James has been running the HOTBIN for over a year now and this is what he has to say;
“We’d started cold composting with the usual local authority supplied and subsidised ‘Dalek’ bin. This had done us well for a few years – it worked slowly but the whole idea for us starting to compost was to do something useful with our garden and food waste and being able to put the waste somewhere and eventually get something useful out of it was appealing.
The Dalek sat right down the end of the garden, and with infrequent visits and a ready supply of veg peelings made it ideal for a rat, so that was eventually the end of that bin. We’d got used to collecting all our veg peelings and putting them back in to our waste bin seemed the wrong thing to do so we started looking around for alternatives.
Wormeries looked interesting but a bit too ‘delicate’ and Green Joanna type bins looked like they’d do the job but again I’d be worried about rats. I came across the HotBin on the web and after reading through the extensive info on the website decided that I’d give it a go.
Yes, it’s relatively expensive for a compost bin but if it did what the website said it would do then it would be worth it.
The added appeal of being able to site the bin close to the house and its compact dimensions sealed the deal. My only worry was whether we’d be able to keep it fed well enough as we are a two person family (although a solution to that is explained on the website). In the end we’ve had enough waste – we have more than enough from the garden during the summer and the guys in my office contribute fruit peelings to a caddy I keep near my desk so that’s about a litre a day so that plus our own food waste keeps us going through the winter when garden waste is minimal.
A few days later the bin arrived and was setup. The middle of a very cold January was not the best time to srart hot composting but after following the instructions, a couple of goes with the hot start bottle and a quick mow of the lawn to give me some grass cuttings, things started to happen and the temperature crept up and it was off.
3 months later I took out my first batch of compost, half of which went back in to be mixed with the top layer for another go, the other half went on the garden – pretty good for the first batch. So far so good. So how have I found it over the year so far.
Firstly, it’s very easy to use. The HotBin is quite forgiving on what you put into it. In the end composting is just nature at work – as long as you have a good mix of materials (not too wet, not too dry), allow a good oxygen supply, and slow the heatloss you can continually hot compost – the design of the HotBin makes it very hard to get this wrong and if you do it’s very easy to put right. You soon get the hang of getting the mix ‘right’ though.
Ours has everthing from garden waste (grass, prunings, weeds) to vegetable / fruit waste (banana skin, orange peel, veg peelings. Tea bags and coffee grounds) to cooked food waste (plate scrapings, small bones) and this keeps the bin at anywhere between 40-70’c (as measured in the top 5 cms of the pile). I tend to feed the bin every 4 days with a 9 litre caddy that all our food waste goes into for temporary storage (the Garland 9 litre caddys are excellent – they keep cool stored in our garage and have little charcol filters in the lids so no smell or other problems).
I have two of these so usually as one is emptied the other is already half full. I also keep a couple of storage boxes in the garage containing shredded paper and corrugated cardboard (Amazon and Dominos pizza boxes cut up are good for this). As per Tonys instructions, two handfuls of shredded paper added to an empty caddy add some useful dry material and stop smelly, moldy waste building up in the bottom of the caddy.
When I add the food waste, I add 2-3 handfulls of composted wood chip and mix the wood chip and new waste into the top layer in the bin and that is it. Every 3 months or so I open up the hatch and take out the bottom layer of compost, give the little air inlet grille a clean and that is it.
In my bin, the bottom layer is always full of worms, quite happily living in the cooler lower layers even though it’s a steamy 50-60’c at the top. I’m no gardening expert but the compost it produces smells sweet and earthy, is well rotted. We mulch it into our flower beds and since we’ve been putting the HotBin compost onto the beds, we’ve noticed quite a difference in the plants. Not bad from waste we’d have just thrown away.
In operation the bin is pretty unobstrusive and just gets on with its job with very little user intervention needed. It does produce a small amount of leachate from the air inlet at the base which is easily washed away (the bin sits on a concrete slab on our patio) and the only sign externally that it is working is a steam coming from the air valve. It produces a slight odour (I’m not using the bio filter bag at present as an experiment) but the smell produced is a bit like warm yeast – not upleasant at all and only really noticeable on a very still day.
In the end it’s a biological process and the HotBin does a very good job of packaging this in a user friendly, easy to use way. I must admit to being fascinated by the whole process – especially the heat that is being produced by the bacteria in action and this has led to my HotBin gaining remote temperature monitoring via my home network.
Instead of nipping outside in the rain to have a quick peek at the long stem thermometer in the bin, I can check on the process on my iPad from the comfort of my sofa and also from anywhere in the world via a web browser – handy when on holiday – HotBin temperature checking can become a bit of an obsession!
So what’s not been so good ? Well remarkably little over the year it’s been in use. I did have a problem early on with an intruder in the pre cam strap days. I’d emptied the bottom layer and taken a bit too much material out which meant some of the un composted upper layer moved down near the hatch. When I put the hatch back on, a small gap remained which was enough to let warm air out and with it a nice attrative smell. Overnight a rat chewed its way in between the hatch and the bin body.
With a bit of guidance from Tony, I was able to repair the small hole and with the addition of cam straps, the hatch panel is nice and tight against the body of the bin and unwanted visitors haven’t been a problem since. I’ve had a couple of times when I’ve added waste that is perhaps too wet and slowed the process – again this is an easy fix, mixing in a few handfulls of chopped cardboard into the top layer soon restores performance.
The only other problem I’ve had is a stalled bin and this turned out to be the bottom layer which I’d left in too long over the winter period becoming over compressed and too wet – sluggish performance and lots of worms on the upper internal walls were a sign that things weren’t right with the base layer. A quick clear out of the base layer and all is well and I’m back in the hot zone again. As I write this a quick check on my HotBin via the internet shows that although the outside air temperature is 5.4’C, the waste I added 3 days ago is happily composting away inside the bin at 56.9’C. Fantastic!
So to conclude. For me, the HotBin has proved to be a great buy. We throw away no food related waste (and all our paper shreddings are used too) – it can all go in the HotBin.
A quick calculation based on me feeding it every 4 days (+ garden waste) shows that over the last year I’ve composted over 900 litres of food and garden waste. It’s proved durable, easy to use and for me a fascinating way to see nature at work on stuff I’d have just thrown away. It produces (as far as we can tell with the results in our garden) good quality compost. It does take a bit more effort but the results are worth it. I had a quick google about yesterday and there are some very costly domestic solutions out there including indoor composters (would you really want to compost indoors ?) or other fast composters which require power etc.
Compared to these the HotBin is a bargain. It works in all weathers and continues to stay in the hot zone even during long periods of cold weather. It really does do what it says on the bin. Overall an excellent product”.
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