Airhead Blog

Author: John   Date Posted:10 April 2011 

Installing my Air Head was easier than I expected. And amazingly, the system is working as advertised!

Installing my Air Head was easier than I expected. And amazingly, the system is working as advertised!

We purchased our Air Head from Australian distributor A Better Way To Go in August 2010, for our 32 ft yacht and pondered the process of installation for some months. I was a little nervous about closing off the through hulls. But my main reservation was would it really be odourless? I had read the reviews and researched the product as best I could – but something inside my head just couldn’t believe that the system would not smell! After all – it was going to contain our excrement, in close proximity to us. Forgive me for being a sceptic.

Finally the family were putting the pressure on and Christmas holidays were fast approaching and we all wanted to be free of the land based toilet systems – so the time came to ‘bite the bullet’ and just get the thing installed!

The first challenge was to remove the old head. As it turned out, this was the hardest part. But I can cheerfully say that getting rid of the smelly toilet pipes was a relief. No matter how often I replaced them in the past, they always eventually emitted an unpleasant odour. Once removed, I closed the through hull valves and plugged the cocks with timber plugs for piece of mind. They will be removed when we next slip her.

I had made a decision to replace the Air Head fan with a solar fan. The manufacturer recommends that the fan runs 24/7. I wanted to be able to turn the power off when we leave, so a solar fan with a back-up battery seemed to be the most practical and economical solution. I was able to purchase this from A Better Way To Go so it seemed a good move to get everything from the one supplier.

After checking the position for the floor brackets, I wanted to check the position of the solar fan on the deck. This took some brain power from my wife and I. We measured and calculated where to drill the hole so that the solar vent would sit clear of other bits on the forward deck. I didn’t have a hole cutter large enough, so once we were sure of the location, I cut the hole from the outside, using a jigsaw. To our combined elation, the hole was in the right spot on the inside – so divorce was avoided!

This allowed the flexible vent hose to be run up through a cupboard and mostly obscured from view. All that remained was for the cowling to be fitted over the vent inlet and the hose into the side of the Air Head.

4 Stainless steel screws secured the floor brackets and the job was done.

The next stage was setting the unit up for use. One peat brick in a bucket of warm water reconstituted in about 4 hours. It was surprisingly dry – that is, it took up all of the 4 1/2 litres of water and looked just like a bucket of potting mix.

Getting the potting mix into the solids tank within the confines of the shower/head, without making a huge mess was a challenge, overcome by my wife refashioning a 2 litre milk container to use as a shovel (same thing we use in our son’s dinghy as a bailer!). Of course, we could have filled the tank in the cockpit and saved all this!

The toilet still had to be used to alay my concerns about odour. But no one was willing to be the guinea pig – just yet!

So we left the boat for a few weeks still unconvinced, returning for a long weekend of sailing in November. This was our planned final weekend to set everything up for Christmas. 2 adults and 2 teenagers later – the Air Head is in use and completely odourless. The final test was when we returned on the 27th December for our much anticipated holiday. And I have to say, there was no smell on board.

It is true that 4 people fill the urine bottle in about 2 days. But it is a simple task to empty. And we are finding that the vent is so efficient in removing excess moisture that we need to add about a cup of water to the solids tank whenever we return. This is probably because we are only onboard every couple of months. I think this would not be a problem if we were living aboard or returning more often.

It has now been 6 months and we are yet to empty the solids tank. The composting is so efficient, the contents are greatly reduced each time we return. I’m wondering when we will need to do this – so thankfully it may be 12 months before I need to contemplate this procedure!

January 2012 Update:

Just thought your readers might be interested to know (!) that we have just emptyied our Airhead after 13 months. We were all set for an unpleasant task - but I am pleased and amazed to report that the process was ODOURLESS and very easy! What a relief! And the new 'mix' was easy to prepare and we were 'back in business' in a few hours. (Just had to wait for the peat to re-constitute.) Thanks for a terrific system.


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