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Thread: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

  1. #36
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Interested in the nuts and bolts of these heads. With the separate urine tank, I assume you just dump the pee overboard, perhaps once a day, correct?

  2. #37
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    I'm not in the market for one, but I have a question. Once it becomes full, how do you discharge the...ordures?
    1947 Nordic Folkboat "Nina"

  3. #38
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    There is a huge thread about these over at SailNet, which goes into all the details. Also, the manufacturers' respective web sites provide explanations.

    I can speak only regarding the AirHead; I have no experience with the Nature's Head.

    As far as the AirHead, your #1 is separated from your #2 by the design of the toilet bowl. There is a little trap door in the bottom of the bowl, operated by a lever on the side. #1 goes into a "pee bottle" mounted on the front of the device, via drain holes. If you have to do #2, you flip the lever and open the trap door, and the waste drops into the bucket.

    Before starting use, you first put some compost material in the bucket. The idea is that you properly dispose of the contents of the pee bottle upon returning to land by pouring it down a toilet (or, as suggested above, you could pour it over the side, which I'm betting the USCG/EPA would argue is illegal), and the contents of the #2 bucket compost, because you've kept the #1 out of it. If you've got it set up right, it actually composts pretty quickly.

    I don't think it's a solution that would work well for a full-time live-aboard or for very long cruises, but for a typical family pleasure boat, that sees use only a couple days per month and spends most of its time just sitting in the slip unused, it works. At the end of the season, you lift out the #2 bucket. After composting, the stuff basically is very much like soil, not like poo, and you can either dump the contents into a trash bag and trash it, or apply it to the ground. I've read of some people tilling it into their yard or garden soil, but I would not advise that, particularly in a vegetable garden. I would just dump it into a plastic trash bag, tie it up tightly and put it in the trash, or dump it in the woods.

    There are pros and cons, just as there are with a holding tank. It's not for everyone, but I like the simplicity and reliability of it - no need to worry about pumps failing, hoses or tanks leaking, getting pumped out, whatever. It's very unlikely I'll ever take a very long cruise in this boat anyhow, and if I do go for a few days, I have the advantage of being male and able to pee over the rail, so the pee bottle doesn't fill up so quickly.
    - Bill T.

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  4. #39
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    One stray thought - when I bought my AirHead the exhaust was a small computer fan. It's worked fine but I keep thinking of changing to a solar powered vent to seperate it from the boat's electrical system. This seems to me worth the money and if you can afford it a good idea from the start.
    Those little round solar vent thingies don't move much air. I've used computer fans for various things— most are 12 volt. You can get a cheap 5-10 watt PV panel, wire the fan directly to it, and save the expense (and another hole to cut) of a solar vent.

  5. #40
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    Those little round solar vent thingies don't move much air. I've used computer fans for various things— most are 12 volt. You can get a cheap 5-10 watt PV panel, wire the fan directly to it, and save the expense (and another hole to cut) of a solar vent.
    I've just bought precisely that ,a 5w 12v panel to power a 12v computer fan on a shore side composting toilet .It cost $30 on Ebay.
    '' You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know. ''
    Grateful Dead

  6. #41
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Chip-skiff - thanks for the thought. I'd been under the impression that they moved a lot of air and that the airhead guy liked them but did not provide as it added over $100 to the total price. I'll do some research.

  7. #42
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip-skiff View Post
    Those little round solar vent thingies don't move much air.
    I presume Ian was referring to the solar vents that have a powered fan inside, not just a passive vent. Depending on which model you select, the Nicro day/night vents are rated at between 600 and 800 cubic feet per hour. That certainly seems to me to be moving much more air than the tiny little fan that comes with the AirHead.

    Plus you don't need to move massive amounts of air anyhow - you just need a slight negative pressure. All it has to do is pull a little bit to draw air through the "bucket", to help in keeping odors down (it doesn't really smell anyhow) and help dry out the contents.
    - Bill T.

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  8. #43
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    I did mean the solar/batt powered unit.

  9. #44
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    I'll second the Sailnet reference. There is a lot of discussion there about composting toilets in general.

    There are a lot of "lookers" interested in the idea, and there don't seem to be many actual users commenting on the technology.

    Still, the users who do comment are almost universally positive about these devices.

    Who on this thread are actual owners? If you are an owner, do you recommend these things?

