Compost Tumbler Not Getting Hot? 15 Easy to Solve Problems

Do you have a compost tumbler at home? Is it working effectively, or are you experiencing problems with your compost not heating sufficiently? If your compost tumbler is not reaching the necessary heat level, this article discusses 15 potential reasons why it might not be generating enough heat.

There are many factors why a compost tumbler does not get hot, due to the inappropriate amounts of moisture, air, nitrogen, carbon, and microbial life. Altering the ratios of each of these components can significantly improve your results.

One of the main reasons for a compost tumbler not warming up could be its potential size and design. In that case, I wrote an article that goes through 10 of the best compost tumblers, which explains all the features and benefits of each and makes a top three recommendations. Check It Out Here!

Having owned a compost tumbler myself, I found that not only was it difficult to get the heat up, but I also often ended up with a smelly, slimy mess or compost that didn’t break down. If this is your experience, read on as I provide 15 reasons why your compost tumbler is not heating up at home.

1. Lack of Insulation on your Compost Tumbler / Insulated Compost Bin

Your compost tumbler fails to get to the desired heat, probably due to a poorly insulated compost bin. Proper insulation promotes the efficiency of the compost bins, thus increasing performance. In this case, performance can only improve by fitting an insulated, new, and effective compost tumbler.

Another reason your rotary compost tumbler fails to generate compost heat is a poorly insulated compost tumbler with thin tumbler walls. This design sees a lot of heat escaping, thus straining the compost and it cannot heat efficiently. Such a phenomenon is common mainly during the winter with low outdoor temperatures.

2. Adding Large Material to the Compost Tumbler

If your compost contains large materials that have not been cut, this might be why your rotary compost tumbler heat fails to climb. To improve performance, you should check if the tumbler’s material has been ground, chopped, or shredded into smaller particles.

Breaking the matter into smaller particles is vital in increasing the surface area to allow microbes to break the waste quickly. Microbial activities intensify when the availability of material for feeding by bacteria is high due to composting.

3. Ensuring The Correct Starting Mix on your Compost Tumbler

When using a compost tumbler, it is necessary to assess the starting mix to ensure it has the correct matter sizes. Lack of starting material optimization is probable that your rotary compost tumbler fails to heat.

To successfully get your compost tumbler warm, You need to ensure that you have the right balance of green and brown materials, they are all shredded to be small as possible and have many different ingredients to produce higher-quality compost.

4. Incorrect Moisture Levels on your Compost Tumbler

Have you ever thought about checking the moisture levels of your compost tumbler? There is a significant correlation between the moisture levels in the compost tumbler and the material therein. If the correlation is far apart, this can be an apparent reason why the rotary compost bin does not get hot.

If you never have, you should consider doing it occasionally. The aim is to determine how much dry or wet the mixture is to establish the correct ratio for starting the home composition. Green materials in the tumbler generate nitrogen, while brown ones produce carbon.

Little green matter in the tumbler makes the pile overly wet and leaks moisture. On the other hand, if the brown materials are more, the compost pile will be dry. Decomposition occurs in cooler temperatures and slowly under high carbon material.

5. Type of Compost Tumbler Material Incorrect to Create Heat

The compost tumbler’s content might be why your rotary compost bin is not getting hot. While some materials break down easily and faster, others consume relatively more time. For instance, requiring more time to decompose, microbes face the difficult task of splitting the materials in the composting process.

The subsequent effect in this scenario is that your rotary compost bin will not get hot, and the pile will heat slowly.

6. Absence of an Accelerator Can Stop Your Compost Tumbler Warm

Your rotary compost bin is not getting hot due to lacking a compost accelerator. To increase efficiency and ensure your compost tumbler does get hot, you should complement the container full of a material mix with a compost accelerator. The primary objective of having an accelerator in the bin material is to intensify microbial actions in the dung.

Accelerators can be purchased or can even be from ingredients you already possess. Add part of a premade compost from an earlier batch, worm castings, garden soil, urine, or high-nitrogen teas to start the process.

Information is like compost; It does no good unless you spread it around!

Eliot Colman

7. Ensure It Is Turned Enough For Good Aeration To Get a Compost Tumbler Hot

Pile and any other compost tumbler material require proper handling by rotating the tumbler. However, if this is carried out inappropriately, it can be the reason your rotary compost bin is not getting hot.

Whereas you should ensure you regularly turn your pile to ensure circulation of oxygen, you risk destroying the delicate bacterial web forming fully.

The consequence is that the compost tumbler experiences dissipation besides hampering microbial activities. It would be best to use a compost thermometer for hot composting to avoid the risks of the rotary tumbler failing to attain maximum temps.

8. Compost Tumbler Heat depends on Selecting The Right Location

Your rotary tumbler is not heating because you have your tumbler at an undesirable location. Finding a better area to maximize the compost tumbler and enhance its performance would be best. For instance, you should place the tumbler with adequate access to the sun.

Typically, the external temperature of the compost tumbler significantly affects how much a compost gets hot. That is why it is easier to realize hot composting during summer than winter. It would be best if you also positioned the compost tumbler away from the direction of the wind to ensure it preserves temperature and insulates the bin.

9. Adding Too Much Nitrogen To The Compost Tumbler

Your compost tumbler’s pile can warm up faster if the inside conditions have high nitrogen content. If the nitrogen-to-carbon ratio is suitable, your compost tumbler will get hot faster.

The per volume ratio of nitrogen to carbon, greens to browns, should be one against two.

