A Review Guide To The Best Composting Toilets
Whether you're looking for the best composting toilet for your home, cottage or camp, you need a unit that suits your capacity needs, fits where you want to install it, and conforms to the water and electrical capabilities of your chosen location.
But with all the composting toilets available today, it can be a challenge to sort through the scattered mass of information about their types, features and prices to make an informed decision. Thankfully, that's why we're here: to make the information accessible—and the decision as easy as possible for you!
Let's compare the best composting toilets on the market today and look at their specifications
Using the sortable table below, you can easily create a side-by-side comparison of the most popular composting toilets, showing their type, capacity, whether they require water or electricity, and their dimensions. Just drag and drop the models in which you're interested onto the table to generate an overview, then click down for an in-depth review or to check the latest deals.
Check Out These Composting Toilets
If you feel you have a firm grasp on the basics of composting toilets and want to find the one that’s best for you, read on to see our list of the best self-contained composting toilets and the best central composting toilets.
On the other hand, if you don’t yet know the difference between a self-contained and central unit, want to know why a composting toilet is right for you, or even want a definition of what a composting toilet is, jump down to our section about basic composting toilet information.
Reading our list of factors to consider when buying a composting toilet might also prove helpful.
The Top 3 Self-Contained Composting Toilets
Nature’s Head make one product and they make it well. If you’re looking for the all around best self-contained composting toilet, this unit by Nature’s Head is the one for you.
Weighing only 28 lbs, the toilet is light and portable enough to be used in your home, cabin, RV or even on board your boat, and the compact design extends all the way to a unique handle, called the “spider crank”, which is specially designed for tight spaces.
The versatility does not come at the cost of durability, either. Every Nature’s Head toilet is proudly made in the U.S., with stainless steel hardware and a seat that’s sturdier and more more comfortable than in many more expensive units.
Which leads into another plus: price. The Nature’s Head composting toilet is simply one of the more affordable units on the market.
With over 50 reviews on Amazon.com and a 4.3 out of 5 star rating, satisfaction is all but guaranteed.
One of the leaders in the field of composting toilets is undoubtedly Sun-Mar, a company whose lineage begins with the Swedish inventor Harry Sundberg, creator of the world’s first self-contained composting toilet in 1971.
Today, Sun-Mar makes over a dozen models of self-contained and central composting toilets. One of the best is the Excel, which comes in a standard and NE version. Both are waterless, but the Excel NE is also non-electric, which means you can install it anywhere.
At 50 lbs and 60 lbs, both Excel versions weigh more than the Nature’s Head Composting Toilet.
Although the Excel costs more than many self-contained composting toilets, the price brings with it a pedigree. For instance, Sun-Mar prides itself on the fact that in 1989 the Excel was the first composting toilet to be certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) under its Standard 41 composting toilet standard, which it continues to uphold.
The Excel and Excel NE have over 25 reviews on Amazon.com, but special attention should be paid to the negative reviews for the Excel NE unit, many of which inadvertently raise the issue of the importance of a proper installation as well as making sure you know your capacity requirements!
A Swedish company operating in the U.S. since 2009, BioLet may be a newcomer to North America, but they have a long history of manufacturing self-contained composting toilets in Europe. One of their most popular models is the BTS33 NE.
Waterless and non-electric, the BTS33 NE can nevertheless be boosted with an electric fan for better performance. One is even recommended for non-seasonal use.
Conveniently, the fan comes in a 12-volt version, meaning it can be easily powered via solar panels. Coupled with the fact that the whole unit weighs 25 1/2 lbs, this makes the BTS33 NE a great choice for cabin use.
Given how new BioLet is on the market, the BTS33 NE is still relatively unreviewed.
Wikipedia defines a composting toilet as a type of dry toilet that uses a predominantly aerobic processing system to treat human excreta, by composting or managed aerobic decomposition. More simply, a composting toilet is any toilet that allows the natural processes of decomposition and evaporation to recycle human waste. For this reason, composting toilets are sometimes also called bio toilets, green toilets and eco toilets.
What are the advantages of a composting toilet?
Composting toilet systems have many general and location-specific advantages over standard toilet systems.
A composting toilet does not require a sewer system hook-up. For some, this means shedding an additional layer of dependence and thereby gaining an extra bit of freedom, being “off grid,” while for others the benefit is strictly practical: they can install a composting toilet where a standard toilet just isn’t feasible, e.g. in a cottage, camp or other seasonal dwelling, which perhaps lack running water, electricity or both.
A composting toilet uses significantly less water than a regular toilet. In fact, many composting toilets, known as waterless systems, use no water at all. The benefit is again two-fold. Not only does being waterless equal more freedom and a lower cost, but it also protects local water sources from contamination and preserves the fresh water that we still have. This alone makes composting toilets environmentally friendly and far more sustainable than regular toilets.
A composting toilet helps recycle nutrients back into nature. Once the composting process is complete, the volume of the original human waste is about 97% less and it is actually good for plants and the environment.
