The type of toilet you choose for your tiny house can define the way you use the bathroom for years to come, so this definitely isn’t a decision you should make lightly. For many tiny house homeowners, it comes down to a decision between composting toilets and incinerating toilets.
So what’s the difference between a composting toilet and an incinerating toilet, and which is better for a tiny house?
A composting toilet means you will allow your waste to decompose in your toilet and in a nearby compost pile, requiring you to move the waste from your toilet to the compost pile regularly. An incinerating toilet burns the waste immediately after toilet use, leaving behind a tablespoon of ash residue.
While a composting toilet is cheaper and more energy-efficient than an incinerating toilet, it also requires more work and might produce a greater smell.
To pick the best toilet for your tiny house, it’s important to know exactly how a composting toilet and incinerating toilet work, and the differences between the two. In this article we go into the pros and cons of the incinerating toilet and the composting toilet and which is better for a tiny house.
Composting Toilet In a Tiny House
The most popular choice for tiny house toilet systems is the composting toilet. These types of toilets allow tiny house homeowners to naturally break down their waste through decomposition. After the waste is broken down, it can then be used as compost, allowing you to hit two birds with one stone (assuming you plan on using the compost productively).
How Composting Toilets Work
Composting toilets are quite simple, as they utilize traditional waste management technology. There are only three main components of a composting toilet, and these are:
- Bulking materials: Things like coconut husks that can help quicken the decomposition process by adding air gaps in the waste
- Urine diverter: This allows you to separate your urine from the solid waste, making the decomposition process simpler
- Ventilation: Ventilation is required to dry out the waste, allowing it to begin decomposing quicker
Here’s a great video explaining the exact mechanics behind a fully-integrated composting toilet:
As you can see, the major components of the composting toilet are all built towards a single purpose: creating a dried-out environment for the solid waste, making an ideal set up for the waste decomposition process to occur.
When choosing a composting toilet for your tiny house, there are two types of composting toilets to select from. These are the slow composting toilets and the active composting toilets.
Slow Composting Toilets
Slow composting toilets can also be homemade, as they are quite basic and simple to set up. A big enough bucket attached to a toilet set rim is enough to create the most basic slow composting toilet, although they have no ventilation or urine diverter to help speed up the waste decomposition.
|Slow Composting Toilet
|Active Composting Toilet
|What is it
|Can also be homemade, as they are quite basic and simple to set up; a 5-10-gallon bucket attached to the rim of a toilet set should be enough
|An advanced composting toilet, with all the required systems to speed up decomposition attached to an enclosed system
|How does it work
|The user just defecates in the toilet, then bags the waste collected in the gallon. The waste is typically moved to any compost pile at a nearby location, allowing the waste to decompose away from the home
|A toilet seat is attached to a sealed canister, which itself is attached to a number of systems to increase decomposition, including a urine diverter, ventilation, and bulking materials present
|Homemade, meaning you don’t have to spend any money to make it on your own
|Decomposition is much quicker, no putrid smell, and feels more like a normal toilet
|Will produce a putrid odor if not cleaned properly, and there are no other systems to speed up the decomposition process
|Much more expensive to install than a slow or homemade composting toilet, with good ones costing over $1,000
Tiny House Composting Toilets FAQ
While a slow composting toilet can be completely homemade, a high-quality active composting toilet can cost anywhere from $1000 to $2000 or more. One example is the Sun-Mar Mobile 12-volt Composting Toilet, with an average price of $1,894.
Yes, composting toilets need to be manually emptied. This is one of the major reasons why some people may opt for other toilets instead. However, if you equip your tiny house with a high-quality composting toilet, the emptying process is simple and mess-free.
It is important that you and anyone else using the toilet have a steady bathroom schedule, so that you can empty your composting toilet at the same time every day. While the emptying process can depend on the exact composting toilet in your tiny house, the general rule is to give at least 8 hours between your last deposit and emptying the toilet.
Some tiny house owners recommend dumping the toilet early in the morning, allowing the waste to start decomposing overnight.
