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Not so Hotbin

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  • Not so Hotbin


    I got my hotbin late November 2020, spent a couple of weeks collecting waste in order to start it off, watch a few videos on You Tube, read instructions and tips from posters here. Made a start in early December mixing various components as instructed, used hot water bottle got temperature up to 25C+ after a few days, then along came the snow and freezing temperatures and temperature dived down to 10C. The compost inside was a smelly mixture of wet paper & cardboard, the compostable material looked rather wet, thought perhaps a Freezing cold December not the best time to start composting, so decided to leave it until weather warmed up a bit.

    Tried again in Mid February with new stuff and a mix of the old, again got temperature to 25C, but I think this was due to hot water bottle rather than composting, now back to around 12C.

    Looks like I am going to have to empty it and start again, not to pleased at the moment with the bin lots of work gone in for no return and I can't see what I am doing wrong.

    Looking at posts seems I am not the only one, and I am left wondering is the advertising for these bins misleading.

  • #2
    You don't say where in the world you are from or the kind of material you are trying to compost.
    However, here in UK the December, January and February temperatures have been low. If you have gathered material during that period, its temperatures too will be low. So you have loaded a cold HotBin with a considerable mass of cold material. It will take quite some time for the heat to build up. The nature of the HotBin is that the hottest zone is near the top. That results in your first couple of loads of compost from the hatch at the bottom are poor quality.
    I would reload,using the kick start and plenty of greens. Chicken manure helps get temperature up.
    Patience in these times of cold weather is needed.


    • #3
      Originally posted by DragonSG

      Looking at posts seems I am not the only one, and I am left wondering is the advertising for these bins misleading.
      The advertising for every composter I've ever seen is misleading. I mean, they all show a perfectly homogeneous dry fluffy compost spilling out of the opening ready to use. While I think Hotbin have the science part down, its up to the individual to master the art form and in that respect it can be frustrating. No one's material is exactly the same or mix consistent. Its hard to give specific advice without seeing. If you watch problem compost videos on Youtube, its often easy to spot what is wrong, but its more difficult when you can't see it.

      Its probably a mixture of things that just aren't quite right. Don't give up, once you get it going it tends to keep going.

      If its smelly its air flow, which can be caused by too much moisture, not enough bulking agent or dry brown material. Make sure your bulking agent isn't to sodden wet. Mine came soaking wet and it wasn't much use until it dried out a bit.


      • Shinz
        Shinz commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes - same problems. And my bulking agent was soggy as well! And I have nowhere dry to store it - so that won't have helped.

    • #4
      Yes all too familiar! The important thing is to ensure the ventilation channels are not blocked. Take off front panel inside is a ridge with several holes remove any debris.... also from the bottom removable base plate which easily blocks with wet gloopy compost. Ensure you drain off fluid regularly too. If it is light in colour then the air channels are blocked if a satisfying dark brown then the temperature will soon be rising. As for mixing try balancing volume of kitchen waste with equal volume of chopped cardboard. Cut it up in to < 3cm pieces. If adding garden waste old leaves pruning twigs etc try chopping it up by running your rotary mower over it first to get smaller pieces Always give the mixture a good stir. Finally always measure temperature with internal thermometer preferably with long handle 30cm rather than short handle supplied. Had some good pictures to illustrate this but unfortunately system would not accept...sorry. Hope this helps, please don't is well worth it once you've cracked it


      • #5
        After 3 further attempts with "hot water bottle" to no avail I gave up and decided to leave it until weather warmed up a bit here in Shropshire. This morning I emptied the bin, the wet mass went into the old Dalek composter which has the remains of my stored apples after an attack by mice. I fully expected the holes in the ventilation base to be blocked, but very few were. I drained off the liquid which was dark brown in colour diluted it and soaked raised beds with the liquid, bin washed out and ready to start again.

        I will revisit the video, chop up some of the twigs I cut the other day from hawthorn hedge, and I have about 2 weeks worth of green food waste ready to go in along with cardboard, shredded paper and bulking agent, mine is dry its been in shed all winter. Hopefully this time it will be better.


        • #6
          I have had my hot bin for three years now, have never got any decent compost. I build as instructed, initially the temperature soars, but drops to ambient within a couple of weeks. I try everything, but end up with a soggy smelly mess, despite putting in loads of shredded office paper and cardboard. Has anyone any tips?


          • #7
            Like many I have had my hotbin for over 3 years and I will say, I will persevere.... because I guess the science is correct, however I am not a scientist and so have NEVER been able to get a nice crumbly compost from it.... never... still as I say, I will continue, fill it, get the temp up, mix it around, add all the stuff you are supposed to and hey presto.... NOT... still on we go... and as for launching a plinth, thank you - I have stood mine on plinth of bricks for about 2 years, pretty obvious really....


            • #8
              Hi everyone. New to the forum but we've had our hotbin a couple of months now. Initial fill worked quite well and we got the bin up to about 40 degrees in less than 2 weeks. Since then, it's stagnated at about 30. It gets hot on hot days, but that's not internally generated heat so if it's cooler the next day the temp drops back again. Our bin was producing quite a lot of leachate so it was obviously too wet. A couple of weeks ago I emptied the whole thing out and mixed it up with a good ratio of shredded paper/card and bulking agent. Put it all back in and fed it a couple of times a week. I avoided putting grass in it because I thought that would make it too wet. Seems fresh grass might be a good heat accelerator so I'll stick some in the next cut. Bottom line is that like many I'm following the instructions and guidelines to the letter and am frustrated by the lack of heat. Our bin is about 3/4 full and I now empty about a cupful of leachate a day and give the top layer a stir. I tend to get more leachate the day after feeding but that drops markedly the next day. Perseverance seems to be the name of the game so we'll keep going. Despite the frustration I find the whole process quite therapeutic, especially sitting shredding paper/card with a cuppa.


              • #9
                I managed to get into a pretty effective routine with my hotbin last year, and I was "hotbinning" as I call it at 50 degrees most of the time. But using the same trusted method has definatley been affected by the cold weather. I know the rule book says we should be able to get our bins up to temp even in the winter, but I beg to differ. I'm using the same bulking agent/ paper/ kitchen waste,and putting a kickstart bottle in every fill, but I'm ticking along at 25 degrees, which is warm , but not enough I expect to create compost of any use. I've heard that some are happy for this to continue during the cold months, but I do feel that on that grand opening day , which by my reckoning should be the end of February (3 months) , I'll be greeted by a mass of gloop.


                • #10
                  I've had no issues keeping my Hotbin hot through the winter months, even with hard frosts, so it can be done. It did get cool after a couple of years of continuous use and recently I had to tip out all the contents and hose the bin down to remove the built-up gunk that had got just about everywhere that would allow air to flow. Once I put the still-steaming pile back in, it quickly got to 75 degrees C. So airflow was the issue.

                  The things I've learned.

                  The hot bin needs to be cleaned from time to time. Pay attention to the air filter in the lid, mine was coated with a jelly-like gloop and I'm certain no air was getting through it.
                  If you are getting a lot of liquid its a sign the bin isn't hot - the hotter the bin, the less liquid you get
                  You're probably not using enough bulking agent
                  If you're adding leaves, shred them with the mower first - they can create a layer that stops airflow
                  Don't be afraid to stick a fork in your bin and turn it a bit
                  The hot bins are flow-through - regularly empty small amounts of compost from the bottom. If your bin is full, the bottom can get very compact and affect airflow.
                  Liquid from the top flows to the bottom - physics that can't be avoided, so the compost at the bottom will always be wet. When you take it out, let it dry. I put mine in my Dalek composter. It has to cure and it will come out as good quality compost in the end.