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installed the sunmar composter NE3000

Posted: Mon Jan 17, 2011 7:46 pm
by jed turtle
hi, last year i bought and installed the sunmar non-electric composter.

bought and installed 3 RV type toilets to feet it. each has a pedal operated flush that uses 1 pint.
i ought to write a book on the trials and tribulations (legal and disappointments with the claims of the manufacturer as well as some of my own mistakes).

anyways, a year later, got the bugs pretty much worked out.
only bought it to eliminate most of the water needed to flush toilets for our new 2.6 kw solar system
i guess it has succeeded on that front.

just wanted to post this so if anyone cared to they can share their experiences or ask questions.

Re: installed the sunmar composter NE3000

Posted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:42 am
by Bob
i ought to write a book on the trials and tribulations (legal and disappointments with the claims of the manufacturer as well as some of my own mistakes)

Yeah, I'd read that book -- and add some comments of my own. The flush toilet I used with one of these type of composters (Biolet) was a Sealand. Bottom line, 1 pint per flush was not near enough water to prevent a dirty bowl (skid marks), but was more than one could reasonably evaporate -- without going to extraordinary lengths, (perfect dry climate, fans, heaters, energy, etc), anyway. So a drain and some way of dealing with the liquid was unavoidable. Which added its own set of issues and complications.

This experience, among others, was what prompted me to develop a much larger capacity composter and separate urine. Many problems automagically solved

Re: installed the sunmar composter NE3000

Posted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:33 am
by jed turtle
yeah, lots of issues involved with that setup.

like the state of maine allows composter toilets, but come to find out, because this one has water flush (we have the sealand toilets as well) it wasn't covered under the state law which requires an inlet air vent to/from the roof at each toilet. of course we can't have arctic air being sucked down into the composter chamber so that wasn't going to work.

fortunately i had an existing septic system/field, and there is an overflow drain designed into the sunmar chamber so it was simply a matter of running it across the cellar from the composter to the sewer line.

also the local code enforcement officer wasn't going to sign off on something that wasn't covered by the US national sanitation code endorser, and they wouldn't talk to me unless i got the manufacturer to ask them to release the test results. well after all that, they couldn't find the test results...

finally had to get the Chief Plumbing officer for the State of Maine to come visit my home with the local code enforcer in tow to examine the (unconnected) system. i said: you know, i'm apparently the only person in north america that isn't being allowed to hook this up. i initially asked if it was ok to use a composter and was told maine allows it. now that i've invested $3000 in all the equipment i'm being told i can't hook it up. he looked at the local guy and shrugged and told him to let me hook it up. (i was going to anyway even if they "wouldn't let me" at that point).. the local said ok but i would have to give him a written letter saying i was taking full responsibility for any failures and that i would report to him if there were any.

by then 3 months had elapsed and so i got to work opening up the last of the 3 toilets from Sealand. guess what: it was cracked , and obviously not from the shipping. the Texas based RV place we bought it from refused to replace it, saying that they only warranteed it for 1 month.
we bought another from them and turned out it also had a (minor) damaged part, which we replaced from the previous damaged unit.
the reason we bought that particular sealand unit from the TX RV place was that it had a spray hose attached which my wife wisely insisted upon. takes care of the "skid mark" issue. of course, it is possible to not notice (reading too much while on the throne) that the bowl is "filling up" - the proper response is to hit the foot lever occasionally to prevent too big a pile -
and i have found the need on rare occasion to use a wood stick to poke the pile down the hole...yuck.
- another strong argument to develop one's "situational awareness"...

another problem was their claim that one could place the composter up to 15' away from the toilet on the floor above, provided that there was at least 1/4" drop per foot in the run of the drain pipe. in their dreams.
i had to rip out all the plumbing and move the composter to a new position (including hammering out old concrete and pouring new cement).

one of the most annoying problems was created by myself. i attempted to replace the purchased chopped up hemp that they sell to add periodically to the compost chamber to enhance the composting. i used hay chaf. big mistake. tiny flies soon appeared in the house. after trying for weeks to eliminate them every way i could think, i placed a dish of water with drops of lemon-scented dishwasher soap, in the overflow chamber, with a battery powered led night light hovering above it, to draw the flies to their drowingins in the dish. also added some insecticide strips from Home Depot's anti-bug aisle. cleaned up the problem within a week. i think hay chaf would be acceptable if there was some way to "sterilize" it first though.
don't know how i'd do that. i don't think microwaving would be very safe or efficient...

i do use a 12V fan in the vent pipe from the composter to keep things flowing properly air wise. however, this tends to cause the "product" of the chamber to be snowball sized dehydrated poop, which i doubt has been composted much, but which i plan to add to the methane digester once it is built, so that unintended result may work out beneficially after all.

i had already looked at your home-built composter, but the wife wanted something that was going to be "proven" and "acceptable" by the authorities. now we know better. of course, i was also unfamiliar with the tools used to weld plastic as you did in your design, so i had some internal resistance to trying it as well.