Incinerating Toilet In a Tiny House
Another popular option for off-grid toilets such as those in a tiny house is the incinerating toilet, which actively removes your waste by incinerating it immediately after your bathroom break. That’s right – instead of flushing your waste, this toilet burns it.
How Incinerating Toilets Work
It can be easy to confuse incinerating toilets with regular bathroom toilets, because they look almost exactly alike. It’s only on the inside of the toilet where you can see the real differences between a regular toilet and an incinerating toilet.
Unlike a regular toilet, an incinerating toilet is made almost entirely of metal on the inside; this is so that your toilet doesn’t melt during the incineration process.
Before every defecation, a user must place a piece of waste paper at the bottom of the toilet. The waste goes on top of the paper and then the user must seal it. By pressing or moving a button, pump, or lever attached to the toilet, the user can then open a door at the bottom of the toilet, allowing the sealed waste to fall to the incineration chamber, where the waste is immediately burned and turned to ash.
If you’re curious about how this process works live, here’s a great video showing exactly how the incinerating toilet works:
Tiny House Incinerating Toilets FAQ
What is the average incinerating toilet cost? What is the best incinerating toilet to buy for a tiny house?
For a high-quality incinerating toilet, costs will run you upwards of $3000 to $4000, depending on the size of your incinerating toilet. One of the best incinerating toilets on the market for tiny houses is the TinyJohn from ECOJOHN, costing $3,385.
Do incinerating toilets stink?
While incinerating toilets do have some stink shortly after the waste is burned, this is short-term and should stink nowhere near as much as a composting toilet.
How does an incinerating toilet burn the waste? Are incinerating toilets “green” or eco-friendly?
An incinerating toilet burns waste with an electric, natural gas, or propane fuel source, depending on the brand and model of the toilet. A battery system creates a small electric charge, and the fuel source triggers the incineration.
Each incineration lasts 10-20 minutes, and about a single tablespoon of germ-free ash residue is left behind with every defecation. This is because roughly 98% of waste is just moisture, so most of the incineration process is simply evaporation. This means that incinerating toilets are generally eco-friendly, aside from the small amount of fuel required to burn the waste.
Composting Toilet VS Incinerating Toilet for Tiny House: Pros and Cons
Should you get a composting toilet or an incinerating toilet for your tiny house? Let’s compare them side by side according to the crucial aspects of a toilet:
- Composting toilet: Con. When compared to an incinerating toilet, a composting toilet doesn’t afford you as much comfort as you would want, especially if your basis is the normal toilet-going experience. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of dumping their waste every morning to a compost pile.
- Incinerating toilet: Pro. Comfort is easy with an incinerating toilet. Just press a button and your waste turns to ash; no other work necessary.
- Composting toilet: Con. The smell is definitely worse with a composting toilet, but with a proper toilet that is sealed and wrapped, you can minimize the smell in the house. However, you will still have to deal with the smell when you clean it every morning or night.
- Incinerating toilet: Pro. While burning your own waste isn’t completely odorless, the smell is much less obvious than that of a composting toilet’s.
- Composting toilet: Pro. A composting toilet may cost a thousand or two thousand dollars, but your expense after that should be no more than just peat moss for your bulking materials and a small amount of power for the ventilation fan, and possibly a warming pad for winter.
- Incinerating toilet: Con. An incinerating toilet costs more up front – $3000 - $4000 – and also costs more over time, as you will need to install specialized liners during installation and you will use quite a bit of fuel or power on a daily basis.
What is the Best Toilet for a Tiny House?
Your tiny house, your toilet.
The best toilet for a tiny house depends on what you’re looking for. Many tiny house owners are happy with composting toilets, many are happy with incinerating toilets, and many others are happy with alternatives, such as solar toilets, macerating toilets, dry flush toilets, and more.
If cost isn’t a factor, then it might make the most sense to opt for the incinerating toilet, such as the TinyJohn by ECOJOHN. You have to spend less time worrying about your waste, but you will spend more on fuel and initial purchase and installation. If you don’t mind the extra work and smell, then a composting toilet should be fine for your tiny house.
Choose the toilet that works best for your tiny house lifestyle and enjoy.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.