Solar for the barn

Sue, RI(Zone 6a)

Has anyone used solar power for their barn? My DH and I are very interested in setting something up for the chicken coop so we can use heatlamps w/out running extension cords out their and watching the meter spin out of control when it's on!
I was hoping the farm stores would start carrying complete pkgs to set-up for small uses but we only have the solar-powered fence chargers.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Hi Sandy,
I don't have solar for the barn (yet)... I don't have a barn (yet), but I've done a little research into what it would take to heat a bucket of water with PV panels, and it's a lot! Because a bucket heater or a water tank heater draws a LOT of watts, it's not even reasonable in my mind. We'll probably go with a small wood stove in the barn or something.

I'm guessing you'd need a pretty big system to run heat lamps, too. Meters spinning out of control are a big sign that you're drawing some major power. There are other old-fashioned ways of heating a brooder (I assume that's what you want heat lamps for), and then the very best... seasonally attuned brooding.

I'd check what your heat lamps draw and then find out how big a system it would take to power them. Any reputable PV merchant should be able to size a system for you.

Good Luck...
Jay

Sue, RI(Zone 6a)

I totally agree with the seasonal brooding. This is the first (and last!) year of having chicks in the fall. There hasn't been a very big push around here for solar which makes it abit frustrating when looking for help or even competitive pricing.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I'll check my books and mags and see what I can find for old timey brooders... it's good to have some heat, even in the spring. I know I've seen some stuff... even kerosene heated incubators.

You might also check in with the poultry forum; I'm sure they've got some great ideas and the experience to back it up!

Also, your local library will have books about how to design a PV solar system. That's where I found the info I needed. I didn't even have to go as far as looking into batteries or inverters or anything once I figured out how many panels it would take to run one tank heater.

Then we got an old wood stove for free and that took care of that problem.
Now we just have to get the barn built! LOL

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Here's what I've come up with so far...

Northern Tool has an 80 watt solar charging kit for $549... no battery or inverter, plus shipping. Just to run a 75 watt bulb? Not for me.

In my old timey stuff... mention of small oil-heated brooders, and coal pots. Put into a contained, well insulated space, this is do-able. A barrier around the heat source would be needed to prevent early bar-b-qued chicken tenders. LOL
The article also mentions "In Maryland, the average operator will have greater success in his brooding if he does not attempt to use this equipment before April first, because of the probability of cold weather when greater heat capacity is needed to keep chicks comfortable..."

I remember seeing somewhere a picture of a brooder in a hoop house in CO that was essentially a heat source in the center of a round pen that was covered and wrapped in reflective, insulating bubble wrap. The sides were only about 18" high, the top was cone shaped and lifted up from the center by a thin rope.

Does that stoke your imagination?

Jay

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

If you check with the Rv supply places they may be able to help you with this, Their units are designed to run better than other units, also you can add on panels as you grow. They also have small heaters.

www.campingworld.com

Clarkson, KY

There is a homemade windmill on the sustainable alternatives forum that might get you there quicker and with less expense -and a homemade solar panel -found the link>>
http://www.mdpub.com/SolarPanel/
Building a chimney out of hardi board and putting that around a more traditional heat source may be a more effective option though -another P&L thread.>> http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/913549/

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

It was suggested on another thread (can't remember which) superinsulating the hen house and then heating rocks!

Also someone was trying to rig a kerosene lamp as a heater, under a bucket of water (warm water for the hens), lamp fenced off from the birds to prevent fires.

Feeling the heat coming out of my ash can this morning, seems like a covered bucket full of coals would do a nice job in a well insulated brood house.

marshville,, NC(Zone 8a)

I just came across this thread so I know my suggestion is late, but....

I've always been amazed at the amount of heat a good compost heap makes....We do not have our chickens yet......but we are planning on facing one side of the brooder house with a compost heap. We will try to angle the house so it has a south facing wall(not the compost wall) and put a couple of 50 gallon barrels of hydrated salts which hold the temperature after it has been direct solar heated & give it off slowly during the night...straw/hay bale storage outside the "open" walls will insulate very well.

Real Goods has a complete line of large and small solar heating apparatus ...fantastic variety of applications & for the small, 1 light, battery charger type unit, it's under $50 (or was)....it's a catalog everyone should see if they are interested in solar......lots of how to books, too.

Foggy

This message was edited Jan 1, 2009 10:13 PM

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Oh, great idea! And recently there was a nice little set-up for a compost heated greenhouse shown in Countryside magazine... but for the life of me, I can't find it again.

Basically, it was a round wire and plastic wrapped pile with 1" tubing coiled through it. That was filled with water and pumped through the greenhouse, under their seedling flats. I think they used a solar pond pump.

We built straw and manure piles in the dead of winter last year, and the temps inside the pile got up to 160 degrees for a couple of days, then over the span of about two weeks the temp slowly decreased to cold. Then we'd turn the pile, it would heat up again, and repeat the cycle. About the 3rd or 4th time, it didn't get as hot, but the more moderate temp seemed to last longer.

