No Boating Website Would be Complete without Discussing the Loo Subject
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Wed Jul 31, 2013 at 3:57pm
Which type of toilet you install on your narrow boat is down to your own personal preference, but to help you decide which loo is right for you we are going to discuss the 3 options you have. It seems unthinkable now but in the good old days before we were thinking about health and the environment we used to empty our waste straight into the canals and rivers! Fortunately those days are well and truly behind us and we have moved on since those crude times.

The most basic of toilets is the ‘bucket and chuck it’ option, which is known by this affectionate term due to the fact it’s no more glamorous than having a bucket! If this isn’t for you then read about the 3 other options below.

The cassette toilet also known as a Porta Potti*

If you prefer your waste to be collected in a holding tank then you need to consider the next option which would be a cassette toilet.

The base of the toilet is a cassette container which collects the waste and is removed to be emptied, the waste must be responsibility deposed off and can be emptied at one of the many sanitary stations on the water ways system. There is now the remote cassette version, where the toilets contents are flushed through pipework to a cassette located elsewhere in the boat. The emptying process however remains the same. Knowing when to empty the cassette is just a case of keeping an eye on the cassette level. It is free and very easy to empty your cassette and this along with the fact the cassette is the cheapest option when choosing a toilet, makes it a very popular choice with boaters. Prices start from around £70.00 but if you have a pressure controlled pump then you will be looking at around £350.00.

The down sides there are a few; not everyone likes the idea of emptying the cassette and if the cassette is rather full it can be heavy to carry. If you are moored some way from the sanitary stations it isn’t so convenient to empty the cassette. However to get around this problem many boaters buy a second / third cassette so they have a few in reserve for these occasions. Another issue is eroded seals in the unit which can cause issues, saying this all seals are relatively cheap and easy to replace so not a lasting problem.

*A Porta Potti is a trade name of a particular make of chemical toilet, but it is often used as a generic term.

The pump out toilet

There are a wide range of sophisticated pump out toilets are available to buy with electric flushes, macerator units, and remote tanks. The pump out toilet looks more like a “home from home” toilet and for this reason alone is a popular choice for boaters as well as the main fact that they do not need to remove the tank to empty the contents this is all done through pipe work at the pump out station. The pump out stations can be found at marinas, boat yards and sometimes along the canal. There is a cost involved in empting the tank and this will vary from £15.00 - £20.00 approx.

You can buy your own self pump out kit and dispose of the contents in a sanitary station, but a number of sanitary stations now have notices prohibiting this practice. If you opt for this option you may really have bought a cassette.

There are 2 different types of pump out toilets, the” dump through” where the toilet is directly over the waste tank; the waste goes straight into the large tank underneath. (The seals do gradually deteriorate, which leads to smells escaping from the tank. Replacing the seals as you can imagine is not a pleasant task). These toilets are in the region of £800.

The vacuum / compressed air toilets are very desirable as they seal off the waste once the toilet has been flushed, with a flap. But with this convenience comes the high price tag a vacuum toilet will be around £1000 and an air compressed loo will be at least £2000!

Many owners of a pump out toilet also carry a cassette toilet on board in case of emergency cases, such as if the pump out tank is full and they are not near a pump out station they have another solution till the tank is emptied. Another thing to consider with the pump out toilet is some people do not like the idea of carrying the waste around with them between clear outs and for these people they tend to opt for the cassette toilet.

The compost toilet “The Eco Toilet”

This toilet is the newest option and is used on land and afloat. It has been reported that they only need to be emptied once a year, do not smell and produce excellent compost. Some of the models you can buy actually separate the urine from the solids so you can responsibly disposed of the urine and the solid matter is then composted in the unit. Depending on the useage will depend on how often you need to empty the unit but you are looking at every few months to a year rather than weekly.

This is definitely the most environmentally friendly toilet due to the fact it doesn’t produce any waste and makes excellent compost. There are number of companies now selling these toilets so simply type into the search engines "compost toilets for boats" and you will be able to view many options. Starting prices would be around £800 up to £1800.

Whichever option you choose make sure you read the toilets instructions to understand how best to use your new facility. Taking the time to read the manual could make the difference from having an enjoyable cruise/stay or a rather smelly one!

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