The green component in the compost tumbler feeds microorganisms. Balancing the ratios well ensure that microorganism and bacteria obtain the best conditions to function in the tumbler to generate compost.

10. Adding The Wrong Ingredients To The Tumbler

When the wrong materials are added to a composter, the success rate of its heating is significantly less. Putting cooked foods such as chunks of pork, beef, and chicken meat makes it hard to break down and doesn’t help the heating process. However, shredding this ingredient into tiny portions will significantly help the breakdown.

Naturally, chunky components will take longer to compost in a compost tumbler. Therefore, your rotary compost bin does not get hot depending on the portions of the ingredients.

11. Absence of Enough Nitrogen in your Compost Tumbler

Usually, it is a difficult task to add greens into the tumbler as high-nitrogen overloads. If your compost tumbler fails to increase, then it is highly likely that the nitrogen content inside is low.

To solve this challenge, add greens to increase the nitrogen levels inside the compost tumbler. If the compost starts smelling and becomes slimy, that indicates that the added greens are too many.

Mixing grass clippings, kitchen waste, and woody material is the best combination because they will easily compact and wet to curb airflow. Air pockets develop when you use different materials in the compost tumbler. To prevent your compost tumbler from failing to heat, dump stalks, twigs, hay, and stalks. A nitrogen compost tumbler is packed with greens but still balanced with browns

12. Using Old Compost Batches with your Tumbler

Efforts of decomposing old compost batches previously put in a pile can make your tumbler fail to get hot. The old batches could have lost their entire heating-up capacity. However, the other probable cause of your rotary compost bin not getting hot relies on messed proportions.

This challenge stands regardless of whether you use new batches. Decomposing old matter without a precise material ratio makes it difficult to get accurate results; therefore, your compost tumbler fails to work.

13. Too Dry or Too Wet Compost Materials

Your rotary compost bin is not getting hot because the compost material is either too dry or wet. It makes it impossible for the compost to get hot. When the pile is too wet, and the air inside the tumbler is too low, then the compost will become too wet.

Drying it requires removing the entire compost content for spreading. Drying compost material happens if brown material is too much while water is not enough. The compost tumbler’s moisture troubleshooting requires you to make the compost texture spongy by adding more water or fresh animal manure to the tumbler.

14. Lack of Enough Oxygen in your Compost Tumbler

The absence of adequate oxygen in your compost pile can make your rotary compost bin not get hot. Lack of enough oxygen in the tumbler starves the microbes, making breaking down the organic material in a pile difficult.

Despite the limited air condition in the tumbler, decomposition can still progress even at a slower speed. Typically, anaerobic microbes will slowly continue decomposing the pile. When the tumbler’s oxygen level is low, the tumbler will get hot slowly, reducing the pile smell and the temperatures.

According to the University of Georgia, microbes require enough oxygen to crumble carbon-based waste material efficiently.

15. Absence of Microbes

Your rotary compost bin not getting hot can be due to the lack of microbes in the tumbler. Apart from performing the decomposition function in the tumbler, microbes also help in pile heating. Heat is produced after the microbes decompose the organic material, making the tumbler hot.

To ensure enough microbes are in the tumbler, mix ordinary garden soil with the pile. Microbes are always found in the ground, meaning the composition process will hasten. -Understanding how microbes populate your compost.

The University of Missouri establishes that heating up occurs between one and four weeks when all the compost tumbler and pile conditions are correct.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I increase the heat in my compost tumbler?

To increase the heat in your compost tumbler, You may have to adjust many ingredients, such as

1. Adding or reducing nitrogen
2. Adding or reducing moisture
3. Adding or reducing carbon
4. Adding or reducing Air
5. Adding or reducing microbial life

What preventive measures can I use when working with composts?

Preventive measures you can take while working with composts, such:

1. Wear dry and breathable gloves
2. Wear gardening boots
3. Wear dust masks
4. Wash your hands after working
5. Seek medical attention if you develop a severe cough or skin infection

What are the materials I can put on my compost tumbler?

Here are some ingredients you can put into your compost tumbler:

1. Fruit scraps
2. Vegetable scraps
3. Coffee grounds
4. Eggshells
5. Plant clippings
6. Dry leaves
7. Finely chopped wood chips
8. Shredded newspaper
9. Straw
10 Sawdust

How to choose the right size for my compost tumbler?

Having a compost tumbler means having a backyard with ample room to put it in. If you are just composting kitchen waste, a tumbler with a size of 10 cubic feet or smaller is fine, but if you are composting kitchen and yard waste, a tumbler bigger than ten cubic feet is necessary.

What materials can I use to insulate my compost tumbler?

Insulating your compost tumbler to keep the heat is vital, especially in winter. You can use the materials below:

1. Styrofoam
2. Dark Colored Tarp
3. Bubble Wrap
4. Leaves and Straw
5. Cardboards

Other Forms Of Composting Compared to Compost Tumblers

There are other forms of composting other than compost tumblers that are also perfect for making compost at home, such as:


If you are an avid gardener having a compost tumbler is a fantastic way to create your organic compost using your waste, it helps decompose waste quickly. It is a cheaper alternative to compost bought from stores.

If you are having trouble getting your compost tumbler hot, understanding different conditions and determining factors that affect the heat generation on your compost tumbler is a must.

I hope this article has answered that question for you. To learn more about composting or other gardening tasks, consider subscribing below or entering a search term in the search bar above for another article.

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