WHEN an architect asked Jeff Knowles if he wanted a long-drop toilet in his suburban house, the trained school teacher at first pictured the sort of thing you see on the side of a highway.
Today, the 55-year-old could not think of using anything else at home.
The father of two has had a composting loo in his Jerrabomberra abode for the past decade.
''I had to get the city out of me and some of the bush into me and since then you would not be able to guess the amount of people I've converted to a composting loo,'' Mr Knowles said.
While solar panels and energy efficient shower heads are some of the mainstream ways to save energy costs and the environment, there are other ways of doing the job which have been around for some years.
A composting toilet can save about 70,000 litres of water a year for an average family home.
''It's saved us several hundred dollars annually, perhaps more,'' Mr Knowles said.
Environmental designer Ric Butt said you could count on one hand the number of these dunnies in ACT residential areas, a not-so-surprising fact given peoples' traditional perspective of the long drop.
''The composting toilet is like a long drop but at the bottom it's much more sophisticated,'' Mr Butt said.
''It's aerated, it doesn't have the terrible smell of methane.
''You can even throw your kitchen waste down there.''
In the Knowles clan's environmentally-friendly toilet, there is a 12-volt fan, powered by solar panels of course, gently pushing the air downward.
The cost of this, according to the family, is within the realms of cents a year.
The length of the drop from the toilet seat to the bottom of the pit is about 1.2 metres.
At the bottom of the pit is a $6500 unit made from recycled plastic which has no moveable parts.
The compost is emptied every two years.
The Knowles have a number of other innovative ways of saving energy, such as the two concrete slabs they used to build their kitchen bench which have the benefit of slowly absorbing heat and retaining it through a winter's day.
They have also installed a vent near the fridge, which takes the warm air away from the fridge on warm days.
The vent can be shut in the winter to keep the heat in the house.
Curtin couple Jim Dixon and Diana Rubel have a solar chimney on their house.
The window on the chimney is opened in the summer to let out all the hot air.
In winter, it's closed to keep the warmth in.
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