Saturday, May 8, 2010

Off-grid challenge-toilet !

Living off-grid brings a lot more challenges than setting up a solar system or trying to have a successful garden. Some of the REALLY basic needs have to met right away. One of our first problems was a bathroom. Now for the guys it's not that big a deal, but I refuse to expose my delicate posterior to the elements. During one of our first trips to stay on the property, we had a fellow dig a latrine and Rene & Amelio put a terrific top on it. It certainly wasn't conventional, but it worked fine. It took a little convincing that it was private, but after a few giggles (by me) looking at cohune palm frond walls, we found it quite comfortable. Of course, the palms wouldn't last forever, but got thru the building stages and our first couple of visits.

We had the bodega and guest rooms built next. When we came down to check on the progress, Amelio surprised us with his version of a composting toilet. Not fancy, but very functional. Note: this is the photo with the blue seat. We put a screen under the toilet seat to keep bugs from going up or down. Since this is on the upper floor, He fabricated a metal chute under which we've place a 10 gallon barrel. When it's time to remove, it's easy to pull out, place a lid on it and take it to the special compost bin. We use wood shavings with a rule of one to two cups depending (fill in the space yourself). We've found that there's almost no odor with this setup.

When we had all our stuff shipped down, we tho't we needed a more normal looking toilet in our house, but since we're very sensitive to electricity and water useage, we bo't a Biolet non-electric toilet. This is a white plastic thing with a bucket inside. The theory here is that the water passes thru holes in the bottom of the bucket into a pipe in the ground and the bucket is removed and carried to the compost bin. Sounds ok, but in practice we hate it. They recommend that you use their special, wonderful composting material, but hey, we're in Belize and it's not that easy to get it sent down here. We actually use the wood shavings here also. They're clean and smell nice, which is more than I can say for the toilet. The holes in the bucket mean that we have to put it in a garbage bag to carry outside. The bugs love this thing and I'm constantly spraying to keep it bug free. The venting has been a problem as the toilet itself it light weight and tends to move, disconnecting the vent joints. We're handling all this just fine, but, if we get another water source, we may choose to go the conventional route. We MUCH prefer the homemade version that Amelio created for our guest house and have even tho't about changing to it. A huge consideration too is that the Biolet cost us $1448US before shipping & customs and the homemade version cost about $50BZ including the seat. Wow!

If you're considering off-grid living, I hope some of this is of value to you. If not, you can smile every time you flush.

DRAT ! i Can't get this darned notebook to read my SD card to publish the rest of the photos. As soon as I figure it out I'll update. Thanks guys. G.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I dig the palm leaf door! Kay and Andre have a composting toilet in their "first" house (guest house now). You have probably seen it (i think you know them).
I grew up in Appalachian Ohio and used many an outhouse in my day. It;s not so bad.