How To Heat Compost (Explained for Beginners)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Heating a compost does not involve lighting the compost on fire, but it eliminates pathogens.

This phenomenon occurs as the compost pile heats up.

To produce the necessary heat for hot composting, the carbon and nitrogen components of the pile must be properly managed.

Using a heated pile, the composting process can take as little as two weeks; however, composting might take as long as three months.

Maintaining regular pile quality checks and performing frequent maintenance will help speed up the process.

How To Heat Compost?

How To Heat Compost

In compost, the replication of bacteria produces heat.

When there is a great deal of bacterial activity, the compost heats up.

Therefore, to generate heat, you must guarantee that your compost pile offers excellent conditions for bacterial growth.

All the regular composting guidelines apply, but there are a few additional things you can do to speed up the heating process.

Using the following strategies, your compost pile should heat up in days.

  • Mix-Up, The Pile

A nice turn can go a long way in reviving a stale stack.

Many comparable materials, such as grass clippings or sawdust, might mat and prevent oxygen from circulating if introduced all at once.

Compost piles can be heated up by turning the mound, which will mix everything you.

  • Increase The Nitrogen Percentage

Compost piles can’t function without nitrogen. Bacteria use it as a source of energy, and it enters the compost through “green” elements.

Green materials include grass clippings, manure, vegetable leftovers, and even coffee grounds.

A nasty compost can be created if you don’t mix these with ‘brown’ components properly.

It’s widely acknowledged that a ratio of three browns to one green is good. Try adding more nitrogen-rich material to your compost if it’s taking a long time to heat up.

If you do this, be careful to turn the pile to distribute the material evenly.

Nitrogen is rich in blood, bone, urea, and corn gluten meals if you don’t want to overfill your compost bin with excess greens.

  • Adjust The Moisture Levels​

Moisture levels in compost piles must be just right for them to decompose. The ideal pile’s texture should be similar to a wet sponge.

You shouldn’t be able to get much water out of a small amount of it, and it shouldn’t collapse.

  • Increase The Size Of The Pile

TGettinghot compost with any size pile makes more room for error due to the greater space available.

Also, the larger the core, which is always the hottest part, the more bacteria may grow and generate heat.

Make sure to add the proper amount of brown and green materials while boosting your resources, or you could have a new problem.

With a larger pile, rotation is more critical to ensure that the middle of the pile gets the oxygen it needs.

  • Incorporate A Few More Bacteria Into The Mix.​

Consider adding soil or compost starter to your compost to boost your compost. Soil and compost starters contain microorganisms for composting and accelerate the process.

Compost starter is superior to regular soil because it contains far more microorganisms.

As a compost starter, finished compost from a different batch of compost can also be used.

Also, if there are any partially decomposed objects left over after screening your compost, such as avocado pits, you can use these to inoculate your next batch.

  • Expose The Compost Bin To The Sun

The ambient air temperature might influence your compost’s heat output. By putting your trash in direct sunlight, you’ll be able to keep it warmer longer.

Just keep an eye out for high levels of moisture in your trash.

Here is an article I wrote on where to place compost bins

How Long Does It Take For Compost To Heat Up?

For a hot pile to heat up, it must contain enough high-nitrogen materials. Therefore, it is recommended that the carbon-to-nitrogen volume ratio be 2:1.

After a few days or even a week, the pile will have reached the ideal temperature of 141°F to 155°F (weed seeds and disease pathogens die at this temperature) if it was created appropriately.

Keep an eye on the temperature of the compost with a compost thermometer.

When the temperature begins to fall or reaches more than 160 degrees Fahrenheit, turn the pile over and add water to the mixture. Repeat this multiple times.

What’s The Benefit Of Heating Compost?

Compost piles need heat to break down organic matter. The ideal decomposition temperature ranges from 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Compost can be deemed hot if the temperature exceeds around 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the pile reaches this temperature, it will have killed off most of the weeds, bugs, seeds, and hazardous pathogens.

Therefore, if you’re composting human feces, we strongly suggest using the hot composting method instead of the cold.

It is possible to speed up the composting process by increasing the temperature to a point where the microorganisms in the compost are more active.

If you wish to make compost tea, a high concentration of bacteria is essential.

In contrast to cold composting, where complete decomposition can take years if not properly managed, hot composting can break down in weeks (typically months).

Also check out this article I wrote on is composting worth it

Tips For Maintaining The Heat

There are a few things you should keep in mind regarding temperature changes.

First, temperatures will fluctuate as the population of bacteria increases and decreases.

Composters typically aim for a few temperature rises over a few months to get the best results.

You may extend the life of your fire by following these tips.

  • Compost Should Be Turned Regularly.

Temperatures may be maintained easily with this method.

However, in order to improve the general temperature of the pile, it is recommended that the pile be turned using a pitchfork or compost aerator.

In addition, it ensures that the microorganisms have plenty of oxygen to thrive.

  • Purchasing A Thermometer With A Long Stem Will Come In Handy.

With a compost thermometer, you’ll be able to keep track of your compost’s temperature and identify when it starts to drop.

If you suspect a larger issue, you’ll be able to use this information to determine the best time to turn your compost pile and restart the heating process.

If the pile becomes too hot (over 160 degrees Fahrenheit), the helpful bacteria will be wiped out, preventing decomposition.

How To Heat Up Compost In Winter?

Your compost can still achieve high temperatures during the colder months following the rules above.

This heat, however, will be extinguished more quickly. As a result, keeping compost piles warm throughout the winter can be challenging.

  • Insulate

Your compost pile will stay warm if you add more brown materials such as straw, sawdust, and dried leaves to the pile.

The pile can be protected from wind and rain by placing it in a sheltered area or covering it with a tarp.

Consider an insulting compost container if you live in a frigid area. 

  • Increase The Size Of Your Pile.

Having a larger pile will be especially beneficial in the winter because it helps retain heat.

  • Raise The Compost From The Ground

Compost piles can become wet in the winter due to the moisture they take from the ground.


Thus, you now know how to heat compost rapidly.

So if you’re having a problem with your compost, try following the appropriate guideline for better results.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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