How easy is the system to use and maintain?

Discouraged? Never!  Hassle?  The answer ranges from "not at all" to "Not comparatively" !   It depends how you design and set up your system, and how you feed it,  but the short answer is "it is easier to run and keep running a home biogas system than it is to keep doing things the way you were doing them before."

For me, using home biogas for more than 5 years, there is really only one minor hassle -- bringing the biogas stove into the kitchen each time I want to use it and then going on the porch to turn on the gas.  It takes me all of 3 minutes. What a hassle! :) And that is simply because when we remodelled the apartment we didn't think to put a hole for the gas pipe to the kitchen. We plumbed the kitchen sink and insinkerator food waste grinder to a sump pump under the bathtub because we wanted to use the greywater in the garden -- this was in 2008 before we knew how easy it was to do home biogas. So we were set for effortlessly getting the feedstock into the digester when we built it on our porch in 2009.  But we didn't antcipate the ease with which we could get our own biogas into the kitchen, because we didn't know that a 1000 liter water tank on the porch could produce enough gas to cook anywhere from a half hour to 2 hours each day.  Had we known we would have made a simple penetration from the porch to the kitchen and put a tube in it that we could connect to the stove  and to the hose going to the digester.

So now getting the digester fed is easy!!  We scrape our plates and dishes into the sink, throw our banana peels and avocado skins and seeds and everything organic into the sink and press a button.  The in-sink food grinder sends it with a trickle of warm water to the sump pump which pumps it into the digester tank automatically.  The overflow (a nutrient rich liquid fertilizer that comes out everytime we put ground up food in) goes automaticaly into a 100 liter storage tank and the overspill from that goes down the drain to the sewer system automatically.  That way we have liquid compost tea to use in  our porch garden and any excess we don't have to think about.

So feeding the system is much much much easier than the old tradition of taking out the garbage!  Now THAT used to be a hassle -- we used to have to throw our sloppy icky plate scrapings and cuttings and food scraps into the garbage can, which gets really stinky and gooky.  When it was full we had to tie the bag and carry it two flights down the stairs and out to the bin by the street (a distance 3 to 4 times as far as simply going on the porch to turn on the gas).  If garbage pickup didn't come, vermin would.  On hot days the garbage would stink up the street. The roar of the garbage truck disturbed our sleep and the fumes from the diesel poisoned our children's lungs.

THAT was indeed a hassle.

Now we never have to take out the garbage.  Our garbage bin fills up with recyclable plastic, metal, glass and paper only.  We can let it sit as long as we want and then take it in a leisurely fashion to the recycling center.  When we have enough we can get cash back.

In apartment buildings in Egypt where we have installed home biogas systems on the roof, many families don't have a food grinder and most don't have a pump to get the food waste to the roof.  In these cases the family has to take the organic garbage up to the roof (usually a flight or two of stairs up) and grind it up and pour it in the digester.  Some people use a blender in the kitchen, others pound it in a mortar and pestle, some chop it with a knife. In Indian cities they usually leave the food waste for a day or too in a bucket of warm water in the sun and when it softens mash it with their fingers before pouring it in.  It all depends on the design of the digester. If it has a wide enough feeding tube, like the Puxin (Chinese) and Flexi (Kenyan) and Hestia (US) systems then you can dump the food waste in unground.  We tend to build systems with 2 inch pipes that are connected to the food grinder so everything can be automatic.  It is a matter of cost and preference.

Either way you slice it (grind it?) the hassle of a non-automated system isn't much greater than taking out the garbage in the first place.  You walk to your digester instead of your garbage bin or your compost pile.  And it is a whole lot easier than composting  (with biogas there is no turning, layering, shoveling or other maintainance that compost aficianados put themselves through to make sure the pile stays aerobic -- biogas is anaerobic, so no worries there! And biogas systems produce a nutrient rich LIQUID fertilizer, so it is much easier to use the end product).

For anybody who composts biogas is a slam dunk, literally, as you just dunk the food waste in the tank and leave it there. Nature does the rest. Folks like me, who have been composting for several decades, and taking out garbage for decades before that, simply don't feel like going to the trouble anymore now that we have home biogas.  We shudder at the thought of having to "deal with" organic residuals and long to be home with our biogas systems when we visit friends who still aren't part of the movement, watching them deal with a stinky garbage bag or hard to maintain compost bin. 

With biogas you can say goodbye to all of that hassle and discomfort.

And if you run the plastic hose from the gas storage of the digester to your kitchen stove in a permanent fashion you've got it made in the shade.  Just turn on the gas when you need it (again depending on the design there will be simple considerations for getting the gas to the stove -- in a floating dome system like the ARTI India system, the gas is under pressure from the floating drum so you don't have to do anything to get it to flow.  Same with the Puxin 4, 6 and 10 cubic meter systems and the Solar CITIES 3 IBC systems or IBC/ARTI hybrids and the Hestia Home Biogas and Eco-gas Israel systems.  For systems where gas storage is in a PVC holding bag or rubber inner tube  or air mattress you need a way to push the gas out of the bag.  Some people put boards or bricks or heavy blankets on the baloon to push the gas out, which is a "hassle" that takes about 60 to 120 seconds of your time.  We use a Chinese biogas pump (they sell for about $60). It is like an aquarium pump.  The only hassle there is that you have to remember to turn it on. It has a switch.  You walk over and press the switch.  That's how tough it is.  Should you be discouraged?


Is it a hassle? Should I be discouraged?