Anyone with experience with composting head?

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Pete Weis
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Anyone with experience with composting head?

Postby Pete Weis » Wed Apr 22, 2015 3:39 pm

I've heard people saying that once you use C heads you'll never go back. But I've also heard that they are pretty power hungry.

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Re: Anyone with experience with composting head?

Postby thinwater » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:58 pm

ZTC put one in... and then took it back out. With most things, people talk more about success than failures, and people hate to admit that anything was a mistake. So I think there is bias on the web.

Another fair question is the effect on resale value. While some few will like it, I think you narrow the buyer pool.

And finally, is there a specific problem with a standard head? Properly operated and with minimal maintenance, they are quite trouble free. If there is an issue, ask. Often they have been maintained poorly, operated wrong, or need simple repairs.
* Good hoses last 10 years.
* Joker valve every 2-3 years (use a Raritan valve in the Jabsco head--fits and lasts longer).
* Lube every year, pump kit as needed (5 years?). Do NOT rebuild.
* Flush enough water (6-8 strokes). Folks try to conserve and then wonder why the soup is too thick.
* Use a good chemical. Odorlos or Camco Ultra. NEVER the blue stuff.
* Inlet strainer helps.
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Re: Anyone with experience with composting head?

Postby Pete Weis » Thu Apr 23, 2015 8:00 am

thinwater wrote:ZTC put one in... and then took it back out. With most things, people talk more about success than failures, and people hate to admit that anything was a mistake. So I think there is bias on the web.

Another fair question is the effect on resale value. While some few will like it, I think you narrow the buyer pool.

And finally, is there a specific problem with a standard head? Properly operated and with minimal maintenance, they are quite trouble free. If there is an issue, ask. Often they have been maintained poorly, operated wrong, or need simple repairs.
* Good hoses last 10 years.
* Joker valve every 2-3 years (use a Raritan valve in the Jabsco head--fits and lasts longer).
* Lube every year, pump kit as needed (5 years?). Do NOT rebuild.
* Flush enough water (6-8 strokes). Folks try to conserve and then wonder why the soup is too thick.
* Use a good chemical. Odorlos or Camco Ultra. NEVER the blue stuff.
* Inlet strainer helps.


Yup. We had trouble with our heads on our Island Packet right after we bought the boat. My wife insisted that we have a boat with two heads, just in case one broke down.

Well, they both ended up breaking down since they both used the same y-valve at the holding tank. The aft head had a long run of hose to the holding tank under the forward birth. I had done what I thought were taking the good precautions of getting my own surveyor (asked around at local yards about who was good), used professional riggers to inspect the rigging, a mechanic to check the diesel while we did the test sail/motor, and a sail loft to inspect the sails. But the hoses which were old and had thinned out needed replacing and the y-valve jammed when I tried to shift it to overboard discharge offshore. The surveyor (and myself) totally missed the problem with the heads.

I was wondering about adding an additional composting head to the small stateroom on the 36 just aft of the galley. After doing some more research, it seems like some people like them (maybe a minority), but it's a bit of a chore to do it right, and when you have guests, especially the grandkids, it might not work so well.

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Re: Anyone with experience with composting head?

Postby SecondWind » Thu Apr 23, 2015 9:02 am

Surveyors don't look at marine heads. They look at the general condition of the vessel for seaworthiness and insurance.
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Re: Anyone with experience with composting head?

Postby thinwater » Thu Apr 23, 2015 9:17 am

So the problem with the head was:
* Old hoses. Replace at 10 years, not a big deal if they are flushed first. On a PDQ 32 it takes perhaps 1 hour to change them all. Use a top quality sanitation hose that is NOT WHITE. I promise you, part of any head will break at 10 years, including composting units. Mixers and fans are weak points on composting heads. Few are old enough to have gotten into the maintenance cycle.
* Poor installation. A long waste run is never acceptable, yet they do it anyway. This is installer error. The PDQs have very short runs, so the issue is not relevant on this forum.
* Y-valve clogged. Mis-use. I bet dinner that not enough water was flushed each time and that too much TP was used, perhaps home-style rather than single ply. Users should be coached that flushing 1/2 way through is not a bad idea in some cases. But primarily, this was caused by the long run. Personally, I prefer a straight run to the tank with no valve; the valve presents a catching point.

So there is actually no problem other than poor maintenance, poor installation, and misuse. Composting heads also fail for the same 3 reasons.

And a spare head is called a bucket. I'm dead serious, it does NOT have to be more complicated than that. I find the American aversion to poo to be quite hysterical. We don't mind if it belongs to a baby, but we cringe at our own. Pretty funny.
Writing full time since 2014.

http://sail-delmarva.blogspot.com/2017/ ... store.html
"Keeping a Cruising Boat for Peanuts"
"Singlehanded Sailing for the Coastal Sailor"
"Faster Cruising for the Coastal Sailor"

Pete Weis
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Re: Anyone with experience with composting head?

Postby Pete Weis » Thu Apr 23, 2015 12:15 pm

thinwater wrote:So the problem with the head was:
* Old hoses. Replace at 10 years, not a big deal if they are flushed first. On a PDQ 32 it takes perhaps 1 hour to change them all. Use a top quality sanitation hose that is NOT WHITE. I promise you, part of any head will break at 10 years, including composting units. Mixers and fans are weak points on composting heads. Few are old enough to have gotten into the maintenance cycle.
* Poor installation. A long waste run is never acceptable, yet they do it anyway. This is installer error. The PDQs have very short runs, so the issue is not relevant on this forum.
* Y-valve clogged. Mis-use. I bet dinner that not enough water was flushed each time and that too much TP was used, perhaps home-style rather than single ply. Users should be coached that flushing 1/2 way through is not a bad idea in some cases. But primarily, this was caused by the long run. Personally, I prefer a straight run to the tank with no valve; the valve presents a catching point.

