Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Hotbin 3 years on...

The Hotbin
I've had my Hotbin since 2012 and blogged about it a year later to say how I was finding it and got some great advice from the guys at Hotbin which really helped keep it functioning well.

Recently Hotbin have started up a forum for users to get hints & tips, ask general questions and get experience and h
elp from others and I can honestly say it has been a bit of an eye opener for me and I've picked up a few things well worth sharing.

For the whole of this year I have been struggling to get the temperature above 50C with occasional peaks of 55C on hot days, a far cry from the 60-65C I can normally get during the summer months.

Well thanks to the forum I heard that the air holes at the bottom can become blocked which seriously impedes the flow of air and therefore stops the bin from reaching the temperatures it is capable of.

I empty my normal compost bins twice a year and decided to empty the Hotbin as well and give it a good clean, which other than the lid is not really something I've bothered with beforehand.  So (and thanks to the forum for this tip as well) I removed the top layer of uncomposted waste  and laid it on some cardboard for adding back later.  This waste was hot and VERY smelly!  The reason for doing this was so that when I emptied the compost from the bottom of the bin the fresher stuff didn't slip down and mix with the ready stuff still stuck at the back.

The compost at the bottom of the bin wasn't quite ready as it was quite compacted but it was good enough to go in my normal compost bins for ageing.  I've done this before and come next March this stuff will be finished and ready for mulching my plants so it's all good.

And sure enough, once the bin was empty and I started to clean it the air holes at the bottom were completely blocked.  While trying to sort them out I noticed that the very bottom could be removed and cleaned separately. That will teach me to read the instructions!  

This has not been cleaned like this since I got it in 2012 so I'm sure it will make a difference, especially when you see what was underneath the tray!

That brown sludge is exactly that, almost solid sludge stopping air from coming in from the grill.  I removed it with a trowel and gave the whole thing a good wash with the hose pipe before putting everything back together and adding a layer of bark and the previously removed top layer back in.

The bin is now less than a quarter full and the temperature 2 hours later was already showing at 50C from the thermometer in the lid. I've heard it said that the lid thermometer often shows as 10C less than the actual waste but I wasn't adding the other thermometer as it was too far down and I didn't fancy falling in!

Tip of the day: Do not clean a Hotbin with a high powered hosepipe while you have washing on the line - it does not make you a popular husband :)  


Unknown said...

I have been reading through your composting posts and just wondered after 3 years of working with the hotbin would you recommend buying one ? and over the 3 years has your compost inproved ?

Simon Sherlock said...

It's a very good question Steve, and not one that's easy to answer! When running well it is brilliant and it's fantastic that you can compost items of food that you wouldn't normally dare safe in the knowledge that you won't end up being infested with vermin.

But, throughout the winter months it is very hard to keep it going at a decent temperature and mine is currently at about 20-25C.

I also do not like the resultant compost that much; because of the bark chips it is course and always has an unfinished feel to it so I mix it up with my normal compost and leave another 6 months. Emptying it is also a right pain (and smelly when it hasn't been getting hot enough); you have good (well goodish) compost at the bottom but the top always slips down and you end up with the uncomposted stuff mixing in. Adding it back later doesn't do anything to help with the temperatures so I usually add that to my normal bins as well (and now therefore empty them all at the same time so I have room for the Hotbin stuff that isn't yet ready to go out).

I think for the Spring & Summer months it is a godsend but during the winter I have started using Bokashi again, as it can be added to my normal bins once done and breaks down to nothing very quickly, resulting in a smoother compost more easily added to beds and for top-dressing etc. So I am still using it but a lot less during the winter as I will just be another smelly job to do come Spring.