A Better RV Sewer Hose? – New Thetford Sani-Con Turbo
** UPDATE December 2018: Thetford is investigating additional purchase options for customers and we may also be able to offer the product directly. Email us if you are interested at email@example.com or message us on our facebook page. **
In our almost 4 years of full-time RVing we’ve seen a lot of RV gadgets, upgrades and products that claim to improve the RV experience. The sad truth is that many of them actually make mobile life harder and don’t provide a ton of benefit over the time tested standards we all know about. Waste management systems are no exception. Even though these products deal with something that.. well… none of us want to deal with, there still hasn’t been a ton of innovation to the designs developed decades ago. To a certain degree, that is probably because the old systems work and not many people want to mess with a waste management system that is doing its job. That said, there are some drawbacks to the standard “RV sewer hose” that have left us wanting a better solution and we think we might have finally found it.
Our 2015 Entegra Aspire came with a reliable, easy to use wet bay and waste management system that we’ve had very few problems with (thank god, oh the stories some folks have told us!). We have been extremely happy with the Camco Rhino standard sewer hose that we’ve had in our rig since the beginning. We rely on a standard 15 ft hose for 95% of our stays and have a 10 ft extension that while rarely used, is something we’ve always been VERY happy we’ve had when it was needed. We use a sewer hose ladder to keep everything flowing downhill and for the most part we’ve been really happy with the setup, especially for under $100 dollars for everything!
We’ve had almost no leaks other than very minor ones that were solved by tightening the fittings and everything was able to fit in a single plastic bin that stowed under our coach right next to our wet bay. Over the 4 years we’ve had 2 of these hoses and the only reason we replaced the first one was because it began to develop a film and odor (sorry folks but its true) that made the investment in a new hose a no brainer.
Whats Wrong with a Regular RV Sewer Hose?
In short, not much. It works, its inexpensive, the newer hoses are collapsable so they take up less space (still a lot of space but less space), and did I mention its cheap? So whats wrong with it? We’ll first, its a gravity system, so you need to make sure you always have gravity on your side. The hoses large diameter mean its less prone to clogging and does not require a pump to operate. That said, a larger hose means more storage space and its harder to get really clean without completely filling the hose with fresh water which means time spent filling up tanks or remembering to close valves before you get ready to pack up so you can get that good grey tank flush at the end of your sanitation duties.
Probably the single biggest issue we’ve had with our standard hose is the setup and breakdown time. It’s a lot of steps (yea i’m complaining about traveling full time but hear me out!). We need to park, setup our fresh water systems first to avoid cross contamination, pull out our hose bins, setup our sewer hose ladder, pull off the caps to our sewer hose, route the hose below the RV and into the hose outlet located at the bottom of our wet-bay, attach the bayonet fitting to coach, screw in the sewer multi-fitting attachment to the park hookup, remove the second hose cap and lock the hose into the park’s septic system. Its not that bad, and we’ve gotten it down to probably 3 minutes all in, but every time i unscrew that sewer hose cap and stare down the mouth of that stinky sewer hose I think… “there has to be a better way!”
A Better Alternative?
Enter the Thetford Sani-Con Turbo system. Now don’t get this confused with the original Sani-Con system which is their previous generation macerator. This is a full redesign with a number of new features and functionality improvements that got us excited. Before we get into those lets talk about what a macerator does and what is wrong with most macerators.
What is a Macerator System?
Macerator waste management systems have been around for a long time and come factory installed on a number of high end diesel pusher coaches and we’re seeing them more and more on smaller coaches as well. What is a macerator? We’ll essentially its a pump assisted waste management system that uses a pump instead of gravity to evacuate your tanks usually through a smaller diameter exit hose than a standard setup.
Most macerator systems consist of a pump of some kind that contains a blade of some sort built into the pump that “macerates” or cuts up (sorry guys, yea there is no easy way to say it!) the waste into small pieces that can fit through a smaller diameter exit hose. In theory, a macerator system can be a better alternative to your typical RV sewer hose because the hose can remain connected at all times and if working properly can not only speed up the hookup/dumping process but also allow you to dump uphill or for longer distances.
We’ve been using a portable macerator from Flowjet for quite some time when we needed to dump long distances (we’ve dumped 100+ feet a number of times with it and it works great). That said, it’s not a permanent solution and takes longer to setup and even and deal with which is why we only use it when circumstances require. If you’re interested in a portable solution you can checkout our full article and video here.
Whats Wrong with Most Macerators?
To start, they are slow. The vast majority of the macerator pumps move around 8-12 gallons per minute, making the average dump cycle take around 5 minutes. The pumps are pretty loud from our experience and we wouldn’t feel comfortable running them during quiet hours at most campgrounds (you can hear our Flowjet pump in the video here). Most of them do not have a grey water bypass system which means your grey water tanks will fill up when the pump is not in use (no long showers for you!) and the majority that do have a grey water bypass are prone to clogging and issues.
Then there is the macerator hoses, while they are smaller in diameter, and in many cases they can be adapted to use a standard 3/4 garden hose, they tend to be inflexible and end up taking up just as much space as a standard sewer hose. Since macerator systems use a pump to push everything to your septic system they also can make cleaning your holding tanks more difficult since they are much slower than your standard sewer hose. Last, they are not only expensive, but they rely on a pump to operate. Having your pump fail in the middle of a dump cycle would be… we’ll lets just say that wouldn’t be your favorite day of the week!
