Taking Care of Business

Okay folks, it’s time to get down to business. We need to talk about what’s really important: toilets.

That’s right, you heard me. So far nothing else has been the subject of as much intense conversation and internet research as our future bathroom. Not surprisingly, this has also been a popular question when discussing the bus with friends.

A familiar face

A familiar face

Given that modern flush toilets have been appearing in American homes since in the mid 19th century, having a convenient, sanitary place to conduct your business is taken completely for granted today. When was the last time you gave toilet waste a second thought? The truth is that majority of us don’t need to think about this type of waste because it is immediately swept out of sight and mind. However, the reality of living on a bus means (or any type of RV for that matter) that we’ll need to think about all resources and waste, no matter how unpleasant.

Before we go any further, I do want to share that thanks to this bus project, I can now claim knowledge that the flush toilet was first described in 1596 by Sir John Harington in a book entitled A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax. Apparently it was actually a coded critique of the court of Queen Elizabeth in addition to a discourse on poo. We’re sure it made for good bathroom reading at the time.

“So…. where are you going to, uh, go to the bathroom?”

To answer that question, I’ll say that we looked at three options when it came to designing the bathroom: an incinerating toilet, a composting toilet, and an RV flush toilet. Let’s walk through the pros & cons of each option.

1. The Incinerating Toilet

Designed to burn any waste, incinerating toilets are common enough on boats and other off-grid operations where storing waste/ installing plumbing just isn’t an option. Most of the varieties we encountered are 12v DC/ 120v AC electric powered, though larger propane & diesel powered versions also exist.

While the thought of avoiding a black-water tank altogether is very appealing, one of the main barriers is cost. Priced new, these babies can range from $1900 to well over $3,500, depending on the brand. That’s more than we paid for the whole bus! Maybe when strike it rich, we’ll upgrade, but for now it’s cost-prohibitive.

2. The Composting Toilet

If you’re not familiar with these, just think of an outhouse, except indoors. Waste gets stored in a container where it will eventually compost into usable “humanure”. Fancier versions separate liquids from solids, thus making the composting process a bit easier. Non-fancy versions also exist, and essentially consist of a glorified bucket that you add sawdust to after each use.

While a low-tech composting toilet is certainly the lowest cost option and would be the easiest to install, our main objections are potential smell, size, and maintenance (who really wants to clean out this type of waste container in the middle of a hot Texas summer?). We’ve heard of other RVers  and bus-converters who successfully used composting toilets on board, but for now we’ve decided this isn’t for us.

3. The RV Flush Toilet

We have a winner! We’re opting for a traditional RV flush toilet hooked up to a black water tank. This is pretty reasonably priced option (just over $100 for a new one on amazon.com). The main cons for this option are the use of freshwater for flushing and pumping sewage out of the tank. So long as we can hook up to a septic system somewhere or use a dump station at an RV park, this shouldn’t be a problem to maintain.

Behold the latest addition to the bus:

It's aqua-magical!

It’s aqua-magical!

 (Photo courtesy of Thetford.com)

Well folks, that’s the run down on our bus’ bathroom. If anyone has additional words of advice regarding black water tanks, feel free to comment below. Stay tuned for further progress reports!

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3 thoughts on “Taking Care of Business

  1. Ben says:

    Of course you dedicated a post to poo. Of course you did.
    Love the blog. Getting some people following your progress is always positive pressure to keep going.
    We’d like to come down and help one of these weekends.


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