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Is a leaking door normal?

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  • Is a leaking door normal?

    Hi, I was excited to get my Hotbin mini in September but now I am feeling rather despondent. I set it up, trying to follow all the instructions but I have not been able to get it working properly. My concern is that there is constantly liquid leaking out of the bottom of the door. I have seen many posts about the contents being too wet and it leaking out of the grill at the bottom but never through the door. Has anyone else experienced this?
    I have read how important the seal around the door is and I wonder if my bin is faulty? When it is empty, I can push the middle of door, at the bottom, and it moves in about 3mm, and similarly at the top. The door appears to bow out slightly, as well. Is this movement and leaking through the door normal?
    As liquid is leaking out of the door I cannot see how it can be sealed properly.
    I am aware that the contents are also probably too wet, but I have used lots of shredded paper and cardboard cut up small and the bulking agent in the quantities suggested and I have premixed it in a trug so that I know it is mixed, and I have kept it topped it up regularly, keeping it two thirds to three quarters full. I have emptied and refilled my bin twice now, trying to get it working and I am reluctant to try again before checking out whether there is something wrong with the bin itself (the internal temperature is now only a little above the external temperature so I know it is wrong - the highest temperature I have achieved has been around 30 degrees C (I did check it was C not F)).
    I am not asking for advice on the wetness as there are lots of posts about this and advice on how to cure it. I really just want to know if a leaking door is normal, or is it likely that there is a problem with my bin?

  • #2
    Are the securing straps overtight?. Over tightening could cause the bowing/distortion of the door and that could allow liquids to seep out of the gap, even if it is 3mm.
    I am no expert, as I am still following the “hotbin learning curve”.


    • Duffy
      Duffy commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, Trubshaw. It is the same even without the straps on. I believe the straps are meant to be tight as I have seen videos of people showing how to make sure they are really tight.

  • #3
    I don't expect that the front hatch is designed to be watertight. On the other hand, I would expect most of the moisture from your material to proceed downwards into the plenum chamber at the base. You remark on the importance of the seal around the hatch. I agree. If the hatch is not reasonably tight to the body of the bin then that will allow cold air in and possibly interfere with the contents satisfactorily warming.
    I guess that you are based in the UK and have experienced our wet spring and summer. Many folks have reported that rain water will get in to the HotBin through the carbon filter. That could well be contributing to your leak.


    • #4
      Hello Duffy, I got mini hotbin at beginning of September and in the first few weeks I did notice some water leaking out round the hatch. It says on hotbin website that when you are making first lot of compost the hatch may bulge outwards a bit - mine was and I had to push it back and re-secure straps. After that the water did keep coming out a bit I think due to the material being too wet (plus possibly the rain) There is a slight gap now - about 2mm, but water not coming out I think due to the fact that Ive been adding more paper. I have managed to get the bin into the 40° - 60° C range for several weeks at a time although have had dips and needed to use the hot water bottle twice in recent frosty weather to get it re-started.

      Based on what others have said on the Forum, I moved the bin under cover last week so it is protected from the rain and it looks like this may have helped as well. You don't say what material you are adding, but fresh grass and/or carbohydrates (stale bread, cake etc) in the mix seem to help. I also make sure that when I add new stuff I stir some of the older stuff from underneath in with the new. In this cold weather it might be best not to empty the whole bin again but try things like pushing thin canes down to bottom to create air channels. Im assuming you have been draining the leachate via the tap at bottom? Dont give up - I agree it can be disheartening. If you are not sure about the fit of the hatch you could send an email and photos to the hotbin people. Good luck


      • Duffy
        Duffy commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you, Strawberry, for you helpful reply and suggestions. It is encouraging to know that someone else has had a similar thing with the door and achieved the hoped-for temperatures. I had not seen the bit about the bulging door, on the website, I thought I had found all the information, but I missed that.
        Can you clarify something for me? Does the paper to card ratio matter? I have been using office paper and plain brown corrugated cardboard - from Hotbin's comments it seems very particular - although other users seem to add cereal packets and all sorts of card and paper.
        My hotbin mini came with just one strap, which did not seem adequate so I bought another. I have the straps really tight.
        I did contact the company: they said I only had to worry if there was evidence of steam escaping but, as I haven't managed to get it past about 23 C when the outside temperature was in the teens, I would not have been able to tell. This was why I thought I would do some research before contacting them again. You are the first person I have found who has mentioned liquid coming out of the door.
        I have mainly been adding a mixture of kitchen waste and grass cuttings with, what I thought was plenty of shredded paper and cardboard cut up small. My bin is under a shelter so no rain can get in. I had been draining the leachate 2 or 3 times a week.
        I have abandoned the bin for the last week or so, having been disheartened form spending so much time on it and only achieving temperatures in the low 20s, but you have given me hope and I shall try again - especially using your idea of poking holes with a cane.
        Thank you again for taking time to answer my question and your helpful advice.