  10. #45
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    In my experience the solids tank needs emptying once a year if you have one person living aboard and occasional guests, or a couple to small family that cruises very activly each season weekend with perhaps a week or so constant cruise. Unless there is a considerable time after the last use, you'll need to set the compost aside to mature for another season before it goes on your garden. The toilette paper and coffee filters don't compost as readily so it's well to plan around any aesthetic issues on that matter.

    The urine tank is more of a pain. It's a bit on the small side. I does not fill up so fast with just guys around (Duh) but if you have a crew of beer drinking women . . . . You'll be pouring out pee at least daily.

    There is some debate as to whether dumping just urine actually violates any laws. Most jurisdictions think so and the issue has not been litigated. Urine in a dispersed application is not a problem and many folk ashore cast it on the fields, but concentrated it can cause too much nitrogen in an ecosystem. So if you just pour it overboard, you might be breaking a law and you might be (especially in an enclosed water) be causing an over-nutrient problem. Further, most shore facilities and marinas are unenthused, to say the least, about disposal through their system, not that a couple gallons seems a big deal to me.

    In short, the urine-fecal seperation that is the big selling point for the AirHead since that makes the compost go off stink free, but it's also urine disposal that's the real achillies heel.

  11. #46
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Quote Originally Posted by John P Lebens View Post
    Who on this thread are actual owners? If you are an owner, do you recommend these things?
    I have one. The previous owner took out the old MSD and replaced it with the AirHead.

    As I just bought the boat in August of last year, I haven't had as much experience with it as Ian has had with his, but I do think I like it better than a traditional holding tank.

    My boat is a 1968 Pearson Wanderer, and I've been doing a lot of work on it for the past couple months. One big project is the replacement of the entire cabin sole and floor timbers. I spent all day yesterday crawling around on my hands and knees, and one of the last things I did yesterday was to take an angle grinder with a twisted wire wheel to the inside of the hull to clean it and scuff it up a bit in prep for painting it with Bilgekote (hopefully next weekend). I could tell where the holding tank used to be, and where it leaked into the bilge. P.U. and yuck.

    I had pulled the entire AirHead unit out of the boat about a month or more ago and brought it home so I could empty it and clean the whole thing. The last time anyone used it would have been in November. I just dumped the solids into a trash bag - it really was just like soil or peat. No real odor, other than what dry compost smells like. Some of the paper had not composted, but you can't be squeamish when dealing with a marine head, that's for sure.

    I like not having two extra through-hulls - I removed them and had the holes professionally glassed over. You can't even tell where they were.

    I think any of the various options and pluses and minuses. It depends on personal preference and how you use your boat - e.g., long-distance cruising for weeks at a time versus a weekend or two each month. So far, I like it. As Ian mentioned, the original pee bottle is a little small, but the manufacturer came out with a larger-capacity bottle that will fit the original unit. I haven't yet bothered to buy one, but they do recommend having two so that if one fills up, you can cap it and switch them out. We've had ours fill up only once, and I just quietly poured it over the side. As far as I'm concerned, that is the nastiest job.

    As Ian also observes, if it's just guys on board, you can get away without using the pee bottle at all, pretty much.

    And there's always "that bucket" as backup...
    - Bill T.

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  12. #47
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    OK. Nature's Head received. I am impressed at the quality and the design.
    A few things that have been mentioned since my last post. First, the solar vent. I like the idea, and am planning on it, however, the dealer I purchased from insisted it was a waste of money as computer fans hardly draw anything. I strongly disagree, but then, I have been living aboard and cruising off and on for the past 13 years, so electricity is something I put high value on.
    As far as how it functions, the solids and liquids are separated. The solids tank is sizable. My guess is with two of us using the head full time we will get 2-3 months between having to empty the solids.
    The liquid tank is 2.2 gallons. This should last the two of us about 2-3 days between empty's. We can carry it up to the marina head to dump it. A larger container would be less convenient to carry up and dump, as well as more conspicuous.
    The shape of the seat is more comfortable than I expected, and will not be an issue to get used to.
    Our boat is a Piver trimaran, so weight is a real concern. This unit weighs 29 pounds. Our traditional marine toilet, Lectra San, 9 gallon holding tank, and misc hoses and fittings weigh allot more than that. Especially when the holding tank is full.
    Another difference that sold me on this toilet over the AirHead was the bowl design. As I understand it, you have to sit to pee in the AirHead. You do not have to sit with the Nature's Head. And then there are the coffee filters. The AirHead requires use of coffee filter looking things for solids. To me this means two things. The inconvenience of having to carry yet another consumable on the boat, and, the need to plan ahead when you sit down. Not so much a problem for me, but for some it is an issue.
    I am also looking forward to eliminating a few more holes below the waterline.
    Stay tuned for the install and a few photos.
    I will add, my previous rating still stands, except for customer service. Brief description, I was unhappy with the shipping details. I also felt the payment details with this specific dealer were a bit sketchy. I described my concerns to this dealer, and my extreme dissatisfaction with the communication. The response was less than acceptable, but was shared with the manufacturer. Not only have I received no further response from the dealer, but I have received nothing from the manufacturer. This seems in line with the slow response, and, the attitude expressed in that response to the inquiry that started this thread. With that said, I believe AirHead has far superior customer service. I do feel Nature's Head is the superior design, but so far their customer service is terrible.
    Last edited by kai nui; 05-10-2011 at 11:00 PM.

