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Old 05-05-2022, 07:21 AM   #1
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Electric vs manual head

Contemplating installing an electric head and removing the manual Jabsco. Like to hear some inputs before jumping in.
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Old 05-05-2022, 07:57 AM   #2
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A lot will depend on the model of head you select. With anything power driven, there's more to go wrong. Most though are reliable with long life expectancies and varying levels of maintenance. For most, automation is worth the cost, maintenance, and life expectancy. Imo, its like comparing a brace and bit to a battery power drill. Both will make a hole. The battery powered drill is more expensive, many more parts to fail, more likely not to work when you want it to, and more likely to need replacement. But there are very few that go back to the brace and bit after trying the other.

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Old 05-05-2022, 08:17 AM   #3
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Depends on what problem you are trying to solve. Years ago I installed a Groco Model K, the Cadillac of manual heads. I puchased the electrified version that bolts-on a motor/gearbox so is easily converted between manual and electric. My boat has a single head and I just wasn't willing to go the electric route. However, electric heads have gotten much more reliable - the Raritan Marine Elegance has many, many fans. If your head is the one I'm thinking of - the ubiquitous head on many boats, it's low and has a small round seat.

That said, I went a different route altogether recently - Natures Head Composting Head. I just gave up on repairing and maintaining the holding tank, hoses, macerator, pump-out, etc. Compost Heads are not for everyone, and do not scale well past 2, maybe 3 people aboard full time. Another option would be an incinerating toilet - a TF thread was just revitalized HERE. Would require more venting and more power, but there is a lot to like about them.

BTW - my Groco Model K is for sale - fully rebuilt. $600 plus shipping, a 70% discount off new.

Good luck with whatever you select.

Peter
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Old 05-05-2022, 08:34 AM   #4
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Electric toilets:
Pros: Available in both sea water and pressurized fresh water versions. Much less maintenance needed, a no-brainer for guests to use. Seldom require rebuilding.

Cons: More expensive than manual, Some models are noisy, Can use more flush water than manual.

I disagree with Ted that electric toilet parts are more likely to fail. That's only true of cheap "off brand" toilets and/or those owners whose approach to maintenance is only 'fix what breaks" and/or decided they didn't need the installation instructions.

The Raritan Marine Elegance Raritan Marine_Elegance Promo.pdf is the top rated electric toilet...elegant, designed to use pressurized fresh water (can use sea water if a remote intake pump is added) and is the quietest marine toilet on the market. Has a powerful pump that can move bowl contents up to 100' and is available with several flush options that help to conserve flush water.

This retailer has it for the best price: Boatersland Marine Elegance

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Old 05-05-2022, 08:35 AM   #5
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Surprisingly most long term cruisers have LESS troubles with electric heads than manual. Given macerated waste and obligate volume to flush there’s fewer clogs occurring. Especially if you have guests. Prior boat would flush with salt or fresh. Only used salt on passage as even with a watermaker always wanted our fresh water tank as full as possible in case the watermaker broke. Using fresh allows a better group of bugs in your holding tank and hoses so less smell and troubles.
Prior boat had one manual and one Marine elegance electric but that was only because of concern about availability of watts on passage. Current boat is coastal with two electric heads.
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Old 05-05-2022, 08:59 AM   #6
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Having used my Groco Model K manual head for over 20-years, I more or less agree with Peggie and Hippo - a manual head is NOT low-maintenance, but it is easily field maintainable with some basic spares.

I'd say one of the biggest benefits of the Marine Elegance (or the Tecma equivilent) is they are very familiar to guests. Not a lot of instruction required.

As stated, I went a different and unique direction that was the right path for our needs, but from research (I came close to sticking with a traditional holding tank/head - and would have gone with the Marine Elegance), I doubt you would regret the purchase of a Marine Elegance head. I know they are 3x price of your Jabsco, but they really are nice heads with a growing list of very satisfied users who report troublefree experiences.

Peter
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Old 05-05-2022, 10:25 AM   #7
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The Raritan Marine Elegance ... is the quietest marine toilet on the market.
Quietest electric marine toilet maybe, but hardly silent, and WAY more noise than almost any manual head.

I think the only manual head that takes less maintenance than my Marine Elegance are the two Lavacs in my sailboat. These have required no maintenance for more than a decade.
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Old 05-05-2022, 10:31 AM   #8
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Another good Raritan choice is the Sea Era model, which is also electric and fresh water. I installed these a few years ago, replacing Raritan Crown heads which were raw water and smelly. Huge improvement. The new heads do make some noise but far less than the Crowns. I consulted with Peggie on this change...she was very helpful.
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Old 05-05-2022, 12:33 PM   #9
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Wish I didn’t have any concerns about electricity. Even with LiFePO incinerating heads are still a lot draw for a small boat. Would think they come into their own at ~60’.
Has anyone here have experience with one on something smaller?
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Old 05-05-2022, 12:37 PM   #10
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I love the Raritan Marine Elegance. Awesome head. I have installed it in several of our previous boats. I will likely put one in our current boat to get rid of the Vacuflush.
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Old 05-05-2022, 12:41 PM   #11
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I disagree with Ted that electric toilet parts are more likely to fail. That's only true of cheap "off brand" toilets and/or those owners whose approach to maintenance is only 'fix what breaks" and/or decided they didn't need the installation instructions.
Peggy,

While I defer to your extensive experience, I would like to point out:

Electric toilets have significantly more failure points (electrical items).

