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Churning vs. Churnless Versions

The C-Head toilet is available with two options regarding the processing of solid waste. The churning version and the churnless version. One has a churning mechanism to move the medium around (medium = sawdust, wood shavings, peat moss, coco coir, etc.). The churnless does not. Each has its advantages and disadvantages over the other. The difference in cost is $35 with the churnless version being cheaper, so if you are uncertain which version would work best for you, we suggest you get the churning version and modify it into a churnless version for testing. You may want to convert the systems back and forth depending on who is using the toilet. For example, if you are having guests who are not used to using a C-Head, you may want to use the churnless version during their stay for a couple of reasons. So let’s look at the differences.

Churning version and churnless version

By far and away, we sell more churning toilets to our customers. Churning toilets have a shaft inside the solid waste bucket with a single blade at the bottom. The shaft is turned using a crank handle that is inserted into the top of the toilet seat lid and rotated clockwise. The blade, which is buried in the medium, creates a wave like action when turned and that rolls the solid waste into the medium, forming and covering it on all sides making the process extremely efficient as well as using less medium. The medium wicks off the surface moisture which would normally escape into the air and create the smell we don’t like. With the churning toilet, you “charge” the solid waste bucket with medium (sawdust, shavings, peat moss, coco coir, etc.) after emptying it out and then usually you don’t have to add more medium again until you empty it out and recharge it the next time. If you choose not to vent the toilet and the contents are becoming damp from moisture, you can add more medium to absorb the excess moisture or you can empty the solid waste bucket and recharge it.

Permaculture composting

Because the churning version uses medium much more efficiently than does the churnless version, if you are in a situation where using or carrying a minimal amount of medium is desired, then churning is your best choice. This would include living or traveling extensively aboard boats, schoolies, RV, or travel trailers, or tiny houses. It is especially suited for boondocking, and most prepper bunker situations. If you are going to store your waste and bring it home for composting or other processing methods in a permaculture setting, then the churning version is definitely what you want to use. Also the churning version is a better choice in any situation where the users may have difficulty getting medium from its storage container into the toilet without getting it all over everything, more specifically children or handicapped people. Using a dispenser like a canister will help in this regard but requires loading the canisters beforehand. Churning is more efficient because it covers the waste completely with less medium and covering the waste is important in odor control.

The churnless version on the other hand, must have medium added to cover the waste after each use. There is no churning mechanism inside the bucket. This can be an asset because you can line the bucket with a plastic bag which can be removed easily and is a much cleaner operation overall. Commonly, the waste is disposed of if it is collected in a bag but it can be bagged in compostable bags for composting. Additionally, the churnless version is more forgiving if some urine gets mixed in with it, because added medium covers the urine and contains the smell. A churning version will bring the urine soaked medium back up to the top where it can create a smell. In either case, if this happens, the solution is to simply empty out and recharge the solid waste bucket. If you are going to use the toilet in an application where there will be many first time users (guests), then the churnless version might be the best choice. There is a learning curve with using a urine diverting toilet, so if you have frequent guests using the toilet, consider the churnless version.

Simple painted concrete block docking station with medium canisters for a churnless toilet.

Suitable canisters for dispensing medium

So the churnless versions are best for weekend campers and boaters where the toilet will not be used for longer term storage of the waste. It is also ideal as an emergency toilet for people living in areas prone to power outages from natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires or earthquakes, resulting in infrastructural failure of sewage systems. Basically it can be used anywhere you would use a cassette type porta-potty. The C-Head has the advantage of easier management and the ability to hold more volume as well as the familiarity and comfort of a regular sized toilet.

You can convert a churning version into a churnless version temporarily by simply putting a 3.5 gallon bucket inside in place of the 5 gallon bucket in the basic models or by taking a bucket of the same size in any model and cutting out a half moon section of the rim to accomodate the urine funnel. You would need to replicate the same cut out half moon found in the existing churning bucket. Be careful not to make it smaller as it may damage the urine funnel if it doesn’t fit. Use canisters to pour or sprinkle medium over the waste. Again, this makes a good system for when you have people who are unfamiliar with using a urine diverting toilet.

It is important that the solid waste get covered almost completely to prevent odor from escaping. This requires more medium than does the churning version since you have to keep on adding medium until the waste is covered. There are numerous wide-mouth containers on the market that will work well for dispensing medium to cover the waste. You can also use a wider range of mediums with the churnless system, from coarser material like Tractor Supply Fine Pine Horse Bedding or pine pellets which make a much finer sawdust. With the churning version, fine sawdust or other very fine mediums, tend to make churning more difficult as the toilet fills up. This is not an issue with the churnless versions. You should experiment with different mediums and find out what works best for you.

Custom C-Head with notched backside to accommodate an irregular wall

One other advantage of the churnless version is that it allows for more custom modifications for tighter spaces. With churning toilets the churning mechanism dictates much about how the design can be modified. That is less the case with the free forming possibilities of the churnless versions.

Please feel free to make constructive comments or ask questions below.

Copyright 2019 – C-Head LLC – All rights reserved.

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