Why Toilets On Planes Are So Loud & The Researchers That Made A Way To Make Them More Quiet

Toilets on planes are loud. I mean really loud. Loud enough where they’ve scared people (especially kids), been discussed by stand up comedians, imitated by an a cappella music group, and videotaped and put onto YouTube.

People have wondered why they’re so loud. Moreso, people have wondered how to make them quieter. Here are answers to both questions…

Why they’re so loud

A regular toilet in a house, restaurant, business, etc., uses water and gravity to do a lot of the work. It uses water to wash away whatever’s in the bowl, and then water pressure and gravity draws the waste water through a pipe and into the sewer line.

That wouldn’t work for a toilet on an airplane. The movement of the plane would mess with the “normal” system (can you imagine the mess that would happen in the lavatory if there was really bad turbulence?). Plus, of course, having all those pipes and extra water to wash away the waste would be extra weight and we know all the crazy ways airlines are doing to make their planes lighter, in an effort to conserve energy. To say nothing of reliability – it’s not like you can dig up a plane if there’s a blockage.

So instead of using water and gravity, planes use a powered vacuum that goes 300mph to suck all the waste into a waste tank. In a nutshell, there’s a valve that maintains the pressure difference between the low pressure waste tank and the normal pressure in the toilet. When you flush, it’s the valve opening, the suckage, and the valve closing that make all the noise.

How they’re making them more quiet

Researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT spent 2 years on research but have come up with a toilet that’s much quieter.

How they did it was published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society on America (who knew there was such a thing???). Essentially, they use material that dampens the sound (makes sense), allowing it to be roughly half the decibels of a typical vacuum toilet typically found on a plane. Click here to hear the difference.

The research was originally published several months ago, but so far I haven’t seen it available for practical use. I suppose there’s always hope…

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

 

 

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