So there is actually no problem other than poor maintenance, poor installation, and misuse. Composting heads also fail for the same 3 reasons.

And a spare head is called a bucket. I'm dead serious, it does NOT have to be more complicated than that. I find the American aversion to poo to be quite hysterical. We don't mind if it belongs to a baby, but we cringe at our own. Pretty funny.


Yeah. We had a long ways to go before we could do the necessary maintenance to repair the head problems, and I was the sole member of the bucket brigade. That's the way many fisherman deal with it. At least on a cat you don't have to deal with a rolling gauntlet run on a heel to get the bucket emptied over the side. Probably having one of those small porta potties which aren't much more than a bucket with a seat are the way to go as a spare. Probably not really needed but keeps the other sailor onboard, feeling less worried.

On another note, I've never trusted a surveyor to be able to judge the seaworthiness of anything. But I want him to tell me about the condition of the hull and deck with regard to voids and moisture problems. If he is able to identify other problems, that's great - there are few good surveyors out there, imo. But I'd want specialists to exam the other major items.

The Island Packets are good boats, but you are right - the design of the two heads on the IP40 was just bad. We never suffered any more trouble with the heads again after they were fixed. The hose run from the aft head was brutal and require a special technique and vaseline to thread the run through bhd's and very tough to get locations. I handled most of the maintenance on the boat, but that job we gave to someone else and it was well worth the money.

Repairing, replacing, heads and short hose runs on PDQs sounds relatively easy and a definite job for the owner if he's inclined. I've spent hours crouched in cockpit lockers pulling apart equipment that needed repairs or cutting through metal sheeting to get to thermostats where there was no other way to do it because fasteners were totally inaccessible. Replacing/fixing heads on PDQ's seems like a picnic in comparison.

Thanks for the good advice!

Pete Weis

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Re: Anyone with experience with composting head?

Postby Smj » Thu Apr 23, 2015 7:49 pm

We have owned 4 composting heads and will NEVER go back to a conventional head. We have owned an Airhead, 2 Naturesheads and now a C-Head. First of there is hardly any odor. When it's close to time to change you may get an earthy smell but only when the head is open and in use. There are no thru hulls, that's right, 2 less holes in the bottom of your boat. There is no yearly joker valve maintenance, nor do you ever have to change out the hoses. And no worry of having to find a pumpout station. You do have to dump the liquids once every day or two and also dump the solids every week-month depending on what unit your using but it's an easy task. We had 14 years of dealing with conventional heads and have now had composters for the last 9 years. When and if we buy a new boat the first thing we do is change from a standard head to a composter.

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Re: Anyone with experience with composting head?

Postby Pete Weis » Fri Apr 24, 2015 8:46 am

Smj wrote:We have owned 4 composting heads and will NEVER go back to a conventional head. We have owned an Airhead, 2 Naturesheads and now a C-Head. First of there is hardly any odor. When it's close to time to change you may get an earthy smell but only when the head is open and in use. There are no thru hulls, that's right, 2 less holes in the bottom of your boat. There is no yearly joker valve maintenance, nor do you ever have to change out the hoses. And no worry of having to find a pumpout station. You do have to dump the liquids once every day or two and also dump the solids every week-month depending on what unit your using but it's an easy task. We had 14 years of dealing with conventional heads and have now had composters for the last 9 years. When and if we buy a new boat the first thing we do is change from a standard head to a composter.


Smj. Thanks for the response. I find the composting heads interesting. How do you compare your newer C-Head to your previous composting heads? Also, when you have guests, how do they find using the C-Head? How about kids? We have grandkids who are now 5 & 6 years old. They are presently learning how to use a conventional head on their parents boat. How much supervision would they need with a C-Head and what would the learning curve be for them?

Is that your boat for sale with the green canvas bimini? Very nice and clean looking boat. Well outfitted with some pretty new equipment. I'd prefer a hard bimini, but the retractable canvas bimini has pluses the hard bimini doesn't. That's a really nice arch on the back. Unfortunately, we're still a year out and your boat would be one we would really consider - a lot of boat for the money. It should sell pretty soon. By the time we're ready, there will be new boats on the market.

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Re: Anyone with experience with composting head?

Postby Smj » Fri Apr 24, 2015 6:50 pm

We really like the C-Head. You have to change the solids 4 times as often but it's a 30 second job and really easy to do. The liquids container is a basic one gallon milk or water jug so once it gets a little funky just throw it away and replace. The C-Head is great for a live aboard couple or weekend sailing with guests, but anymore I believe would overload it. One more benefit, when your hauled out as we are, no climbing up and down the ladder to use the marina facilities!
Yes that's our PDQ for sale, about to have new bottom job, compound and waxed hulls and the outboard lower units serviced!

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Re: Anyone with experience with composting head?

Postby Pete Weis » Sat Apr 25, 2015 7:25 am

Thanks Smj. Interesting information. Something to think about for the future.

We would expect to have guests for more than weekends. But what you plan on, often doesn't transpire. Love the old saying - "life is what happens while making other plans".


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