The beautiful thing about heat recovery technology is that it is win/win for everyone. In many cases, local or state agencies and Natural Resource Conservation Services are willing to cover a portion of the cost.
The farms get free heat for hot water, offices, tack rooms, viewing areas, arenas, shops, etc.
Wouldn't it be great if you could turn your horse manure and bedding into free heat for your barn?
Costs related to farm and stable operations continue to increase, some due to escalating fuel costs. You may have already experienced the painful cost increases associated with heating. How about turning your horse manure and bedding into free heat? Plus, you'll have a usable or marketable compost product as the end result.
Composting technology has evolved to a new level, making this concept economically viable.
Heat Recovery from Aerobic Composting
Heat recovery technology has been in use for more than a year in northern Vermont. Soiled bedding from a 1000-calf rearing facility is composted and used to heat a 250-foot-long barn as radiant floor heating. Hot water is channeled through tubes buried in the concrete aisles. When it is -20ºF outdoors, it is a comfortable 40ºF in the barn, making it the perfect temperature for calves and people.
The same can be accomplished for horse facilities. Various systems are in development applicable to small, medium and large-scale livestock, poultry and equine facilities.
How it Works
Aerobically composted materials, when properly managed in volumes of several yards or more, will generate heat in the range of 120-165ºF, for extended periods (several weeks) while decomposition takes place. Reactivation of the heat generation in the composting process occurs every few weeks during the first 30-60 day period as material is moved, which results in aeration. Systematically managing the compost from beginning to end generally takes about 120 days; it is then stockpiled for a few weeks or longer prior to use or sale.
The heat recovery system is based on construction and positioning of a series of PVC pipes in the sub-floor of a composting pad below ground level where tractors or equipment will not hit, crush or damage the pipes. Pipes are protected below the floor level by rigid grates level with the floor. Air channels are left around the pipes so hot air vapor generated by the compost pile can be pulled down, through the pipes and into a collection chamber where the steam makes contact with a series of "isobars" (sealed tubes) that instantly collect and transfer the heat energy. The captured heat is then passed through another series of isobars immersed in a large insulated tank, heating that water.
The resulting hot water can then be used in closed-loop radiant floor heating systems or to heat hot water tanks used for washing, rinsing, etc. In new building design and construction, radiant floor tubes can be incorporated directly into concrete or aisle floors. For larger equine facilities, radiant floor tubes can be incorporated into the base layer of riding rings and arenas, providing radiant heat up and from the footing material.
For smaller horse operations, small-scale systems are under development that will accommodate hot water and space heating needs for smaller areas.
A large facility incorporating a heat recovery system into its composting process can supply all of the facility's needs and generate finished compost that will be of higher quality and value. The compost can then be used on the facility or sold locally to landscapers and regional residents who recognize the benefits and merits of good organic soil material.
Take a look at what your manure handling and related costs are. Look at what you are spending annually for electricity and fuel related to hot water and space heating needs on the property. Odds are it is a significant expense. Investing in heat recovery from compost production may just be the incentive you?ve been waiting for to make some "green changes" on the farm.
Also, many State and Federal programs are in place which can help offset the cost of these systems. This technology qualifies for cost sharing and tax credits in numerous states under both energy conservation and environmental protection programs. Check with your local NRCS, Cooperative Extension and USDA offices.
Josh Nelson is a Master Composter who works with private and public entities consulting on methods to increase recycling efficiency globally. His work focuses on issues relating to agricultural and environmental sustainability. He is a successful inventor and has developed several products for the horse, pet and composting industry. He can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org