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Old 02-05-2020, 01:15 PM   #1
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Heads

Can some of you experienced boaters give me some knowledge on the different types of heads and opinions on which is more reliable etc. I hear lots about vacuflush but honestly don’t know the pros and cons of any of them . Thanks
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Old 02-05-2020, 01:18 PM   #2
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I swapped one of my old-school Raritan PHEII heads for a Raritan Sea Era last year. So far it's been great. Chews up anything it's given, it's mechanically simple and just works. Only downside is that it's quite loud.
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Old 02-05-2020, 02:27 PM   #3
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I think the best head out there is a Raritan Marine Elegance. It doesn’t use much water, you can get a smart panel so you have multiple options about the flush. It is fairly quiet and you can get a taller version for bad knees.
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Old 02-05-2020, 02:56 PM   #4
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Types of heads and example of best in class:

Manual sea water flush- Raritan PHII, rebuild pump with new piston and change valve every 10 years or so. A solid manual toilet.

Electric sea or fresh water flush- Raritan Elegance, more to go wrong ie electric pump but very nice unit. My favorite.

Vacuum flush- Vacuflush is ok, maybe good but requires more maintenance than others since there is much more to go wrong.

Composting head- Couple of brands, don't know much about them.

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Old 02-05-2020, 03:27 PM   #5
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I have Incinolets - incinerating toilets. No plumbing, just a plastic pipe vent. But you have to have power, either a generator or good inverter system.
You don't have a need for a holding tank, no pump outs needed, and no plumbing full of waste when the motor or valves fail. And no smell. Toilet is standard height and uses a standard seat. Anything that burns can be put down the toilet, loads of toilet paper, feminine products, etc., but no flammable liquids. When flushed, waste drops into a burn pot that is automatically sealed during the burning process. Fumes vent over the side. Residue after the burn is light grey ash and doesn't smell.

My current Incinolets are 9 years old and get daily use. There have been no failures or replacement parts needed. Toilet is stainless and easy to keep clean.
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Old 02-05-2020, 03:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
I swapped one of my old-school Raritan PHEII heads for a Raritan Sea Era last year. So far it's been great. Chews up anything it's given, it's mechanically simple and just works. Only downside is that it's quite loud.
+1 on Raritan SeaEra, which I converted my old Raritan raw-water Crown heads to. Simple and effective. Excellent customer support from Raritan.
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Old 02-05-2020, 07:31 PM   #7
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We have a Jabsco electric. It is very reliable but also noisy. A good friend has 2 vacu flush heads. One or the other is almost always broken. It has gotten so bad that the last few years he leaves the breakers off in the main panel. When you need to use the head you go to the main panel, flip the breaker, use the head, flush and then flip the breaker. The issue is that the seals in the toilet need servicing constantly. Otherwise they're nice because they use very little water.
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Old 02-05-2020, 07:57 PM   #8
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FWIW, we have a couple of Tecma's on board.

Nice units, very quiet and powerful. In the 12 years they been onboard I have had to replace two touch pads and one motor. I guess in twelve years that is not too bad.

The design of the units makes repair/replacement pretty easy.
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Old 02-05-2020, 08:18 PM   #9
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As part of a larger refit, I am relocating my head. So I have a blank slate on my single head Willard 36. I currently have a Groco Model K manual raw water head that is relatively bullet proof, but also requires some care and maintenance, plus seawater does create some odors.

I did some research including reading threads like this. Peggie Hall was kind enough to take my call and assist with a great layout. I had pretty much decided on the Raritan Elegance which, in my opinion, is the best of the lot, though the Tecma is a close second.

That said, my cruising plans are pretty well defined - two people for long term with no plans to sell my boat before I'm drooling in a wheelchair with a bag hanging off the side . I also have a firm inclination toward simple solutions. I am therefore leaning towards a composting toilet. Not the right solution for many folks, but the simplicity of the head (and the myriad of problems I've had with heads and holding tanks and macerators and hoses over the years is compelling.
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Old 02-05-2020, 10:26 PM   #10
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I have 2 Vacuflush heads. While a little more complicated than some other models, they are easy to service and with preventative maintenance, are extremely reliable. If you can handle changing a raw water pump impeller on your diesel engine, you have enough mechanical aptitude to service a Vacuflush.

Unless you are building your own boat or replacing an existing system, really can't see where the model of head should have any significant bearing on a boat purchase, new or used.

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Old 02-05-2020, 11:35 PM   #11
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Another vote for TECMAs. Two on board for 10 years, both have had relatively heavy use....zero maintenance to date.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy G View Post
FWIW, we have a couple of Tecma's on board.

Nice units, very quiet and powerful. In the 12 years they been onboard I have had to replace two touch pads and one motor. I guess in twelve years that is not too bad.

The design of the units makes repair/replacement pretty easy.
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Old 02-05-2020, 11:48 PM   #12
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Lepke,
I like all the things you list as advantages of the Incinolet.

Buttt.... They appear to be rather pricey - $2K each??