  13. #48
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    I don't know about Nature's Head but something I've mentioned with the AirHead: Your pile lands on a coffee filter sitting atop the trap door. Now, you could flip the lever that drops the mess into the tank before you wipe, but if you don't, be prepared to lift your cheeks a bit. The verticle space is limited and your hand could get soiled . . .

  14. #49
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    The Nature's Head is used with the trap door open. That is the main difference in the bowl design.

  15. #50
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Ah, I wondered. Does it still assure urine seperation if you happen do be doing both?

  16. #51
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Yes it does. When you sit, you pee forward, regardless of male or female. Forward is the low point in the bowl. If you happen to stand, the trap door obviously will be closed, and the whole thing slopes downhill toward the urine jug.
    The down side I see to this design is the need to keep a spray bottle handy with water, or a vinegar solution to keep the bowl clean from splatters. We will likely do the same as we do with the traditional marine head and wet the bowl before we use it. This should help keep things clean.

  17. #52
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Kai nui = big food.

    Is this Yeadon?

  18. #53
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Kai Nui is Big Sea in Hawaii, and nope. Although there are many here who do know me from other forums, and even one or two from my various wood boats. I have been lurking here for years, and finally had something to say.

  19. #54
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Quote Originally Posted by kai nui View Post
    Another difference that sold me on this toilet over the AirHead was the bowl design. As I understand it, you have to sit to pee in the AirHead. You do not have to sit with the Nature's Head. And then there are the coffee filters. The AirHead requires use of coffee filter looking things for solids.
    Regardless of device, I finding sitting to be a little easier than standing, at least if we're underway and the boat's moving about. And you don't actually *have* to use the coffee filters. You can open the trap door and just let the solids fall directly into the bucket.

    Anyhow, yeah, I think each design has pros and cons and it comes down to which the individual feels suits his or her needs or proclivities. My boat came with the AirHead and so far I've not been dissatisfied with it. Of course I have yet to use it for an extended period, so we'll see how things go.

    I recall a somewhat heated back-and-forth on another forum - it might have been SailNet - between the maker of the AirHead and the maker of Nature's Head, in which one was essentially accusing the other of lying about his product. Pretty ugly when two crapper makers start flinging, uh, mud.
    - Bill T.

    "How many politically-correct people does it take to screw in a light-bulb?"

    "Look, I don't know, but that's not funny."

  20. #55
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    As I understand the tale about nintyninth hand, the Nature's Head guy once worked for AirHead, or was early partner, or something.

    With the AirHead it's perfectly fine to pee standing up. Even if you direct your stream at the back end of the trap, it will not get into the compost tank. Some find various aiming games fun, just as an industrial engineer found when, to make Amsterdam's legendarily nasty public urinals cleaner, he hit on glazing the image of a house fly into the bowl. Irresistable target. However, I still keep a sign that says, "Gentlemen, whatever you're doing in here, sit first. If you must stand, go to the leeward rail."

  21. #56
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    No disagreement about sitting while underway. But, underway is but a small portion of cruising.
    The dealer told me that the owner of Nature's head worked for AirHead, proposed changes to the design, was ignored, and proceeded to start his own company. There is also information that the 2 owners of Nature's Head are avid sailors.
    All I know is the products are very close in design, and both are clearly designed for boats.

  22. #57
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Installed and working. I would post pictures, but I can not resize them small enough for this forum with the software I have on this machine The new composting toilet works fine. The finish work will come later.