    • #5
      Hello Duffy. About the paper/card ratio - If I add half a large caddy of mixed garden and food waste I add mostly shredded paper probably 8-10 handfuls and 1 or 2 handfuls of torn up corrugated cardboard, I think the paper makes the most difference in absorbing water. Kitchen waste does seem to contain lots of water especially veg peelings etc. There is a lot of information on the HotBin website but sometimes hard to find. Their advice on cardboard and paper is due to the process used in making types of cardboard and paper.

      Office paper and corrugated cardboard have a lot of woody material called lignin removed during production whereas other cardboard such as cereal packs, tea bag boxes etc that have thinner card have more lignin left in them - doesn't seem logical but its a fact. As lignin is harder to break down and those packs often have glossy surfaces as well they are more difficult for bacteria to break down. Also the corrugations in the cardboard boxes provide air spaces. Since I found this information I only use ordinary office paper and corrugated cardboard and avoid paper that has a glossy surface. I would say that keeping the bin going does take more time than I originally expected but Ive had some mulch grade compost already and it seems like a sustainable thing to do instead of buying compost and paying the Council to take away garden waste. Also Ive learnt fascinating info about cardboard - always handy for small talk at parties!


      • #6
        Hi Strawberry, thank you for taking the time to reply and for your helpful comments and information. I have looked at their website quite a lot and seen their section on what to do if the bin won't work. I thought I was doing it right but... your reply was encouraging and I tried again. I was going to take your advice and just poke holes but I ended up emptying the bin. I am glad I did: the bottom layer was quite smelly and yellowish and not very nice - I took that to my ordinary compost heap at the allotment. The rest I saved and added extra paper and card and a bit of bulking agent. I also added more kitchen waste that had built up, with grass clippings.

        I was delighted, several days later to see the temperature on the lid showing at 50 degrees and to see steam coming out of the vent at the top was quite exciting! I used the "hot water bottle" to get it going as it was quite cold then. When I removed the bottle it felt very hot. I was curious and took the temperature of the water - I can't quite remember now - but in the region of 70 degrees. In the last few days the temperature has dropped to 30 on the lid but it is still just over 40 in the compost. I will add a bit more bulking agent and paper before topping up again.

        I am, however, rather disappointed that there is still just as much liquid leaking out of the bottom of the door. The pictures in the advertising show the bin sitting on a patio - if this was on my patio, a puddle of leachate at the base of it would not look good - luckily my bin is in the corner of my yard and this is not too much of a problem, but still makes me think it is not right. I put some extra pieces of wood between the door and the strap to create extra pressure on the centre of the door to keep it in (it can be pushed in by about 3mm when the bin is empty) but this does not seem to have made a difference. As I haven't heard of anyone else anyone else with this problem maybe mine is not quite right but I think I shall just have to put up with it as I have spent enough time trying to get it going as it is and don't want to have the hassle of sending it back.

        I have read most of the articles on the Hotbin website about getting started and how to solve problems - I thought I was getting it right, but obviously not at first - I am mainly adding veg peelings and leaves from the veg I grow that get too old or eaten by pests, I think this must have a high water content as I am surprised by the amount of paper I have to add. It is interesting to learn about the different types of paper and lignin content. I guess removing the lignin is an expensive process and it is only done where necessary for quality purposes. It is surprising though, I always thought of lignin as being hard and tough (hence not so easy to compost) but the higher quality papers and cards have less lignin but feel harder than softer, high-lignin versions such as newspaper and cereal packet card.

        I am not sure that some of the advice on the page is particularly helpful though, for example the alternative to shredded office paper. Before I bought my shredder I tore up paper but, apparently, not nearly small enough. I think some better guidance on size of the paper and card would be useful. When I contacted Hotbin about the problems I was having they were fairly insistent that it should be shredded office paper and that my corrugated card was too big (despite it looking, I thought, just like in the video. Maybe, as there are so many parameters to get right it was just a bad combination of things.

        Thanks again for your help and encouragement. Have a lovely Christmas.


        • #7
          I put my hotbin elevated on stone slab sitting on some bricks - all salvaged from around home . Have plastic tray ( from supermarket chicken pieces!)tucked under that and catches the leachate. ( also getting plenty from the tap )
          Store it in plastic milk bottles

          Dont think it’s possible to salvage leachate if bin sitting on ground. Luckily had realised that very early, saved me a lot of hassle

          have given to friends as fertiliser and they say it’s magic.
          I sit a bit of broken crock in the plastic tray so won’t blow away .also i Use hot water bottle if any drop temp . Internal temp about 50 all winter . The leaking chicken tray leachate does get diluted with rainwater but that’s fine!! Empty it every morning .
          I LOVE mine but not expecting to get fine compost - will use mainly as mulch and leachate as fertiliser .
          One my main reasons for getting it is that I have bad back and traditional compost heap that needed turning was a nightmare for me . Am lucky as have endless supply shredded paper from my past workplace ! They only too happy to give it to me