What is a vault toilet?


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Have you ever come across a vault toilet and wondered how it works?

Vault toilets can be spotted easily due to their unique structures. The most noticeable difference between vault toilets and the toilet you have at home is one important detail – they’re completely waterless.

Vault toilets consume the lowest amount of energy possible, as they don’t use water in the flushing process. Their compact size means they also cover small areas. Not to mention, they significantly reduce air pollution.

What Vault Toilets Are 

Vault toilets come with a container placed underground. This container is used as storage for human waste.

These types of toilets have been in use for decades. They can be a convenient choice for areas like parks, farms, or campgrounds, which have no running water.

Some users say that those toilets follow the same design standards of old outhouses, but with extra features. Perhaps the most notable feature is an attached battery-powered light in case you use it at night.

These toilets must have excellent ventilation systems to remain odorless. That’s why the U.S. forest service uses this type of restroom. They want bathrooms that are completely odor-free.

Vault toilets can be a great alternative to reticulated systems, which are the systems that move water downwards.

What Does a Vault Toilet Look Like?

Vault toilets have a simple structure. They’re as simple as a chair placed over a hole.

Waste storing vaults are built underground. Some of the vault toilets have vent pipes attached to their back and lead to underground containers, which start from 700 gallons in size.

New designs of vault toilets include walls made of cast concrete, plastic, or cross-linked polyethylene. Cast concrete gives an appearance like a stone, while polyethylene prevents leakage. These toilets are perfect for locations with no sewage connection.

How Does a Vault Toilet Work?

The container of the toilets can carry up to 13000 gallons of excreta.

To install, you must bury the container underground using a concrete slab. 

A structure is attached to the slab, which gives access to the container. Then, there is a connection to the vent pipe and ultimately to the toilet.

Waste moves in the vent pipe and is stored underground in the container. Then, it gets pumped out by the municipal council. Containers are usually made from concrete or plastic.

At a lower construction cost, people can use easy-going and odor-free toilets. Vault toilets meet the ADA rules for user needs.

The odor is managed by allowing it to flow out of the vent pipe. However, if you don’t close the lid, this will cause leakage and spread the odor in the restroom. It’s important to know that vault toilets built in places with no wind can smell bad.

Pros of Vault Toilets

Vault toilets can be very useful for anyone who spends most of their time outdoors, as they can be constructed in a lot of locations. They also offer some privacy of what you’d find at home, so let’s take a look at their advantages.

● Easy maintenance and construction

● Waterless

● Offer a sense of privacy

● Comfortable

● Some are portable

● Some have lights for people entering at night

● Gable windows can be added for extra access to lighting

● Cheap to build

Cons of Vault Toilets

Vault toilets aren’t completely perfect. They need constant care to stay odorless.

They also require specific locations with access to the sun, so that their heat can support the ventilation system. This means that the design depends mostly on the sun warming the vent stack in the roof.

We mentioned in the pros section that vault toilets offer more privacy as one person uses it at a time. However, it can be hard to queue up if there is only one building, and you don’t want to experience being lined up when you really have to go.

In a nutshell, the cons of vault toilets are:

● Must be cleaned regularly

● Needs warmth to stay odorless

● Hard to handle waste disposal

● May produce bad odor if it’s not ventilated perfectly

How Do I Stop My Pit Toilet From Smelling?

Airflow and wind form pressure. You need to place the vents in the walls to allow the continuous access of air into the vault. This increases the pressure and forces air to diffuse out of the building.

You need to consider the site of installation according to wind speed. Higher wind speed causes an increase in air pressure. This supports the efficacy of the vent system of the toilet.

Are there Regulations to Prevent Odor Problems?

Other regulations can be implemented to reduce odors and promote the composition of bacteria in the stored waste.

● Activating carbon to absorb the smell.

● Using a biologically active filler to change ammonia into nitrogen.

● Transportation of the odor to a far location.

● Putting a flame in the vent stack to burn the vaporous gases.

Other Types of Waterless Toilets

There are various types of waterless toilets. Here are some of them, to name a few.

A Pit Toilet

Pit toilets can be built anywhere. The only requirement is digging holes in the ground. You can say that this is the lowest budget toilet you’ll have access to.

There are no seats in this toilet. So, users usually squat to use them. New designs of pit toilets include roofs and benches with a hole in them.

You can create your pit toilet in your camping area. Large ones don’t require emptying as the waste decomposes on its journey down.

The downside is that it’s not that hygienic, as filled pits may result in the appearance of pathogens.

An Incinerating Toilet

Those units are found in remote arctic research stations, boats, and cabins. However, incinerating toilets need electricity, as they need a power grid to work.

They generally produce a spoonful of ash per two human bowel movements. The ash makes a great soil amendment.

It’s important to know that incinerating toilets cost more than vault toilets as they need an electrical supply to work. Some of them use natural gas, diesel, and propane as a replacement for electricity.

A Composting Toilet

Another type of waterless toilets is composting toilets. They’re located in remote cabins.

Waste is stored in a specialized container where microbe reproduction takes place and removes pathogens. This turns human wastes into organic fertilizer.

A Zero Gravity Toilet

This type of toilet is found in space stations. Liquid waste is sent to space, while solids go back to earth.

A Bag Toilet

Bag toilets are the simplest type of waterless toilets. It doesn’t require anything but a bag.

It’s a perfect choice if you plan to go car camping or disaster relief. They are easily transferred and very cheap due to the lack of water use.

In Conclusion

Vault toilets should always be constructed in warm sites to provide a better ecosystem.

The only problem is that every building will require a regular cleaning service. Some places like a park, your local garden, a campground, and other recreation places may not have access to such an option.

So, you don’t need to worry anymore about how far away from home you are. Thanks to vault toilets, you’ll always run into one of these tiny structures on your way.

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