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Thread: "New Airhead Composting Toilet"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012


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New Airhead Composting Toilet

Aaron Norlund

Hello all,

We just ordered our Airhead composting toilet to be installed in our W32.


It'll be here next week. I'll document the process with pictures and post it for others to check out. We're very excited (yes, about a toilet). No more holding tank!

Feel free to ask any specific questions about the unit and installation. I can try to answer them as we're installing.

Aaron N.

Randell 'Randy' Kocurek

Golly Aaron,
sounds like the same set up I've been hearing about. Seems you just need a fan and it ventilates into compost. Is that the one?
Yes, please keep us posted. I'll need to rebuild or replace the head sooner rather than later.

Ken and Debra Bridger

On the member site, Bill Shaw on Galena is using this. He has a good description and use. Randy, how is the boat coming along? I saw the paint thread. I would like to see her all prettied up. Ken

Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder


We also have an Airhead which I haven't installed yet. Bit more of a challenge fitting one into the head on a W28. I assume you've already read Eric & Sherrel's accounts of using their Airhead aboard s/v Sarana (Mariah 31). If not, check out their FAQ http://www.sailsarana.com/FAQ.htm . Their experiences were very positive and, combined with some e-mails I exchanged with Eric on the subject, were ultimately what cinched my purchase. I'll be interested to follow your installation.


David Wiencke

I met a couple that sailed all summer with a "Nature's Head" composting toilet. They were very happy with it. Claimed there was no odor, except the occaisional whiff of peatmoss, and they didn't have to empty the "dry" container all season. I'm also ready to jettison the holding tank setup, which I've never liked. Has anyone had a chance to compare the two; Nature's Head and Airhead?...or...why did you choose Airhead over others?

Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder

When I got ready to buy my composter a year ago, I e-mailed Geoff at Airhead to ask about the differences between the Nature's Head and the AirHead, besides the $300. Here's his reply:

In regard to your email request regarding comparison of the Air Head Vs. NH....

In my slightly biased opinion you are buying a more thoroughly thought out product when purchasing the Air Head. I've been at this since the late 90's and have sold 100's, and I have spoken to 100's of customers and when there is an issue with the product I make design changes. If there is something that I think can be improved I improve it. So over the years I believe I have created something that is solid and dependable and I have made countless changes that really aren't noticeable to people. Air Head is designed to last into the foreseeable future. So the chances of someone fresh copying Air Head quality and dependability is remote right off the bat. They just can't have the breadth of understanding that I have. During FMC's tenure as an Air Head dealer he sold about 10 units....

NH is designed to be manufactured more cheaply probably because they figured they needed some advantages over Air Head since its reputation is so good. However, in the cost cutting they have taken some shortcuts:
NH translucent bottle will get pretty ugly pretty quick due to build up of residue from urine. Air Head has a view strip with a replaceable PVC tube. If the tube gets dirty replace it at any hardware store.
To remove the bottle of NH you need to lift the bowl exposing the solid "goods" for a few seconds. Air Head liquid tank is pulled out using a pull at the bottom the bottle tilts under the spout. The Air Head bottle has 1 3/4 gallon capacity when used as designed. However, it really has two gallons if you lifted the bowl as you do the NH. In fact I"ve seen them demonstrate my product that way. It used to annoy me.
There appear to be no carrying handles on the NH solid tank!
Air Head comes complete with a solid tank transport lid when you carry the tank off of the boat. You might check to see if NH comes with a lid for use when you empty the solid tank, I haven't seen one.
Air Head comes with starter peat moss, liners, enzyme, mounting screws, hose, fan, four pages of illustrated instructions edited over the course of six years. I'm not sure what NH comes with and the instructions are brief.
My favorite: You can lift the seat and urinate into the Air Head like a real man! NH requires you to run a stream over the seat that does not lift. I understand that we mariners will in rough weather sit, but isn't it nice to stand when things calm down?

Air Head measures 17.5" front to back see, attachment. NH seems to be deeper:

FIrstmatescabin.com says:
17 inches front to rear, and is just under 20 inches tall. It also features a full size molded-in seat for safety and comfort.

A dealer, "ecovita.net" says:
Measuring from top: 18.75" deep (+ about .25 for rear hinge); another inch is necessary when the lid is up, so factor 20" depth.