Also - what about power? Even on the lake, I'm plugged into shore power most of the time, but will frequently have crew want to "go" while we're under way. If a lady gets "that look", and heads down below, do I gotta quickly find someone to take the helm so I can run down and fire up the generator?
Looks like it takes a DEDICATED 20A circuit. That would be a PAIN to run on the boat. Not sure I have a spare 20 amps... That could be the dealbreaker.

What about liquids? Do they just go in with everything else, and get evaporated by the heater coil?

I *LOVE* the idea of it being able to eat ANYTHING (except flammables...).

How often do you have to empty the "ash bucket"? For two people, is that daily, weekly?

Sorry for all the questions - but this looks intriguing.

I've been curious about composting heads - which seem to be much less power hungry, and a bit less expensive. But it sounds like you wouldn't want a lot of paper or other stuff in a composting head. I read somewhere that paper can get wrapped around the spindles, and gum things up...

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Old 02-05-2020, 11:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
Vacuum flush- Vacuflush is ok, maybe good but requires more maintenance than others since there is much more to go wrong.
Huh? We had three VF systems on our boat, living and cruising aboard full time for 6 years. They were the most reliable and maintenance free toilets we've ever owned, land or sea. They are actually very simple systems. One reason you a lot about them is that they have a lot of OEM installations; and another is people don't flush them correctly. Bad installations crop up now and then, as was the case with the system for the MSR head, courtesy of the PO. It was easy to remediate and was trouble free after several years of very heavy use.
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Old 02-06-2020, 01:29 AM   #14
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I guess you are right about that. Sort of like buying a boat w an electric stove vs gas . Still
It’s another expense to deal with a some point.
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Old 02-06-2020, 07:21 AM   #15
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"I also have a firm inclination toward simple solutions. I am therefore leaning towards a composting toilet."


They work great for a couple BUT you have to train men guests to sit down to take a leak.


The Groco K is a fantastic unit , the aroma of dead sea things can be solved by using a bit of fresh water to finish flush. Old dish water is fine.


We lived with a Natures Head for 5 years and the lack of work to keep it working was grand.
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Old 02-06-2020, 07:44 AM   #16
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Quote:
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Electric sea or fresh water flush- Raritan Elegance, more to go wrong ie electric pump but very nice unit. My favorite.
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We have a Jabsco electric. It is very reliable but also noisy.

We have a Jabsco electric, the Quiet Flush/freshwater model which is apparently at least a little quieter than their other versions. Electric/freshwater is my preference, too. I think ours is quieter than the loud POP! we got from the VF on the previous boat; that'd wake the dead at oh-dark-thirty.

Not all that much goes wrong, and upkeep has been easy enough. The original macerator got tired (and louder), shaft seals started to leak... replacing the inexpensive pump took about 10 minutes. Quiet returned.

The solenoid that controls freshwater delivery went south, inexpensive replacement took about 20 minutes, mostly due to access (just the swap took only about 5 minutes).

Otherwise, occasionally replace the joker valve, pretty common maintenance item for all marine toilets AFAIK.

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Old 02-06-2020, 09:32 AM   #17
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I don't think you will be able to get a consensus on which toilet is the best.

Everyone will espouse the toilet they purchased in order to validate their choice.

Kinda's like single or twin, which anchor is best etc.

A lot of head problems are due to improper installation, maintenance and operation. No such thing as a trouble free toilet.

Choosing a toilet may be determined by the size of your holding tank and fresh water capacity (water consumption), size of head compartment (what will fit), budget and who will install it (ease of install).

I have a trouble free Vacu-Flush that I installed 20 years ago. I do service and rebuild the system on a periodic basis. Disclosure, I am a retired Vacu-Flush dealer.
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Old 02-06-2020, 10:54 AM   #18
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The Groco K is a fantastic unit , the aroma of dead sea things can be solved by using a bit of fresh water to finish flush. Old dish water is fine.
I purchased the Groco K new back in the mid 1990s. I owned a Willard 30 before my current W36, both single-head boats so wanted something manual and durable. Prior, I lived on a 42-foot Uniflite ACMY with an older Vacuflush system that was very high maintenance (read: too much time hanging down into the bilges fixing something). I stress, this was a system from the 1980's and bears no resemblance to modern Vacuflush so I am not casting aspersions. But with a single head system, I really wanted a simple, durable head. I chose the Groco over the WC Skipper because the Groco has a larger oval seat (the WC is no longer made).

The Groco is a vast improvement over the standard Jabsco or Raritan piston-pump heads that are so common on boats, but it's still pretty high maintenance - I've rebuilt it a dozen times in the 25-years I've owned it, with each rebuild kit in the $125 range, and it takes a few hours to do by the time it's removed, disassembled, cleaned-up, etc. It's not a particularly nasty job, but not high on my list of fun-time activities to do either.