While we’re at it, let’s debunk some of the most common composting toilet myths
MYTH: Composting toilets are dirty.
- FACT: Composting toilets are as clean as regular flush toilets. Surprise! This means they’re as clean as you keep them. There is nothing inherently dirtier about composting toilets, and the idea itself likely derives from negative connotations associated with composting, which people usually picture as big, open air piles of decomposing organic waste. A composting toilet is not a compost heap.
MYTH: Composting toilets require you to handle feces.
- FACT: A composting toilet is also not just a bucket of crap. What you handle in a composting toilet is not feces; it’s compost. If you use your composting toilet properly, by the time you remove the now-composted material, not only has it shrunk by 97% but it resembles dirt and is wholly inoffensive.
MYTH: Composting toilets smell.
- FACT: A properly maintained composting toilet used within its capacity limits does not smell at all. And if you add an electric fan, the whole process of going to the bathroom will smell less than on a regular toilet. It’s not difficult to understand why. Just imagine a regular flush toilet but with a ventilation system pulling any odors directly from your toilet and expelling them outside.
MYTH: Composting toilets are solely for people who live out in the country.
- FACT: Composting toilets are for anyone who uses a toilet. Whether you live in the city, the suburbs, on a farm, in an RV or on a boat doesn’t matter. You can have a composting toilet. Indeed, you can have a composting toilet in more places than you could have a regular flush toilet. However, that’s really only half of this myth busted. The other half is implied: only people who live out in the country, i.e. backwater bumpkins, would want a composting toilet. Why? Because composting toilets are dirty, require you to handle feces, and they smell bad…
What types of composting toilets are there?
There are two main types of composting toilets:
All composting toilets are made up of a pair of basic components, a bowl and a waste receptacle. In self-contained units, the entire system is fully enclosed. In other words, the bowl and waste receptacle fit in (or on) one body. A central unit, on the other hand, consists of a bowl connected to a separate waste receptacle, which is usually installed somewhere below the bowl and conveniently out of sight.
Self-contained units are thereby simpler and easier to install than central units, but they also take up more physical space in the bathroom. Central units need extra space somewhere other than the bathroom, but they have the advantage of appearing to be regular flush toilets. Self-contained units are more suited for cottages and seasonal residences while central units are usually better for year-round residences.
There are also two other considerations:
- Is the toilet waterless?
- Does it require electricity?
All self-contained composting toilets are waterless. Some central composting toilet systems, however, do require water to function. These central units, usually called low flush or 1 pint flush systems, are meant primarily for use in homes and other places with a high capacity need, but the amount of water used by these systems is still significantly less than in normal flush toilets. As a point of reference, consider that (a) the Energy Policy Act of 1992 made 1.6 gallons per flush the mandatory federal maximum for new toilets in the U.S., and (b) 1 pint is equal to 0.125 gallons.
The second question concerns electricity. While many composting toilets do not require electricity, a fair number do come in modified electric versions or can be boosted, and their capacity increased, through the use of electric fans. These fans speed up the drying process and aid ventilation. The amount of electricity required to power such fans is low and can typically be generated via even a small solar power system.
Key Factors When Buying a Composting Toilet
What are the most important aspects to consider when choosing a composting toilet? Knowing what to look for and how to reason through your selection process is essential to ensuring that your composting toilet serves its purpose and that you’re satisfied with your purchase.
- Your first and most basic consideration should be the type of the composting toilet. Do you want a self-contained or central unit? If you’re installing in your home, both options may be possible, but if you’re installing in a small cottage or on a boat, you may be limited to self-contained units. Generally, self-contained composting toilets are more versatile than central ones, and there are few locations where a central composting toilet would fit that a self-contained toilet would not.
- Consider the size of the room in which you want to install the composting toilet. Next, check the dimensions of the composting toilets you’re considering. Make sure the unit fits in the room, keeping in mind that raw dimensions aren’t everything. You may need extra clearance around the unit to open and remove drawers, accommodate handles or because the pipe used for ventilation restricts where your composting toilet can stand.
- How many people will be using the composting toilet and for how long? Some units are ideal for seasonal use, such as for weeks-long outings at the cottage, but will not stand up to regular, year-round household use. Conversely, purchasing a central composting toilet for that same cottage may be expensively unnecessary. Failure to properly assess composting toilet capacity is one of the prevailing mistakes people make when buying a composting toilet. The majority of negative composting toilet experiences are due to improper installations and usage beyond what the unit can handle.
- Composting toilets can be electric or non-electric, with the same base unit often coming in both versions. The electricity is used to power mechanisms such as fans, which speed up the decomposition and evaporation processes within the toilet, so all other things being equal electric composting toilets are objectively better than non-electric composting toilets. That said, the power necessary to run these fans is minimal and can be produced using a basic solar power system, and if you choose the right non-electric system it will still meet your needs.