Monday, January 25, 2010

Composter Update

A few days ago, I wrote a post about my new NatureMill Indoor composting machine. It had just arrived and I had just set it up. I promised an update after a few days of use. Here are my thoughts so far:
  • The air fan and heater quiets down after a day or so like the instructions say. That's good news, as it was actually vibrating the laminate floor on day one. While it's not mixing, it's very more noisy than the fridge.
  • I'm impressed that it handles meats (chicken, roast beef, pork), egg shells, fish, and even hard root veggie chunks (like the fat ends of carrots) as advertised. Outdoor composters generally can't do that. Within a day or less of adding them, they're not recognizable and do not smell like rotten meat. You can even toss-in raw meat as the machine quickly "cooks" it to 140 degrees as part of the composting process.
  • It doesn't handle thin hard stringy things very well. For example, I added some trimmings from my golden pothos plant. The leaves broke-down, but the vines got tough and wound around the mixing bar. Banana peels and celery, on the other hand, work quite well.
  • The machine is built for a small apartment or condo yet it does require a good regularly-added mix of "green and brown" refuse. Over the past few days, we haven't cooked much and all I've had to feed it was some stale bread. Unfortunately, this made the compost quite dry and increased the odor when opening the chamber. I've found that adding some water helps a little. The instructions actually assume you'll have the opposite problem and tell you how to dry it out.
There are two things I'm not too happy about:

Churning Noise: The machine churns the compost about every 4 hours and the churning motor is quite loud--to the point where it wakes you up in the morning. It could use some additional insulation for sound. For the appearance, I'm not surprised. For the price, I'd expect better. I shouldn't have to turn-up the TV to hear over the sound of it.

Even more annoying is a loud "thunking" noise as it churns. I found that the blade was hitting two small metal tabs each time it made a rotation, straining the motor, and causing the entire metal part of the container to shift and spring-back once it pushed past the obstructions. I emailed the company and they sent me a YouTube video showing that that was proper operation. The tabs, when hit in the opposite direction, cause the chamber to open to the finishing bay. I was advised to keep the hopper at least half-full to deaden the sound and to try brushing the metal tabs with some oil or petroleum jelly.

No offense to the manufacturer, but this is pretty poor design. If something's designed to come into contact only in certain situations, it should not cause such a racket and beat-up on the system when operating in normal mode. There are simple mechanical ways to fix that and it's unnecessary strain on the motor and my ears.

Odor: As advertised, the odor when the machine is closed is non-existent. The filter and rubber gasket on the door do a good job. When the machine is opened to add material, it releases an odor the manufacturer calls, "earthy and sweet." I beg to differ. The odor I'm getting out of mine is a heavy bread-like dirty socks odor. It doesn't quite smell like rotten garbage but it doesn't exactly smell good either. I've found that I need to keep a can of spray air freshener nearby. I'm hoping this has more to do with the mix of refuse than the actual machine, as I've admittedly been baking a lot of bread lately (and filling the machine with leftover stale pieces). I think what I might be getting is a "roasted compost" smell.

Recommendation: In general, the machine runs great and seems to be producing excellent compost. It's great if you don't have the option of an outdoor compost setup. If you wanted to buy one, I wouldn't recommend against it. However, I would recommend placing it on a porch, patio, or in the basement if you can because of the odor and the clunking noises. The cabinet under the sink would be another good location--they even sell a kit to mount it there and automagically open the door for you.

To the manufacturer, I think it's a great product if you could resolve the clunking noise issue and buffer the motor sounds a bit more. These two small changes would make a world of difference. Also, I think your price point is a bit high for what you get. Lower the price a bit and you'd have a hot commodity on your hands.

1 comment:

  1. Did you use a group discount? If not, I just bought one and am looking for 2 or more others to start a group. We have 90 days from date of purchase.


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