Are dependent on other boat systems (for electricity and water).

And (as my neighbor found out) may not survive a nearby lighting strike if controlled by a small computer.

All that having been said, I have no interest in returning to a manual head or using a litter box.

Ted
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Old 05-05-2022, 12:59 PM   #12
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Quote:
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Peggy,

While I defer to your extensive experience, I would like to point out:

Electric toilets have significantly more failure points (electrical items).

Are dependent on other boat systems (for electricity and water).

And (as my neighbor found out) may not survive a nearby lighting strike if controlled by a small computer.

All that having been said, I have no interest in returning to a manual head or using a litter box.

Ted
Ted - my view is you are comparing two slightly different aspects: reliability vs maintainability.

Marine Elegance is reliable but if a repair is needed, may require difficult to source parts and perhaps special knowledge.

Manual heads require a lot more maintenance, but are easy to work on and carry spares for. If 'reliable' means no leaks, bowl doesn't fill to waterline, and it flushes properly, manual heads are not very reliable.

Peter (litter-box guy)
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Old 05-05-2022, 01:17 PM   #13
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I have found Raritan to be very responsive for parts and support although the ME heads never had any repairs while I owned them. But I did buy a couple of parts when I installed them.
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Old 05-05-2022, 02:43 PM   #14
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Marine Elegance is reliable but if a repair is needed, may require difficult to source parts and perhaps special knowledge.Peter (litter-box guy)
Most marina boat yards sell Raritan parts...If they don't have what you need in stock they can get it for your quickly. As for any "special" knowledge"...the Installation, Operation and Maintenance Instructions" (aka owners manual) should provide at least 90% of the info you need...an experienced tech at any good boat yard can answer questions.

However, there are a few boat owners who really should never attempt DIY repairs.

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Old 05-05-2022, 04:43 PM   #15
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Even in the leewards parts for the elegance where everywhere. Both island water works and budget carry everything you would ever need. We went through duck valves occasionally. Easy to replace. Other than that no other issues in nearly a decade of daily use.

Now have two vacuum devices. We’ll see…….
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Old 05-05-2022, 05:49 PM   #16
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I noticed you are new here... Welcome aboard TF.
I've had 2 electric heads and one manual. Would never consider another manual.
Both can work, both can fail, not enough maint difference to matter.
Peggie is THE SOURCE for everything marine head related and a well respected resource here.
Ted is also an old hand at these things.
Lots of threads related but I have to say Marine Elegance is the most often mentioned with positive reviews.
I think I rebuild my electric heads about every10 yrs and before they fail me. Rebuilds are not a complex or onerous task unless you are under the gun due to a failure. My $0.02 is whatever you choose carry a rebuild kit and install it after 8-10 yrs needed or not and replace the spare kit.
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Old 05-05-2022, 06:04 PM   #17
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Quietest electric marine toilet maybe, but hardly silent, and WAY more noise than almost any manual head.

I think the only manual head that takes less maintenance than my Marine Elegance are the two Lavacs in my sailboat. These have required no maintenance for more than a decade.

Our previous Jabsco electric freshwater head was much quieter than the current VacuFush system we have now. The latter seems to be able to wake the dead at oh-dark-thirty...

Our electric was pretty reliable. Although I know the Marine Elegance get's most of the love these days...

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Old 05-05-2022, 06:10 PM   #18
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We have two vacuflush. Have already learned at night if it’s yellow let it mellow at night.
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Old 05-05-2022, 09:11 PM   #19
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We have two vacuflush. Have already learned at night if it’s yellow let it mellow at night.
Many VF owners have what's called a "night switch" in the head. It allows the toilet to be flushed without running the pump. The flush doesn't make it very far, but it's nicer than leaving them to "mellow" in the bowl, especially if you have guests aboard. Turn it on with your last flush before you turn in for the night...the pump will run that time, but not again until your first flush after you turn it off in the morning.

If you're at all handy with 12v electric wiring, installing one isn't difficult and that switch also comes in handy if you want to cut power to the toilet to do any maintenance without having to turn off the breaker.

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Old 05-05-2022, 09:31 PM   #20
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I carry a spare joker valve. I'm a coastal cruiser so if a motor goes (and it never has) I'll order one at wherever I am. The analogy between drills is apt.
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