Articles Can Composting Toilets Work in Cold Climates?
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Eemeli Palo

Dry Toilet Expert
Waterless Toilet Shop
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Can Composting Toilets Work in Cold Climates?

A common concern about composting toilets is whether they function effectively in the chill of winter. The short answer is yes, they can. However, there are several special considerations to keep in mind before installing a composting toilet in freezing conditions. In this article, we’ll explore these factors in detail to help you make an informed decision.

What is a composting toilet

Before getting into the main topic of this article, let’s first define what is a composting toilet. A “composting toilet” or a “compost toilet” is a specific type of waterless toilet that initiates and manages the whole composting process within itself. These toilets are designed to break down waste through natural biological processes, converting it into reusable compost directly in the unit. By using aerobic bacteria and other microorganisms, composting toilets transform human waste into safe, usable compost.

Importantly, it should be noted that not all waterless toilets are composting toilets! For example there are a lot of urine-diverting waterless toilets, often miscategorized as “composting toilets”. For more information on this, please read this our other article: Composting Toilet vs. Compost Toilet

Challenges of Using Composting Toilets in Cold Weather

The primary challenge in cold weather is the temperature dependency of the natural composting process. For natural composting (= without an external power source), temperatures must remain above 32°F. Below this threshold, the decomposition is stagnant, prolonging the time it takes for pathogens in toilet waste to die off, which is essential for rendering the compost safe for reuse.

Waterless toilets typically separate urine from solid waste one way or another. In freezing conditions, there’s a risk that these separated liquids may freeze within the system, leading to a blockage. While this issue can often be mitigated with some preventative measures specific to each toilet model, it’s important to consider this potential problem before installation to avoid operational disruptions.

Smart Solutions for Composting in Cold Climates

Understanding that one solution makes a perfect fit for all, there are several effective ways that can ensure the functionality of composting toilets even in colder climates.

Batch Composting Toilets

Green Toilet Lux composting toilets are particularly well-suited to withstand cold conditions.

One optimal choice for cold environments is the batch composting toilet. This type features two or more interchangeable containers, allowing one to be in use while the others complete their composting cycle outside of the toilet. The main advantage is that these toilets do not require emptying of frozen compost during the cold months, permitting continuous use throughout the winter while reserving the actual composting process for warmer weather.

Indoor Installation of Self-Contained Units

Another approach is to install a self-contained composting toilet indoors. These models manage all waste within a single, floor-level unit, eliminating the need for a multi-level setup typical of split-system toilets. By keeping the unit indoors, the composting process is less affected by external temperatures.

Adapting to Usage Levels

It’s also important to consider the usage frequency of the toilet. Composting toilets in colder climates may need greater capacity to handle the reduced decomposition rates caused by lower temperatures. For high-usage scenarios, larger continuous composting systems or batch toilets with multiple composting containers might be more suitable.

Enhanced Comfort with Thermal Seats

For added comfort in cold settings, we recommend the Thermal seat, designed to provide a warm seating surface regardless of ambient conditions. This feature is particularly beneficial in cold climates, making it an excellent accessory for any composting toilet.

Success Story: Composting Toilets in Iceland

Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland, renowned for its vast ice cap and as a major tourist attraction, now also features an innovative sanitation solution: the Green Toilet Lux composting toilets. Designed to operate completely off-grid, these toilets provide a sustainable alternative by functioning without water or electricity, which is crucial in such pristine and remote environments.

Initiated in 2019, this project involves the installation of 60 units across three key tourist locations, including 40 units at Vatnajökull glacier itself. Despite challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, construction of the 13-toilet complex was completed in spring 2021, ready to serve between 200-500 visitors daily.

The toilets are designed with usability and maintenance in mind, featuring easy access for servicing and enough space to manage the composting units effectively. Inside, each unit includes a porcelain pedestal that resembles a traditional toilet but functions without flushing. Privacy and hygiene are maintained as all waste, including toilet paper, is contained within the composting unit, unseen by users.

Adding to the eco-friendly design, the toilets are equipped with solar-powered lighting and wind-powered ventilation systems, ensuring minimal environmental impact while maximizing comfort and functionality.

This successful implementation of Green Toilet Lux composting toilets at one of Iceland’s most visited natural sites demonstrates their viability in cold climates, offering an exemplary model of sustainable sanitation technology for similar environments worldwide.

Getting Started with Composting Toilet in Cold Regions

To get started with a new composting toilet used also during the coldest time of the year:

  1. Explore the many different waterless toilets we have to offer: All waterless toilets. Different models have different features, capacities and best-use cases. Please use the time to compare different models. Do not rush to make the choice and don’t judge the toilet merely by the outlooks of it.
  2. Consult us to get a personalized waterless toilet recommendation. We have been involved in making thousands of waterless toilets across the world. We know waterless toilets.

Fill the form and we will get back to you with a personalized recommendation!

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Yes, composting toilets can indeed function effectively in cold climates. However, careful consideration is advised to ensure they operate smoothly. It’s essential to ensure adequate capacity, allowing for main service and maintenance to be conducted during the warmer months. Additionally, it’s important to verify that liquid waste flows freely to prevent blockages in colder temperatures.

There are several innovative solutions that facilitate the use of composting toilets in cold environments. One effective option is utilizing a batch composting toilet, which provides extendable capacity year-round. Other alternatives include installing self-contained, waterless toilets entirely indoors and incorporating thermal seats to enhance comfort.

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Who We Are

At Waterless Toilet Shop we are a dedicated team of dry toilet experts based in Henderson, Nevada. As a family-owned company with deep roots in Scandinavia and Australia, we bring a blend of global insights and local expertise to every product we create.

At Waterless Toilet Shop, we do more than just design and manufacture innovative composting toilets; we also use them daily. This hands-on experience allows us to continuously improve our products and ensure they meet the high standards of functionality and sustainability that our customers expect.

We are committed to living the eco-friendly principles we teach, making our solutions not just part of our business, but a part of our lives. Join us in embracing a more sustainable future, one flush at a time.

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