Operational Considerations To Keep Your VacuFlush Toilet Working Properly
In our last issue on the VacuFlush toilet we discussed some of the weak points in the system and how to keep them from being a problem. In this issue we discuss some of the operational Do’s and Don’ts that help you avoid problems.
All marine toilet systems are much more sensitive than your home systems. The VacuFlush system is no exception. Follow a few simple rules and you will avoid most of the problems.
Things You Should Never Do
Number one on our list of things you should never do is flush a wet wipe. They may be soft and pliable and you might think they would flush right on through like toilet paper but don’t be fooled.
Wet wipes are tough. They do not tear easily and they do not break down like paper. They are essentially a cloth.
Because they are pliable and soft cloth they will be sucked into the system with ease. However, when they get to the pump look out. While traveling into the pump it is very likely that it will become entangled in the pumping mechanism jamming the motion of the diaphragm in the pump.
If someone inadvertently flushed one of these wipes and you notice your pump slowing down there is little you can do about it. The only remedy is to open up the pump and manually untangle and pull out the wet wipe. It’s not hard to do but it is time consuming and not something anyone wants to have to do.
Number two on our list is not as bad as number one but can be pretty messy. And that is dropping a wad of toilet paper into the toilet.
Many captains insist that only material that comes out of your body goes into the toilet. And that is not a bad practice. Especially with the hand pump style toilets.
Our experience with the VacuFlush toilet is that a small amount of toilet paper will flush fine. I limit myself to 3 squares of double ply. Larger clumps of paper have been known to clog the small orifice in the sump under the ball valve in the toilet bowl. If this happens you’ll have to manually break up the clump to clear the opening.
I should note here that any procedure requiring the opening of the ball valve in the toilet bowl you will have to turn off the water and depressurize the system before performing the operation. In my previous post I recommend installing a shut off valve in the water supply line leading to the toilet so that you don’t have to shut down the entire system every time you want to perform maintenance.
Number three on the list is to never over fill the holding tank. Since every holding tank has a vent it is easy to see that an over filled holding tank vent line can fill with effluent.
Never mind the really nasty stuff that will dribble down the side of your boat as a result. The bigger concern is that the fine mesh screen in the vent outlet will become clogged. It may not become completely clogged the first time this happens. Or, it may not clog up right away. But, you are guaranteed that it will clog over time.
The symptoms of a clogged or clogging vent are stinky smells and vacuum build up when pumping out the tank. If you are pumping out and the vent is clogged you run the risk of imploding your holding tank. To avoid this extreme catastrophe it is possible to relieve the pressure by shutting down the system’s vacuum pump and water supply and opening the ball valve in the toilet bowl.
The other symptom of a clogged vent line is the stink factor. With poor ventilation the holding tank builds up pressure when toilet is flushed. That pressure goes somewhere. Usually where you don’t want it. Inside the boat!
To clear the vent you have to check the hose from where it attaches to the holding tank all the way to where it exits the boat. Low spots in the vent line before it exits the boat are suspect. But, the most likely culprit is the exit point.
Nicholson58 gets it right on the Cruisers Forum. The design of most vent outlets is very susceptible to clogging. If not by overflowing the holding tank then simply by corrosion, spider webs and other debris.
Things You Should Do
One of the great features of the VacuFlush toilet is is low consumption of fresh water. That is also one of its weak points.
Tip number one. One pint of water in the bowl, as advertised, is fine as long as there are no solids. But for a cleaner, better flushing experience it’s a good idea to add a bit more water to the bowl. Simply pull up on the foot pedal for a few seconds to fill the bowl to desired level. Be sure to put foot pedal back in the neutral position.
Tip number two also has to do with the small amount of water flow. Unlike your toilet at home there is little water cleaning the bowl when flushing. That leads to a pretty quick buvaild up of smelly stuff in the bowl.
Hold the flush pedal down for a three count. You will get better bowl cleaning. When it starts getting smelly simply brush the bowl clean with a standard toilet brush. If you’re trying to conserve water on a cruise just brush the bowl more often.
That’s about it for this post. If you missed the earlier post on VacuFlush toilets click HERE