Gerry’s Winter VermBin96

I recently received an email from fellow Ontarian (a person who lives in Ontario, Canada), and long-time RWC follower, Gerry Magill. He wanted to share what he was doing with his new(ish) VermBin96 system – specifically, what he has built to help moderate temperatures during the hot summer and cold winter.

I was so excited by Gerry’s e-mail that I immediately asked him if he’d be ok with me sharing the info here on the site. He happily obliged, and even sent me some photos!

Here is what he had to say in his original message:

Hi Bentley
I have been considering winter vermicomosting. My propery is very small so a trench type of vermicomposting was not a comon sense consideration for me. I had sucess with a VB24 indoors and thought I would like to expand to a VB96 outside in a shed. I live in the Kingston Ontario area so we have some cold winters (not as cold as Northern Ontario) so keeping the bin warm enough was a concern. I watched the posts from Mark and heard the challenges with heat cables to keep the bin warm so I thought I would try something different. I built the VB96 (8′ long, 2′ wide, 2′ deep) and ran 1/2″ PVC piping inside the bin like a radiator.

I purchased a 12 volt solar water pump and hooked it up to a small solar aray.The pump is inside of a small cooler that holds about 3 gallons of water and through the very hot summer we had here added ice to the cooler, and was able to keep the bin at about 75 degrees F all summer long. I have now put an aquarium heater in the cooler and so far this fall (only a few days below 0) I have been able to keep the temps. above 70 degrees F. The aquarium heater is plugged into a 110 volt outlet and I am searching for a 12 volt alternative, to keep the system off the grid. I am excited about the sucess of the system so far.

When Gerry sent me the photos, he provided me with this additional info as well:

The heater is a 1000 watt aquarium heater. As you can see the thermometer is showing 70 degrees F. The pipes in the bin run end to end, are 7 inches apart and 7 inches from the sides and ends of the bin. This gives me 3 runs of piping. I fill the rad from the bottom level which ensures all levels are full before emptying back into the reservoir (cooler). Let me know if I can answer any other questions.

One of the things people often wonder about with the VermBin Series bins is how well they can handle hot/cold extremes. While the (optional) insulation panels CAN certainly help (especially with the larger bins in colder weather) – unfortunately there really is only so much you can expect. Unless of course you take matters into your own hands the way Gerry has!

Thanks VERY much, Gerry, for letting me share this fantastic information! Hopefully you can keep us posted on your progress.

[By the way – In case you are wondering, the Kingston area typically has winters that are more severe than what we experience in Southwestern Ontario, so it will definitely be interesting to see how Gerry makes out!]

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    • Curtis
    • December 10, 2012

    Great set up, very clever. Question: So the pump doesn’t run at night? (I think I see batteries under the cooler, but just checking)

    • Gerry Magill
    • December 10, 2012

    To answer your question Curtis the pump runs 24/7. The pump is 12 volt .6 watt and takes about 2 weeks to drain the batteries. I tested this back in the summer. It is a solar water heating pump and has been pumping non stop since June. The batteries are kept charged by a small 75 watt solar array.

    • Curtis
    • December 12, 2012

    Thanks, that makes sense. I live in California and we have mild winters, but was was thinking about trying out hydroponics but wanted to try solar power.

    • Marty
    • December 13, 2012

    Great setup, really like the use of the PVC piping verse tubing to heat. I have and aquarium pump that I’m thinking to reroute the water to keep the worms warm. ant to make sure the pump is strong enough to continue circulating the water, that would keep the tank and worms happy.

  1. Gerry your setup is pure genius! Can you expand a little on how your solar kit works?
    Those have always been a mystery to me.

    • Gerry
    • December 15, 2012

    Thanks Mark. The solar panels are on the roof of the house, wiring runs to the shed and feed through a charge controller to the batteries. The shorter days now don’t provide enough to quite do the job so about every two weeks I hook up a battery charger overnight to top them up.

    • Gerry
    • January 30, 2013

    A quick update
    We recently went through about a week long deep freeze here and the bin stayed at a comfortable 70 degrees F. The worms seem happy, lots squirming around on top. Even have a bit of a fruit fly (I think) explosion happening as well as other crawlers moving around. I was not sure going into this adventure if it would stand up to the temperatures we saw recently but it appears all is good.

    • Bentley
    • January 31, 2013

    That’s great, Gerry! Thanks for the update!

    • Ben
    • March 12, 2013

    Hey Gerry, if you’re still following the comments, I’d love to hear how it’s gone for you through the long dark period of the winter. I’m far south of you, in Oregon, so I opted for a soil heating cable and it seems to work fine. It’s rarely below 32° F here, and when it was for a few weeks it still seemed to keep things in the upper 60s.

    I’d love to have a solar/water heating setup at some point, so I’d be interested in seeing how the pvc grid went for you. It sounds a lot more efficient, and a lot less likely to sink/tangle in the bin over time!

    • Gerry
    • March 13, 2013

    Hi Ben
    Well we have seen a more severe winter here than we have in a few years. Lots of days well below freezing. The bin has done very well, in fact I have a bit of a fruit fly invasion which started back in mid February so I think if they are happy the conditions in the bin are favorable to the worms which are also doing very well. I am looking forward to spring arriving and it is looking like it is very close. The pvc grid seems to have stood up very good and I am planning to maybe build a 2nd bin and will keep a photo log of the process as it takes shape.
    Thanks for your interest

    • Ben
    • March 13, 2013

    Can’t wait to see the photo log. I’d love to work something like this into my next bin so I don’t have mess around with a soil heating cable!

    • Gerry
    • March 14, 2013

    Ben I will do my best to keep apprised with my progress when I get started

    • Molly
    • September 1, 2020

    Are there schematics available for building this?
    I will soon be moving up to Rochester, NY and the winters get well below freezing there. My plan is to build out a VB96 in our garage with this heating system. I’ve never built anything like this before so I would deeply appreciate any guidance. Thank you.

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