There are major design problems with this toilet system which we will come to later!!!
Fitting the toilet was a pretty simple affair which involved cutting a hole in the roof for the solar fan and then feeding a flexi hose down and onto the toilet. This is where the alarm bells rang for me as I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to gadgets! There was no specifically designed fitment from the fan to the flexi hose so we had to glue an adapter to the fan and hope it held - this is what the suppliers actually instructed us to do! We decided to add some duck tape for added security! The three pictures below show the fitting of the toilet.
|Cutting a hole in the roof|
|The flexi-hose entering the bathroom|
|The Eco Composting toilet fitted in the bathroom|
The toilet itself is quite a nice one, it's comfortable and not too massive but it is not without it's problems! I will explain how it works first. You start by adding 2-3 inches of cocoa shells into the toilet base which is supposed to help with the break down of bacteria as well as masking any smells (it does smell like chocolate for a while!) When you need a number 2 you place a coffee filter into the bowl, do your business and then open the hatch and it drops into the base. Next you turn the handle and spray a bit of Ecover into the bowl to disinfect etc. There is no flush and no water - the idea is to dry the poo out. When you are sitting down on the loo the number 1 finds its way into a different compartment which you empty as required.
The first issue is that the actual bowl is not particularly deep so if you have a rather large deposit the poo will touch your bum - nasty!!!! It also has a handle on the side that you turn after each deposit but once it's got a few deposits in the toilet it gets very hard to turn and forcing it around kind of feels like you might break it!
Now to the major, and perhaps deal breaking issue. The fan is totally useless and not fit for purpose due to several fundamental design issues. I will cover those issues in a moment but first I must explain the consequences of these faults. THE TOILET SMELLS BAD - REALLY BAD when the fan stops working - which is basically any time it rains, any time the panel gets condensation build up and when the solar panels have not charged the internal battery enough to get through the night.
You may have noticed that so far I have not named and shamed. I have not done so because I am sending them the link to this article to see what their response is. I am hoping that they sort it out, but if they can't then I will let you all know!
I believe the fan is not even designed specifically for this toilet system, the box was all in Chinese and looks incredibly cheap. Expecting us to glue adapters to it to make the hose fit is not really satisfactory at all, it backs up my theory that this solar extraction fan is an off-the-shelf generic job. The main issue is condensation as shown in the picture below.
|Condensation forms in the extraction fan|
The fundamental issue here is that the solar panels inside are not flush with the glass - there is a massive gap between the actual panels and the glass which, of course, is going to allow condensation to form. With all this condensation the sun can not actually get to the solar panels so it works very inefficiently and will not allow enough light in to charge the internal battery. Just take a look at any other solar powered device you have - the panels are always flush against the glass as shown below in this solar light.
|Note the solar array is fixed against the glass - no air gap|
Having a curved top surface and air gap as with the solar extraction fan supplied is a major design flaw. I have illustrated the issues further in the following illustrations - the first one is the actual fan (not totally accurate but OK for illustration purposes). The second image shows how I would have designed it!
|This is a rough illustration of the actual extraction fan|
1. The boat roof is almost flush with the extraction fan vent hole which means if it rains, of if you wash your boat the water is going to find it's way straight in to the solar extraction fan. When this happens the fan stops working for a few hours (and then the batteries are not charged enough for the night).
2. The solar array is not flush with the glass which allows condensation - this happens almost EVERY DAY and while there is condensation the batteries can not get a full charge.
3. When water does get in to the fan it goes straight on to the motor and it stops!
|A better design for the extraction fan|
1. The fan should sit at least 10mm above the roof line and should be designed in such a way that the water runs off it, away from the vent holes as shown - the airflow is shown by the brown arrows.
2. The solar panel itself should be sealed against the flat glass as shown which would help prevent condensation - my solar lights etc NEVER get condensation build-up. It is my understanding that solar panels should be fused against the glass.
3. The fan motor itself should be 100% waterproof so that any water that does get in simply ends up going down in to the toilet and does not stop the fan working.
I would also add that we should have a proper fitment for the flexi-hose that runs down to the toilet, not a bodged up glue it yourself affair!!!
We have had 2 fans so far and both have done the same thing which proves that they are not fit for purpose. What you have to remember is that I have butchered my narrowboat roof to fit this bloody fan!!!
If you are thinking of going eco and buying yourself a composting toilet make sure you get a good look at the extraction fan and if it's anything like what I have described here then run for your life as this is probably the most important part of the whole kit!!!
As a footnote to this article, last night I had to go sit in the cratch as the smell was almost unbearable and I am growing tired of it to be honest. If I can't get it sorted satisfactorily I will post this article EVERYWHERE and name the company that supplied it so that you guys don't end up with a smelly boat like mine!
And one other thing - the fan is not powerful enough by any means and if you stand outside anywhere near the fan you can smell poo.