A tiny house is not just a place to live, it’s a way of life. Since the housing crisis and pandemic, tiny houses have become increasingly popular. According to the researchers, the tiny house market will continue to grow in the coming years.
Tiny houses are intended to be a less expensive, more practical, and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional homes.
Generally speaking, the cost of a tiny house is less than one-fifth the price of a traditional home.
As tiny houses become increasingly popular among the general public, those who live in them look for solutions to the not-so-tiny problems that owning a home of any size can come with.
Choosing which type of septic system to use for your tiny home, as well as learning how to install a septic system, are worthy concerns for someone interested in purchasing a tiny home.
Considerations for Installing a Tiny House Septic System
Do all tiny houses have septic systems and what do they entail?
Septic systems require the installation of septic tanks and drainage fields, both of which take up valuable real estate.
Septic systems can be either underground or above ground and aerobic or anaerobic in nature. Aerobic and anaerobic describe the type of bacteria and environment that breaks down waste.
Anaerobic systems are generally less expensive than aerobic systems because they do not require ventilation and need less maintenance, making them the more obvious choice.
According to estimates, the average installation cost of a basic underground anaerobic sewage system is around $6,000.
Generally speaking, a tiny house septic tank must hold at least 1000 gallons to be legal. It is the minimum optimal tank size for households with one to three bedrooms, so you may not require as much septic space as you might think, seeing as a tiny house typically holds fewer people.
Having a septic tank installed in your tiny house will likely make the home’s use of water systems and toilets more efficient.
What is a Tiny House Septic System Composed of?
Most private septic systems have two major components. Here is the construction of a small septic system:
1- Tanks that contains waste, otherwise known as a ‘holding tanks’
2- Leach fields, otherwise known as ‘dispersal fields’
The liquid waste will be transferred to the second holding tank when the first tank is full. The liquid in the second tank will disperse into the soil beneath it through the leach fields/dispersal fields.
A qualified site assessment and internal baffles will have to be sought and acquired separately from the unit and system.
What are the Best Septic Systems for Tiny Houses?
Some tiny homes are mobile and some are meant to be installed permanently in a fixed location, and there are a variety of tank systems suitable to each.
Holding Tank Systems
A holding tank system gives you the flexibility to haul your tiny house wherever you wish. Your primary concerns will be how self-contained your system is and if/where you can access a dump station.
Holding tank systems are composed of gray and black holding tanks. A gray water tank catches most of the waste water in your home, except for the water from your toilet (includes water from your sink, washing machine, bathtub, etc.).
Gray water tanks are generally considered safe and non-hazardous.
On the other hand, a black tank gathers everything from the toilet. It carries harmful contaminants and germs that can cause diseases.
Black water has different regulations for disposal, so it’s essential to keep it separate from your other waste water.
While you can technically collect gray and black water in the same tank, this causes the tank to fill rather quickly and is not recommended, especially for those living in an RV. Having the two separated allows for more efficient use of space and less frequent disposals.
However, the most important thing to keep in mind before investing in a system is to know what the laws and regulations for septic tanks are in your state, seeing as the legal requirements and standards for capturing and disposing of waste vary between areas.
Is a DIY Septic System Right for you?
The DIY tiny house septic system is a homemade system and setup. One of the benefits is that you can customize the system to fit your particular home, allowing you to design your tiny house according to your own specifications.
A DIY septic system is ideal for situations where a full-sized system is incompatible. Once you’ve decided where you want to put your tiny house, you can scope out the property and soil to figure out what design would best fit the space you have.
The DIY septic system can be made much smaller than other systems, allowing for easier installation and more flexibility. While this approach will require greater effort, you have more agency and control over costs and materials.
The Cost of Installing a Tiny House Septic System?
The most significant and most expensive factor is installation. Installation can cost $1,500-$5,000, depending on the labor required and the system you’ve selected.
The more ground that needs to be cleared for the installation of a tank, the greater the cost.
Consider an independent holding tank system if you want something cheap and straightforward, and you don’t mind pumping it weekly.
The Cost of Connecting a Tiny House Septic System to a Local Grid
To connect your tiny house to a city’s sewage system may cost between $1,500 and $4,500. However, this cost can range from $500 to $20,000, depending on local laws and infrastructure.
Most people prefer to have their system connected to the grid, even if the process is costly.
It only takes a couple minutes to call a local contractor and find out how much it will cost to connect to your local grid.
Choosing the Right Toilet for Your Tiny House
Understanding your comfort level with black water waste disposal will help you determine what toilet is suitable for your needs. Among other things, you will want to understand the disposal process of the various models.
Low Flow Toilets
Low-flow toilets use less water to flush than conventional toilets (4.8 liters vs 6 liters). Installation in a tiny house usually costs between $100-$200 and will save you around $100 per year in water savings.
However, the lower water to waste ratio can sometimes create a thicker sludge that is difficult to pump down the line.
Composting toilets are dry toilets that separate urine and feces into separate compost tanks. Waterless toilets do not produce excess black water sewage.
Because of this, the waste you produce with these toilets doesn’t create the harmful black water typical with most normal septic system. Instead, you make a solid that can be tossed in a compostable bag.
Installation of dry composting toilets ranges from $600 to $2000, depending on the model and technology.
Avoid dealing with human waste disposal by installing an incinerating toilet. Your waste goes into an incinerator, which heats it to 800°F, killing bacteria and drying it to a fine ash.
A typical incinerator uses 1.5 to 2 kilowatts of electricity, or about the same as a dishwasher.
These units range from $1,000 to $4,000 each. These toilets are great because they’re hygienic and because they don’t require much work–however, they are expensive.
If the above prices are over budget for you, you can always get a camping toilet. These toilets can be as low as $100, and the budget models are small enough that they can be folded up and stored easily. These units require multi-use disposable waste bags. Each one is about $3.
If one bag is used per day, this will end up costing you around $1,000 annually.
Dumping is a cheap and easy way to dispose of gray and black water. As long as it’s legal in your area, you can dump gray water for free in a sewage or storm drain. However, keep in mind that many areas in the states do not allow this.
Alternatively some gas stations, RV parks, waste treatment plants, car dealerships, rest stops, and sporting goods stores have gray and black water dumping stations.
Some may charge a fee that’s around $5, while others may not. Be sure to find a safe, legal, and cost-effective waste disposal option near you. Tiny House Bloom may help you figure out what works best for your situation.
For those looking to set their tiny home in a permanent location, connecting your system to the local sewage grid is often the best solution to dealing with waste. However, for those on the move and who are towing their tiny house around, the options are more complicated and varied. For a mobile setup, a small gray water tank and composting toilet appear to be the most practical solutions in terms of efficiency and budget restrictions. Alternatively, an incinerating toilet may be the best for those without budget constraints.
A majority of options detailed above are environmentally friendly. Those we’ve listed are considered the most straightforward and simple designs, whether for those on the move or those staying put. We hope that this article assisted you in making the right decision.