Hmmm FMC seems to have left out some pertinent information.

Ralph and Sandra Weiland


Did you ever take photos and document the installation. I'd love to see same to get a better idea of what's involved. Looks like the answer to messing about with water flushes.


Aaron Norlund


The Airhead will be here Wednesday (Nov. 19th) and we'll try to get it installed this weekend. I'll post a little write-up when we get it finished. Maybe get something for the winter Windblown.

Aaron N.

scott caskey


I'm interested in the cap you mentioned for your chimney. I'm currently using the previous owners design, a tethered budweiser can. Although it seems functional I'm ready to upgrade.


Ralph and Sandra Weiland


As I smell the goose cooking (bought 2 of them frozen last January at a huge discount), for some strange reason my thoughts turned to a composting head. The question for you is, "Where are you passing the vent line to the outside?". I'm planning to replace the wet head with an Air Head and remove all the associated lines and tankage. Am considering passing the vent through the cabin top although it would mean a vent pipe running up the bulkhead behind/beside the loo. I could use the same sort of cap I already have on the solid fuel heater chimney to prevent water ingress. There are probably better ways. Looking forward to learning about how you decided to do the installation.


Randell 'Randy' Kocurek

Just a note to composting pioneers and wannabees.
Practical Sailor magazine, Vol. 28 no. 22 Nov. 15, 2002, has a front page article comparing the Air Head to a SunMar EcoLet Mobile, both composting marine heads. Sounds like the Air Head would be the logical choice for a W32 due to space and energy considerations, not to mention price, and it works about as well, it seems. So, I suppose that's part of the fact that everyone on this site seems to go Air Head. I think I would.

Ralph and Sandra Weiland


This kind of device is a Charlie Noble. They can be pretty and expensive or less expensive and just as functional. I use one from West Marine (see their 2008 catalog at p 534) that looks like one of these:

Rain Caps

There's a prettier one at http://store.hamiltonmarine.com/browse.cfm/4,3118.html.

Hope this helps,


David Wiencke

Or even prettier and expensiver at: http://www.marinestove.com/Accessories.htm

Aaron Norlund

Hey all,

We finally have the head installed. I was going to make comments, but it's a very straight-forward process. We expanded the old "vent" to be 1.5" for the Airhead's fan vent. We also took the opportunity to sand the area and paint the pedestal. Also, we put fiberglass panels on the cabinet, counter and v-birth verticals.

For photos, please visit:
Airhead Toilet

As for the head, it seemed a bit "cheesy" at first. It's clear that Geoff assembles the units by hand, and some of the parts (which are all stainless) have "Do it Best" on them. That isn't bad, but it's kind of funny as you know he gets stuff from his local hardware store. By and large, I think $1000 for it is a bit much considering how much it likely costs to build, but, being a small business owner, I understand that the market and movement of his products likely necessitates a steep profit margin.

That said, we are happy with the purchase. It is not something that could be easily put together without the specially-cast bucket, bowl and other stuff. While expensive, the lack of hassles associated with traditional heads, makes it worth it to us! Further, I don't mind supporting someone who's willing to put things together by hand. While Jabsco and other heads may have a "mass-produced perfection" feel, I like that I can replace any part on this toilet if it were to break. That is unlikely though, as it's all sturdy and well thought out.

Having used the head for two days of sailing now, I have a few comments:

• Keep a spray bottle with a vinegar/water mixture at hand to mist the bowl after every use.
• Keep paper towels nearby for wiping the bowl in case solids are not "on target".
• Give a "spiel" to guests on proper head use. Make it clear that you'd rather have a question ring out from the head then have to fix an embarrassing problem.
• Keep some sort of "push" stick nearby for pushing paper down the trap. With solids, everything falls, but not so with ladies #1 use. Alternatively, keep a trash bin near. We're going to cut the brush off of one of the toilet bowl brushes with a base and lid for a push stick.

If this sounds complicated, remember that marine heads have many quirks too. With the Airhead, the possibility of messes, leaks and chronic smell is removed. It has its own set of "issues", but we feel they are more manageable. We had guests who had never been on boats before and, while initially skeptical, they agreed it was a really nice system.

If you have any specific questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Feel free to email me directly, too.

Best to all!
Aaron N.

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