How To Choose Electric Marine Toilets
Below is a buyers guide for electric macerating toilets. First I explain what exactly an electric toilet is and how they operate. Followed by buying factors of these types of toilets for your vessel.
What Is An Electric Boat Toilet?
An electric boat toilet is an upgrade to the traditional manual pump toilets. Instead of using arm strength to flush the bowl, users engage an electrical switch to flush. The design of electric head uses either one or two pumps inside the system to deal with waste.
As a whole they use a dry flushing method, unlike wet household toilets. A dry method will flush waste away with pumped in water and continue to drain until there’s no standing water left in the bowl. As a result, they are much more suitable if you expect the boat to be swaying or pitching heavily.
For installation, plumbing isn’t much different from a manual head. Wiring needs to be on a separate dedicated circuit with its own breaker and wire size is very important.
5 Benefits Of Electric Marine Toilets
Electric toilets have all these advantages:
- Power consumption is minimal.
- Needs a lot less maintenance than manual or Vacuflush toilets.
- They’re are a no-brainer for non-boating guests to flush.
- Macerating waste dramatically reduces the risk of clogging.
- Liquified waste is better for our sea environment.
How Does An Electric Boat Toilet Work?
A basic electric toilet or “head” operates via a user engaging an electric switch to start the flush process. For guests that aren’t used to marine sanitation an electric system is as easy as it gets.
Located on the bottom there is an electric motor which drives a pump case. This case may contain a single dual action pump or two separate pumps. The most common is a two pump system because it lowers costs to the buyer.
Inside a two pump case is an inlet water pump to suck up water from a raw or fresh source into the bowl. Downstream of the bowl is the outtake macerator pump with a blade that grinds up waste. It’s like a garbage disposal except with an added feature to push waste out of the bowl. Some will also have a discharge impeller to help push contents up as well as out. A big advantage depending on the location of the toilet in the boat.
Another important component in the macerating pump is a “joker valve.” The function of this valve is to keep dirty black water from back-flowing into the head.
Before and after the toilet are hoses attached to an inlet and outlet valve. If it’s a raw water system these would be the intake seacock and outlet seacock. For a freshwater system, inlet water comes from your onboard freshwater. Then directs waste out to a holding tank or overboard if beyond the legal distance limits.
Buying Factors For Electric Macerating Heads
Ahead of picking a specific model it’s critical to consider install and power factors. Be sure your boat has the room to install such a head. Take into account the size and shape of the area where you will mount the toilet. Elevated platforms might not fit a 17-inch tall head, you might need a shorter 14-inch head.
Pay attention to how you intend to feed the head with water. Raw water can increase odor issues but is much more simple to install. Freshwater cuts odors but needs more onboard parts, like solenoids and holding tanks.
Next, ensure you have enough battery capacity to meet the needs of an electric head. Even momentary current draw of one or two powerful electric pump motors can be 15 to 30 amps or more. Make sure to wire it with the right wire size. As well, it should be on a separate dedicated circuit with its own breaker for safety. If you are new to boating, I recommend having the wiring done by a certified marine electrician.
Toilet Specific Considerations
Noise is a huge factor for marine heads because if can make or break a pleasurable cruise. Nothing is worse than waking up a fellow passenger in the middle of the night. To be honest, no toilet is whisper silent but quieter systems are available.
The measurement for noise or sound pressure is decibels in the A scale (dBA). If brands provide dBA figures, check them when selecting your macerating toilet.
From a simple push button switch to smart control technology, flush control is vital. Given the choice, a simple fill-flush-empty switch is easiest for guests. But it won’t control water consumption, in contrast, multi-function panels will do so. Decide what function is most important for your use.
Many toilets come with a choice between pressurized freshwater or saltwater. Freshwater is less likely to deliver odors in the hoses deriving from dead sea critters. Although without regular dockside supply, freshwater is best suited to boats with water makers. Raw water units can reduce odors with freshwater flushing of the system. In this instance they need more maintenance but need less plumbing.
Inlet/Outlet Hose Fitting Sizing:
Confirm the hose fittings on your new toilet match the intake and discharge seacocks. For instance, some toilets come with 1/2 inch inlet and 1 inch outlet hose fittings. Yet many standard seacock hose fittings have a 1 1/2 inch discharge and 3/4 inch intake. Some come with adapters, but if it doesn’t, expect to replace the entire plumbing hose system.
Internal parts need to be robust and durable to meet and maintain flush efficiency. Some rinse pumps are self-priming and can run dry, others can not. A macerating pump is vital to break down solids. So the material and part quality is vital for long term use.
Cheaper macerators use an impeller to move water and flat rotating blades to chop the solids. Whereas, high-end models provide high-speed centrifugal macerating pumps. Using a special rotor and funnel-shape casing it coverts kinetic energy into pressure. More pressure helps push a “slug” of liquid through the hoses. It also uses less water while making far less noise.
Another feature to look for is a filter or strainer upstream of the intake pump. This helps to prevent debris from clogging or damaging an expensive pump.
Access To Pump Components:
Most electric heads place the pump casing at the bottom of the unit. Although, one-piece units will hide everything inside the actual unit. It’s important to ensure that for maintenance and repair you can access the pumps. Make sure that which ever you choose provides easy access.
The amount of water your toilet uses has a direct effect on vessel weight. Especially if you discharge to a holding tank. For example: If it uses 1-gallon per flush, four adults could fill up a 16-gallon holding tank in a single day. Look for heads that provide precise flush control, I like smart controls for this very reason.
Since this design has more components associated with it, you need to factor in total weight. On the light end plan for at least 21 to 37 pounds of added weight. At the heavy end expect between 44 and 57 pounds of extra weight.