I’ve had this little knot of anxiety sitting in my stomach since we purchased the tiny house. Not because I regret it, quite the opposite actually, but just because there’s a lot that needs to happen before all of this is done and dusted (and by “dusted” I mean – all humans/animals fully moved into tiny house and house in the city is successfully rented out to someone else). I’m one of those people that might take forever to make a decision, but once I make it, that’s it. I want it done THEN. Having to wait just gives me more time to overthink and stress and worry. I’ve spent a lot of time lying awake at 3am running through everything on an endless loop in my head. It’s who I am as a person.
Part of it is that I know not everything will go to plan. Nothing ever does, especially when you’re building a house, and an unconventional one at that. There are a lot of weird little things to consider. Plus there’s the added challenge of going from 1800sqft to 400sqft, that’s a big lifestyle change. And the whole “get the current house ready to rent” thing, which entails mostly cosmetic things but still a decent amount of work. It’s a lot to pack into one anxiety knot.
A lot of progress has been made since the last time I talked about all this though. Like… we have an estimated completion date for the house (2 weeks!). The site is also just about ready; the water line has been run, the electric has been run, the fence is up, the gates are in, etc… now it’s just the driveway left, which is happening today.
The only thing left to really iron out was the toilet situation. I had originally touched base with a guy a couple months ago about what I had in mind, and at that time he was like “yeah sure no problem, call me back when you have a delivery date”. So I called him back last week, at which point he was like oh no I can’t do that, here’s XYZ reasons why that’s a bad idea and also not actually to code and no I definitely can’t help you and your cost would be astronomical for all these reasons. Cue panic. He had a lot of good points I hadn’t thought about, but it was all information that would have been useful MONTHS AGO. What I thought was the plan was now actually no longer a viable plan at all. That little knot of anxiety became a full blown panic attack as I quickly backtracked and reconsidered.
Really there were only a few viable toilet options, the best of which included ditching a traditional toilet altogether. There are a LOT of toilet options out there, y’all. I think I’ve extensively googled pretty much all of them by now. There were only 2 that I thought sounded particularly workable for us though: 1) a urine-diverting compost toilet, or 2) an incinerating toilet.
Of everything I ever thought I’d know a lot about, I certainly didn’t picture unconventional toilets being one of them. Yet here we are…
Anyway, I spent an embarrassingly long amount of time digging into all of these options. I had a pages-long document with the details and pros/cons of both types, with subsections on specific brands within those types and THEIR details and pros/cons. I read all their user manuals cover to cover, watched a bajillion youtube videos on everything from installation to repairs to reviews, asked tons of questions in all my tiny home groups, and read a lot of blogs. Once again I find myself asking wtf we even did before the internet existed. Anyway, I’ll spare you the deep dive but the basics were these:
Composting Toilet: cheaper, super green, but more upkeep and a bit more “mess”. Basically the urine gets diverted to a container in the front (that has to be emptied every couple days) and the solids go into the compost bin in the bottom, which also has peat moss in it. There’s a fan running through it (routed to the outside) 24/7 to keep the compost dry and make sure it’s odor-free inside your home. You stir the compost bin a few times a day with the little handle on the outside, and very few weeks you empty the compost bin and refill with new peat moss.
Incinerating Toilet: almost 2x as expensive, also super green, uses more electricity (about $18/mo based on average of 6 cycles per day and our current price per kWh, yes this is the level of deep dive that I went to), very sanitary (if you use it right, anyway), very low upkeep, and closer to a “normal” toilet experience. Also definitely more of an appliance than anything else, because this one quite literally incinerates all the waste. They use these things in Antarctica to reduce the environmental impact of humans. Basically you put a big wax-paper type liner (which the company sells of course, but they’re not particularly expensive) in the bowl before you go, then when you’re done you hit the foot pedal to open the bowl and the “package” drops down into the burn bin below. You hit the start button on the back of the toilet, the fan and heating elements come on, and the thing literally burns all the waste into a little pile of ash. There’s a vent out the back of the unit through the wall to the outside to divert the smell, and all you have to do is pull out the ash pan out of the bottom and empty it every week or so (with 2 people’s worth of average use).
In the end, we went with the incinerating toilet.
SO was more comfortable with this option since it’s lower day-to-day maintenance and at least a little bit closer to a normal toilet experience. I was fine with either one (I’m a horse person, a little poo compost really doesn’t bother me) but honestly I kinda leaned toward the Turd Burner too. Emptying an ash pan is definitely easier than emptying a pee jug and a compost bin and it just FEELS cleaner to have it all reduced to a teeny pile of sterile ash.
And so that, my friends, is how I found myself online ordering a $2,000 poo burning toilet on a Friday night. I can honestly say I never had that one on any of my bingo cards. I’m kinda looking forward to this thing though. What is life without adventures? And hey, if nothing else it’ll be a real hit at parties and get-togethers. How many people have actual SHIT INCINERATORS in their house? Between that and the Cat Shit Robot we’re gonna get some kind of reputation.
Anyway, the only caveat with the Turd Burner is that it does require it’s own designated 20a outlet to run, so after stressing a lot about the wiring and our electricity, I called our builder to see if it I could just request an add-on. Luckily it was still doable, so after a few phone calls, more paperwork, and a check for $51, there will now be a special outlet in the bathroom just for the toilet, and it’s on it’s own breaker. All we have to do when it comes is cut a hole for the vent, plop the toilet down, connect it, and plug it in. The knot in my stomach has loosened at least a little.
Naturally, though, covid is also affecting supply chains when it comes to parts for poop receptacles, so there’s a 6 week lead time on the Turd Burner (um, I guess I should say it’s actually called an Incinolet but I just feel like Turd Burner has a better ring to it). That means I might be using a camp toilet and/or the toilet in the main house for a couple weeks, but not a big deal. Worse things have happened.
I will feel a lot better when the house is actually HERE and in it’s spot and everything is hooked up and working. Then the only loose end I’ll really have left (at least in regards to the tiny house prep side of things) is getting the skirting put on. I’ve called around trying to get a few estimates (because while we can do it ourselves, I’m not sure either of us particularly wants to) with no luck so far. I think I’m gonna try the handyman route next and see if I have more luck that way. It’s not a particularly hard job, it’s just tedious as hell. The skirting isn’t quite as urgent as everything else, though.
Always doing my part to keep your blog feed as weird as possible, y’all.