How Indoor Automatic Composting Systems Work

Indoor Composting Costs

Is an automated indoor composting system worth the investment? To get started, a potential user can expect an initial investment of $300 to $400 for a base unit. This is slightly less than the cost of some other household appliances, such as a lower-end dishwasher, but it's still a bit steeper than what you'd spend on a blender or toaster oven.

In addition to the initial cost and setup, you also need to consider the energy costs. You can expect to add about 5 kwh (kilowatt hours) per month to your energy bill. Depending on your local rates, this should only set you back about 50 cents [source: Nature Mill].

It's also important to point out that there are indeed cheaper indoor alternatives. One involves anaerobic composting, which involves a fermentation process aided by the use of a wheat bran-based powder. These types of units are also about the size of a wastebasket and run around $60-$80. The trade off is you lose the automation process, and therefore the maintenance requirements and odor potential are much higher [source: Foley].

Another indoor method centers on vermicomposting, which uses worms to break down the materials -- and that revelation alone might be enough to ward a person off. If worms don't make you squeamish (and keep in mind, we're talking about hundreds to thousands of them in one unit), this system costs about half of what an automated unit might cost, but offers little to no odor protection. You also face the risk of worms escaping from the unit [source: Foley].

So, if you want to take a step into the composting world, can afford the initial costs, and are prepared to put up with a few of the drawbacks, then adding an automatic indoor unit to your household might be the way to go. With more easy-to-use models now on the market, along with the technological advances developed to help keep odors and noises to a minimum, these machines offer an efficient way to help protect and improve the environment.

Learn even more about composting at home and elsewhere by visiting the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Foley, Michele. "Indoor Composting Systems: Garbage In, Garden Out." CHOW. (12/14/2009.)
  • Free Patents Online. "Composting Systems and Methods." (12/14/2009.)
  • Nature Mill. "How It Works." (12/14/2009.)
  • Nature Mill. "XE Model Instruction Manual." (12/14/2009.)
  • Patent Storm. "US Patent 5187097 - Composting system and composting method." (12/14/2009.)
  • Spivey, Angela. "Talking Trash." NC State Magazine (Alumni Magazine). (12/14/2009.)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Create Your Own Compost Pile (12/14/2009.)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2008." (12/14/2009.)