Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Indoor Automatic Composting Systems Work


Nuts and Bolts of Automatic Indoor Composters

Getting a traditional outdoor composting system to run efficiently at home can be a tricky process. You have to consider the initial construction of a compost, figure out how to keep the ingredients balanced, make sure piles are correctly cultivated and be aware of climate conditions, just to name a few. That's why automatic indoor composting systems were developed.

First things first: Let's take a look at the pieces involved a standard automatic indoor composting system and how they work together. Most automatic indoor composters are made up of the following key components:

  • Hopper -- the first "holding area" for added wastes before depositing materials into subsequent chambers below
  • Motorized mixing wand -- turns mixture continuously
  • Built-in heater -- keeps mixture at optimal temperatures, which helps accelerate the speed of the composting
  • Air pump -- draws in oxygen flow to "feed" microorganisms in soil
  • Carbon filter -- helps to absorb odors from waste
  • Cure tray -- collects fertilizer produced from composting process
  • Drip tray -- collects any excess liquid

To operate a unit, you should first deposit the wastes into the machine, which usually involves just lifting a hinged lid at the top. Depending on what type of unit you use, you also might need to add regular soil and sawdust pellets, along with a small amount of baking soda, which is often recommended to help balance acidity levels.

Wastes are then dropped into a preliminary internal chamber that takes care of heating, mixing, and aeration. The fertilizer that results is then deposited through a second chamber into a cure tray that can easily slide out. Most automated models also feature a control panel on the front that allows users to adjust the settings.

The cycle generally takes 10-14 days to complete. This is significantly faster than most outdoor home methods, which can take months or even years to complete. But the overall output from indoor systems is smaller than those outdoors (cure trays will hold up to about 5 pounds of waste before needing to be cleared).

Now that you understand the basic parts involved in an automatic indoor composter, read on for some pros and cons to decide whether a system might be right for you.


More to Explore