Saniflo Case Study: Mountaintop Tiny Home with Sanimarin 4

Case Studies 06/28/2024

Saniflo Case Study: Mountaintop Tiny Home with Sanimarin 4

Saniflo USA | Mini Case Study | Mountaintop Tiny Home | February 2024

Marine veteran opts for the pumping power of a macerating toilet system for off-grid mountaintop cabin’s plumbing system

Saniflo’s Sanimarin 4 brings conventional residential plumbing comfort to an off-grid tiny home by leveraging a macerating toilet system’s grinding and pumping capabilities as well as power and water-saving features.


BOONE, NORTH CAROLINA — Marine veteran Patrick Imbasciani sought solace amid the serene landscape of this Blue Ridge Mountains community. Striving for a work-life balance to offset his high-stress career in technology sales, Imbasciani purchased a plot of land on a mountaintop envisioning it as a potential weekend retreat from the frenetic pace of his urban life.

Post-purchase, Imbasciani deliberated on how to utilize his land effectively. Eventually, he settled on constructing a sustainable tiny home. This choice would enable him to maximize the land’s potential while tapping into the growing trend of tiny-house living.

Imbasciani recognized the practicality of tiny homes. Their affordability, simplicity, and sustainability made them an ideal complement to his vision of remote living. Additionally, the tiny home could be rented out as an off-grid glamping accommodation, capitalizing on the increasing demand for eco-friendly lodging options.

Imbasciani’s aspiration may have been for a remote retreat but not one lacking modern conveniences. This led him to select a tiny home design equipped with essential amenities like plumbing, heating, and electricity. He installed solar panels to harness renewable energy to address the challenge of providing power. Large propane tanks fueling the heating system ensured warmth during colder months.

However, tackling plumbing in mountainous terrain proved to be a more complex endeavor.

Traditional plumbing systems present notable hurdles for tiny homes, especially in mountain terrain. These obstacles arise from constrained space, limited water supply, and the impracticality of accommodating standard plumbing infrastructure.

Furthermore, dependence on conventional sewage systems does not necessarily resonate with the sustainability and affordability objectives of off-grid residents. Hence, inventive plumbing solutions that can tackle these challenges adeptly while providing space-efficient, effective, and eco-friendly alternatives are more than a little compelling.

Homeowners in this region rely on wells for water supply and septic systems for sewage disposal. Unfortunately, the requirement to go down 800 feet made digging a water well economically unfeasible. Until he can install a rainwater harvesting system, Imbasciani resorts to manually transporting drinking water up the mountain during each visit.

His initial approach to waste management involved installing an incinerating toilet. These toilets burn human waste at high temperatures, significantly reducing waste volume. However, they can emit pollutants and odors, and their operation requires continuous energy, which is a major drawback for many users. Additionally, the resulting ash still needs to be disposed of, adding another layer of inconvenience.

Imbasciani found this solution to have limitations, particularly regarding how frequently it could be flushed, as each burn cycle took 30 minutes or more and occasionally produced a burning odor. Overall, he found that incinerating toilets posed several challenges and may not be the best solution for off-grid living or remote areas.

One day, while out on his brother’s boat, Imbasciani noticed the marine plumbing solutions onboard. Intrigued, he subsequently researched macerating toilets, attracted to their capability to reduce and discharge waste efficiently. Although he had heard of their use in residential settings, especially basements and garages, Imbasciani remained skeptical about their viability in the mountainous environment.

Typically, macerating toilets are used in applications where below-grade plumbing systems, residential or commercial, require pumping the effluent up to the main sewer line above. Imbasciani’s situation presented a different challenge.

Rather than elevation, he required distance. The waste would flow from the tiny house approximately 50 feet before descending a pitched slope on his property to a holding tank. This unusual pumping requirement called for a solution that effectively handles horizontal rather than vertical waste flow over a considerable distance.