  23. #58
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    A couple of weeks of use and we could not be happier with the Nature's Head. It is very easy to use, there is absolutely no smell, even when opening it up to remove the pee bucket. On deck, there is occasionally a bit of smell when it is in use if you are downwind from the vent, but it is short lived.
    My wife is equally pleased with this head.
    In comparison, when we had holding tanks on our old boat, we had to pump out in about 1/3 the amount of time I expect to get between dumping the solids. The pee bucket needs to be dumped about every 3 days with 2 of us using it. Even that is not a big deal. It is small enough that my wife can comfortably deal with it.
    Now it's time to find out about service after the sale. As I mentioned, I was less than pleased with the customer service. When I installed the toilet, I had to bend the spider handle a bit for clearance. In doing so, I broke the weld on one of the spokes. I need a replacement. I will let you all know how that goes.

  24. #59
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Please keep us apprised on your experience with this head! We are on the verge of investing in an airhead and would be interested in any pros and cons based on personal experience.

  25. #60
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Quote Originally Posted by kai nui View Post
    Installed and working. I would post pictures, but I can not resize them small enough for this forum with the software I have on this machine The new composting toilet works fine. The finish work will come later.
    I use a program called The Gimp. Just open the image with Gimp, click File - save as - rename if you want - click ok and it will give you the option to resize.
    My take is that if you poke someone with a sharp stick they'll get annoyed, if you smile and shake their hand they will be your friends.

    John Welsford

  26. #61
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    I ran into a guy in Port Townsend with a fine converted Wahl troller today. This boat has been referred to as a jewel box because it is so meticulously restored. One of the first things he wanted to show me was is several months old Nature's head. He installed it to replace a porta-potty (this is a guy's boat). He raved about it - saying it never smelled at all and took almost no electricity to run. The tour included an opportunity to get up close and personal and give it the sniff test. I did, and could detect no smell at all. I was close enough to get a good look at the composting material inside the toilet. It wasn't pretty, but there was no smell.

    You can google it for a look at photos of the boat, - "FV Molly Sparks" There are no photos of the Nature's head installation, but you might enjoy looking at the rest of the vessel.

  27. #62
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    - Bill T.

    "How many politically-correct people does it take to screw in a light-bulb?"

    "Look, I don't know, but that's not funny."

  28. #63
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Quote Originally Posted by ILikeRust View Post
    She is for sale but now with a different broker and "reduced" in price. It would be one way to get a composting toilet.

  29. #64
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    World's most expensive composting toilet, but it comes with a free boat?
    - Bill T.

    "How many politically-correct people does it take to screw in a light-bulb?"

    "Look, I don't know, but that's not funny."

  30. #65
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Quote Originally Posted by John P Lebens View Post
    .... almost no electricity to run...
    I imagine you power-boaters have a different definition of this phrase than sail-boaters....regardless, there are some really efficient options for the exhaust fan.

    Does he run the exhaust fan off battery power (I assume) or did he install one of the solar powered vents, which most sail-boaters would prefer?

  31. #66
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    I think he runs it off the batteries, but he also has a fairly large solar panel to provide some charging. The fan load according to the Nature's Head site is 2 amp/hours per day or .083 amps per hour.

    That's correct - you can buy the toilet for $330k and he'll throw in the boat for free.

    (The vessel is lit exclusively with LED - he quoted me the amp hour draw and it was on the order of a couple of amp/hours for the entire salon.)

  32. #67
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    I am very into my airhead but BUT BUT especially if you have a crew of beer drinking women, be prepared to drain the urine tank a couple times a day.
    I gotta ask, Ian... do you turn around and sail back to the dock in the middle of the day just to drain the tank, or...?

  33. #68
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    I invoke my fifth ammendment rights - that's the right to another fifth.

    Seriously, thus far the occasion has only arisen where discharge was lawful anyway, thanks to good planning, but the day may come when I have to either carry a pour off tank or somehow improvise a seriously larger tank, maybe by syphon from the site gauge.

  34. #69
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    I just liked this bit from the Airhead maker-"So over the years I believe I have created something that is solid"

    I've never used one, but seem like a great idea.

    Phil

  35. #70
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    Default Re: Nature's Head vs. Air Head Toilet

    The idea is extremely good , no pump outs ,one less hole in the boat .Definitely for me .
    '' You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know. ''
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