The final straw for me was last year. I was getting ready to leave San Francisco to head to Ensenada MX to start my refit, a 500 nms steam that would take about 75-hours. Aboard would be my wife and my best boating friend. At the time, I didn't have a y-valve to go overboard - effluent went from the head into holding tank, then was pumped overboard by a macerator when needed. Two days before departure the macerator died. No problem, I'd get a replacement (okay, not quite 'no problem' as getting the hoses off the old one is a pain). So I installed the new one ----- it works for about 30-seconds then, stops. So I figure something is clogged and clear the hose (yes, this involves opening the holding tank). Again, works for about 30-seconds, then stops. I spent the next day trying to figure out what the problem was - need a larger breaker? Heavier wires? Clogged thru-hull? All sorts of nasty and time consuming stuff with the pump working intermittently, then stopping --- all while a killer weather window is developing. Finally, I bought another new pump ........ worked like a charm. The first one was DOA - worse, intermittent DOA which led me to seriously question my install long before questioning the pump. Took a half gallon of Simple Green, a quart of Clorox and 3-showers to clean-up after that fiasco!

I've had enough of futzing with head systems. The head itself is fine, but all the stuff behind the scenes is a PITA. The story above is the worst experience, but not an isolated one. Every year or two something nasty comes up. I know other's talk about long, trouble/odor-free relationships with their head. To me, those stories are equivalent to Bigfoot or Unicorn sightings, the stuff of legend. Makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong (no, I don't put bleach in the bowl - vinegar only, and I often rinse with fresh water as FF suggests). So I'm giving up and going with a composter which is fine for two people. More than that would be a problem.

But the OP asked about the best head. As a guy who no longer has a dog in the fight, my research led me to be very comfortable with the Raritan Elegance. My understanding is Tecma had some up/downs over the years right after Thetford acquired them, but seems have evened-out now and is also a really good choice.
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Old 02-06-2020, 11:05 AM   #19
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None of the previous posters has actually answered your question: Can some of you experienced boaters give me some knowledge on the different types of heads...

There are 3 types: manual, electric macerating and vacuum.

Manual marine toilets are just what the name implies: the user must manually pump the toilet to pull flush water in and push bowl contents out. Most are simple dual action piston/cylinder pumps that pull in flush water and push it along with bowl contents out in a single up-down pump stroke. All but one—the Raritan “Fresh Head,” introduced in 2014-- are designed to use “raw” (sea, lake or river) water for flushing. Therefore, a below-waterline intake through-hull fitting and seacock is needed. They use no electricity. The user can control the amount of flush water used. Periodic lubrication and preventive maintenance (discussed later) is necessary.

There are two types of electric macerating toilets...those designed to use "raw" (sea, lake, river) water and those designed to use onboard pressurized fresh water. In a raw water electric toilet, an intake pump--typically an impeller, but it can also be an electric diaphragm pump--pulls flush water in while a discharge pump—also typically an impeller--pushes bowl contents and flush water out. Between the two is a macerator blade similar to the blade in a blender that purees solid waste & paper—which, by the way, are the only things that should ever go into one!

Electric toilets designed to use onboard fresh water for flushing use less flush water and consume less power than any other type of toilet, and are also quieter that other electric toilets. Instead of an intake pump, the toilet is equipped with a solenoid and essential valves and protective devices that allow it to use pressurized water. That’s the only difference in the way fresh water and raw water toilets work.
Only toilets that are designed to use pressurized water should ever be connected to the onboard fresh water system. Connecting a toilet that is not designed to use pressurized water can pollute the fresh water supply, damage the toilet or both, and every toilet manufacturer specifically warns against it in their installation instructions.

There is only one electric vacuum toilet made in the US: the Dometic (formerly SeaLand) VacuFlush. It’s an extremely simple system in principle. An electric pump creates a vacuum in the system; when the toilet is flushed by simply stepping on the pedal (later versions also offer push button flush instead of a pedal), accumulated vacuum pulls the bowl contents to the pump which pushes it the rest of the way to its destination--overboard, to a CG certified MSD or to a holding tank. The VacuFlush is designed to use pressurized fresh water from the onboard system, eliminating sea water odor. Current draw is about 6 amps for 45 seconds following each flush.



This should help to give you an idea as to the types and brands preferred by the previous posters. And I'll be glad to provide links to the mfr's literature for any that interest you enough to want more detailed info about them.



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Old 02-06-2020, 11:30 AM   #20
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There are 3 types: manual, electric macerating and vacuum.

There is only one electric vacuum toilet made in the US: the Dometic (formerly SeaLand) VacuFlush. It’s an extremely simple system in principle. ]
My boat is almost 14 years old and has the original 2 VacuFlush toilets. I have owned the boat for almost 5 years with no problems in either toilet. The solution? Don't skimp on the water in the bowl before each flush. With your foot, raise the peddle until the bowl has a sufficient amount of water in it. Then when done filling, release the peddle quickly, allowing the ball valve to snap close, making a good seal. Frequently, turn off the power to the toilet at the breaker and wipe around the sealing area with toilet paper and a bowl brush, Turn power on, rinse thoroughly and "shazam", a long lasting electric toilet!

IMHO,the biggest problem with VacuFlush toilets is the yachting press that extols "how little water these toilets use.
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