The holding tank added another layer of complexity. County regulations restrict above-ground tanks to a water-holding capacity of less than 250 gallons. To manage waste effectively, Imbasciani sought toilets that would consume less than a gallon of water per flush (gpf). (Note: Conventional toilets commonly use 1.6 gpf.)


While researching online, Imbasciani discovered Saniflo’s Sanimarin 4, a product designed to meet his specific requirements. He contacted the Saniflo support team for further information, and their expertise and guidance bolstered Imbasciani’s confidence in investing in the Sanimarin 4 for his tiny house plumbing needs.

Product Profile: Sanimarin 4

The electrically powered Sanimarin 4 marine toilet system is designed to handle waste for use on boats and other marine vessels. The built-in macerator pump effectively grinds waste and toilet paper, ensuring smooth and efficient waste removal.

The macerating toilet features a powerful stainless steel macerating blade and a built-in pump to minimize the footprint and simplify installation. The system can pump effluent up to 10 ft vertically and 100 ft horizontally, making it suitable for various marine and RV applications.

Other Key Features:
  • Can utilize onboard freshwater (integrated solenoid valve) or outside pressurized water.
  • Non-return valve prevents backflow and maintains hygiene and safety on board.
  • Available in 12 or 24 Volt options.
  • Water-saving flushing modes.

“The Sanimarin 4 checked all the boxes,” says Imbasciani. “It is the type of toilet you expect to find in a residence. It’s porcelain, sleek, and ergonomic. It had the macerator and high-end features like the push-button control and eco mode.”

Upon its arrival, Imbasciani began troubleshooting the integration of the Sanimarin 4 with his existing power infrastructure. While the Sanimarin 4 can be directly plugged into a wall for regular 120-volt systems, Saniflo also offers a 12-volt version primarily intended for marine and RV applications. Imbasciani’s off-grid electric setup relied on solar power, so he opted for the 12-volt model.

Below are key features that make the Sanimarin 4 an ideal pump for off-grid applications:
  • Water conservation settings: The Sanimarin 4 operates at a water-saving 0.63 gpf, a notable reduction compared with its normal flushing mode of 0.79 gpf. This eco-friendly feature allows users to minimize water usage without compromising functionality or performance.
  • The Sanimarin 4 can draw water from onboard freshwater (integrated solenoid valve) or outside pressurized water in marine and RV applications. Imbasciani currently uses small 5-gallon onboard water tanks but plans to upsize his tanks for added convenience.
  • Long pumping lengths: With impressive pumping capabilities, the Sanimarin 4 can efficiently move up to 2.9 gallons of fluid per minute, ensuring rapid waste removal. The product can expel wastewater vertically up to 10 feet and horizontally up to 100 feet, or a combination of both. This capability provides reliable performance even over long pumping lengths and complex plumbing configurations like Imbasciani’s system.


While Imbasciani could perform most of the installation, he regularly consulted with plumbing professionals when tasks were beyond his depth. But why go DIY on such a problematic install?

“It’s a challenge getting tradesmen to the top of the mountain,” he jokes. “I often had to rely on research tutorials and phone consultations with professionals to find answers to my questions. As a Marine, we live by the motto ‘improvise, adapt, and overcome,’ so I was fairly confident I could handle this project and reach out for help if needed.”

When questioned about his experience with his new mountaintop hideout, Imbasciani expresses satisfaction, noting that his family has been spending more time there thanks to the enhanced comfort facilitated by Saniflo’s Sanimarin 4.

“I was there last winter during a 15-degree day and could use the restroom without going outside,” he remarks. “The Sanimarin 4 has made the cabin comfortably habitable during all four seasons,” he concludes.

Since the successful installation, Imbasciani has spent more time in his cabin with friends and family, relishing the panoramic vistas of the Blue Ridge mountains, including the amazing view of Grandfather Mountain.

Imbasciani has also launched a website for adventurers who want to experience the off-grid tiny house in person.