Thetford’s Answer – The Sani-Con Turbo
Thetford’s been in the RV business for a long time. Chances are if you own an RV, something made by Thetford is in it, whether it’s a toilet or a refrigerator, they are one of the largest manufacturers of RV equipment in the world. The design team at Thetford understood the challenges with the products on the market, including their original Sani-Con unit and developed the Sani-con Turbo to resolve these problems.
At the heart of product is the pump, which definitely earns the name TURBO! It is fast. We don’t know the exact specification, but our 45 gallon tanks can be evacuated in about 90 seconds, thats about 30 gallons a minute. Thats like filling your gas tank in your car in less than a 30 seconds! Not only is the pump fast, but it has a grey water bypass built right into the pump. When the pump isn’t on, grey water can flow right through the pump without any extra hoses or bypass kits. If anything ever clogged the bypass, just turn on the pump and whatever is blocking will be taken care of by the pump. The pump is also extremely quiet, makes almost no noise and can be used at anytime without disturbing your neighbors or sleeping family members.
To address another common macerator issue, Thetford developed a macerator evacuation hose that appears to be not only durable, but retracts and folds easily making it easy to stow and grab when you’re setting up or breaking camp. We’ve used this hose for about 3 months so far and its the best hose we’ve seen out there to date. The included hose is 21 ft when fully expanded, making it long enough for everyday use.
The hose terminates with a handled sewer adapter bringing the smaller macerator hose back up to the side of most rv park septic connections. The head has a multi-size adapter making it compatible with both larger (new) and older campground sewer hookups. The included cap can be screwed on during travel to prevent any leaks from the hose and also has a garden hose adapter on the end to allow you to extend the macerator hose if you’re in a pinch and need more length.
The Thetford Sani-Con Turbo is available in multiple configurations outlined below with links for more information.
- Sani-Con Turbo 300 – A portable suitcase version of the Sani-Con Turbo
- Sani-Con Turbo 400s – A permanent bayonet mount good for external sewer connections and 5th wheels.
- Sani-Con Turbo 500s – A permanent direct mount good for custom installs or macerator replacement installations
- Sani-Con Turbo 600s – A permanent bayonet mount good for Class A vehicles with room in the wet bay for the pump (this is the unit featured in our video)
- Sani-Con Turbo 700 – A inline macerator system suitable for custom coach builds or full remodel projects
- Sani-Con Storage Box – A exterior mounted box for the macerator evacuation hose and electrical suitable for travel trailers, 5th wheels and certain gas coaches.
Installation & Parts List
Since our installation included our custom touch screen controls our wiring was a bit different than most folks. If your interested in downloading the factory switch and wiring instructions as well as links to everything we used in this video see below!
- Thetford Installation Manual Sani-Con 600 Series (download link)
- Thetford Parts List – Sani-Con 600 Series (download link)
- Marine Grade 10 Gauge Wire (recommended for runs less than 20 ft) Amazon Link
- Marine Grade 8 Gauge Wire (recommended for runs over 20ft) Amazon Link
So What’s the Verdict?
So far we are very impressed with the Sani-Con Turbo system in our RV. The unit operates fast, we were able to eliminate the stinky plastic bin full of septic hoses from our storage compartment and the grey water bypass and pump in their standard configuration have been pretty much flawless. We get to a campground, pull out the hose, take off the cap, plug it into the septic system of the campground and walk away. It’s clean and works well without us having to touch much of anything. When its time to dump our tanks, we close our grey valve, open the black, turn on the macerator and 90 seconds later we are done (plus time to flush the system a few times using our tank rinse system but we always do that anyway).
About the only complaint that we have, is that the system doesn’t work all that well when connecting a long extension garden hose. This is because of two issues in our opinion. First, the system lacks any type of rinse system making it hard to rinse out a long garden hose after dumping (if garden hose, long distance dumping is your primary need then see our flowjet system – This is what we would recommend for that). Second, the pump can sometimes have trouble priming itself when a long garden hose is connected. The system worked 99% of the time but on occasion we found ourselves having to fill up our grey tanks and doing a large release to get the pump to prime when a long garden hose was attached. Garden hose cleanup also isn’t much fun since the pump won’t be able to clear out the final bit of water in the hose, so unhooking your hoses at the end will result in some spilling. This is why i’d consider using a garden hose with the Sani-Con Turbo an option, but only one i’d do when in a pinch.
We’ve heard from other Entegra owners that the high velocity of this pump and the vibrations it can cause in the hose can result in the hose failing prematurely. As a result, Entegra has started adding an abrasion resistant cover to the hose as a precaution so we chose to do the same. Thetford has told us the hoses now shipping are better that the originals but we elected to add the cover just to be safe.
Where Can I Get a Sani-Con Turbo?
Sani-con Turbo’s are currently only available through RV dealers. That said, most dealers already have Thetford accounts so they should be able to order you one without much of an issue. The units are not typically available through the larger distributors RV dealers work with so you’ll need to tell your dealer to call Thetford directly to order a unit. Dealers can find the correct sales rep based on their location here. We are working on other ways to source the pumps and may offer them directly soon, stay tuned! In the meantime if you’re having trouble getting your hands on one, just email us and we’ll get you hooked up with a dealer who we know and trust who has them!
** UPDATE December 2018: Thetford is investigating additional purchase options for customers and we may also be able to offer the product directly. Email us if you are interested at firstname.lastname@example.org. **
Thanks so much for reading and see you on the road!!