech waste into groundwater
- Can have issues with tree roots
- If drainage breaks or doesn’t work properly, it SMELLS… BAD!
- Tanks can collapse
- Waste management is your responsibility, not council’s
Whilst septic tanks are an off-grid solution they do have some good and bad points. The main issue with septic tank systems is that when something goes wrong, it typically goes really wrong, with obvious sh*tty consequences.
Incinerator toilets work exactly how they sound. They use either gas or electricity and combine this with pressure to burn waste and turn it into gas which is then filtered and released into the atmosphere.
Technically described as a ‘thermal treatment’, incinerator toilets will burn off most of your waste into air and vapour and will typically leave small amounts of sulfur and nitrous oxide as a byproduct.
Pros of an incinerator toilet for an off grid home
- Doesn’t require plumbing into municipal services
- Doesn’t use water
- Easy to maintain
- Easy to install
Cons of an incinerator toilet for an off grid home
- Can be very expensive
- Many require bags for each use
- Are serious energy hogs
- Don’t produce any usable by-product
- Can require daily emptying
Many people who own or have used a caravan will be familiar with cassette toilets. Cassette toilets are mainly used as a portable solution for motorhomes and caravans as they typically have a very small capacity and require emptying on a regular basis.
Some people may want to consider these types of toilets for an off grid home however, it’s not really a sustainable option.
Pros of an cassette toilet for an off grid home
- Fast to empty (because of low capacity)
- No plumbing needed
- They’re cheap
- They’re small
- They’re mobile
Cons of a cassette toilet for an off grid home
- Need emptying often (every couple of days)
- Require the use of chemicals to clean
- Need to be emptied into a proper dumpsite or into a toilet
- Can be very uncomfortable (many models are very small)
- Seals, rubbers and parts wear out
- Some require electricity to flush
A composting toilet uses the natural method of composting to break down human waste into a top-soil like product that can be used on gardens and fruit trees (you shouldn’t use it on herbs or vegetables) and is fully biodegradable.
Composting toilets use no water and very little electricity and can be hooked up to solar panels so you have a true off grid toilet system.
Pros of a composting toilet for off grid homes
- Doesn’t use any water
- Can be hooked up to solar power
- Can be installed into almost any bathroom
- Creates a usable by-product
- Environmentally friendly
- No chance of waste leaching into groundwater
Cons of a composting toilet for off grid homes
- Can smell if not used or maintained properly
- Has a by-product that requires some handling
- Can be more expensive than other options
So if you’re looking at living off the grid and are wondering about what toilet system you should choose, we hope we’ve given you some information that’s helpful in making your decision.
If you would like to talk with us about composting toilets, please feel free to contact us on 1300 138 182 to discuss your requirements.