I think there's some interesting research to be done on how best to utilize and manage the heat put out by compost.

=0) Jay

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Whooops! My bad. That article on the compost heated greenhouse is in the Sept/Oct issue of Back Home magazine.

Sue, RI(Zone 6a)

Wow! Great info.
One year we had a steer who would lie on top of the pile of compost during the winter. He would chose that over going into the barn most days!

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I got all inspired and we're going to give it a try... just build the pile like she suggests and monitor the temps, how long it stays warm, etc. This next week, if the weather pans out. I'll try and keep folks posted on how things progress.

She actually used a plug in sump pump, but I think a good solar pond pump should work. Anyway, what I'm thinking now, if the temp stays up for weeks like hers did, that next year we'll wrap a plastic drum with tubing, insulate it, and see if it will keep the water in the barrel ice free in the winter. It'd be great not to have to carry buckets of hot water down for the donks in the winter!

Jay

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Check out Jean Pain's compost heater...
http://www.permacultureactivist.net/PeterBane/Jean_Pain.html

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Ooo-Kaaay. That is a big compost pile! After 8 years on this place, we don't have that big a pile. Interesting history, though, and really points to the potential of compost heating. Thanks Darius!

I think the system in Back Woods is based on that work, but much smaller scale. The pile used to heat the 12 x 16 greenhouse is only 5' wide by 4' high. Much more doable around here. In Delaware, her pile temps stayed above 120* from Dec. 20 til at least March 29, just about the span of time we'd need here to avoid carrying water.

I'm trying to figure out how to insulate the 50-gal plastic barrel such that the donkeys wouldn't destroy it. I'm thinking stucco the outside of a sawdust packed box that the barrel would sit inside.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Did a little research on the pond pump idea...
What's being marketed for solar pond pumps don't look like they have enough heft to circulate the water.

I found a marine bilge pump that looks more feasible for about $15-$20. Marine stuff is 12V, so no inverter would be needed.

But to run it, once again we're looking at around $400 what with 20 W panel, battery, and charge controller.

Benefit is there may be enough power left over for a light or two. Have to learn more about solar.

Clarkson, KY

Great thread guys!! I've been sitting here trying to figure out where to set up our 'stercorary'. With a cow on the farm now there is a LOT more to compost and using the energy somehow as a heat source sounds wunderbar!

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

You've definitely got to check out that issue of Back Home. And the site that Darius posted... have you read that?

Clarkson, KY

Started -read a bit and then hit the P&L. I need to though. Thing is, I've been wanting a greenhouse and a stercorary and a solar heater etc for the cow...Seems like a closed loop of water pipe through the pile could be made to circulate with out electric--just by heating/cooling convection...

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I think you'd need some serious height differential... seems like I've read something about that for wood heated hot water home systems. ++scratching head++ But it would be neat if you could do that...

Oh yeah, I do remember.... I think it was like 10' and I'm not set up for anything like that.

Clarkson, KY

Dang. High poo is a bit problematic. But maybe if only the tubing went up that high?...

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

No, the heat is low, the tank is high...

Clarkson, KY

Well it wouldn't have to be a very big tank? That could be affixed to an upper corner of any farm building for support. Stercorary built low or dug in...

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I think it's Lehman's has a wood heated hot water booklet that has the info. With wood heat, you need all sorts of pressure valves and stuff, but doesn't seem like you'd need it with compost heated water...

Clarkson, KY

I was thinking of a closed system anyway, so theoretically the water would just flow...Don't think there were any valves like that in my G'ma's old hwh system...

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Probably near the water heater. There needs to be one to let off steam if the temp gets too high from the wood heat... this is a system with a water jacket in the stove. Otherwise, explosions can occur, apparently. You should see the warnings in this booklet!

But I think the basic idea would work with the compost system, without the danger?

Interesting idea.

We were investigating the idea for a wood heated hot tub.

Clarkson, KY

Here I am heating muck and you're in the hot tub?! It may be there's enough heat to do both and it would be a waste not to, but the idea of a large compost heap my the house appeals not at all...

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

It is not an absolute that your storage tank be 10' higher than the heat source in a convective loop system, but some height is required so the physics of convection work. Thirty years ago there were many plans available for "breadbox" passive solar water heating systems you could cob together at home for a pittance.

However, one advantage of placing a tank higher is increased water pressure at a valve located much lower on the loop.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Ah, ok, so maybe that was for just wood heat? Anyway, that's encouraging and if we figure out the 'recipe' for keeping the heat up all winter, we'll give the convection loop a try. The worst that will happen is it will freeze, and not being under pressure that won't be a huge problem.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Try PEX tubing... won't burst if it freezes. Used in mobile homes for all water supply lines.

Clarkson, KY

Thanks, Darius. I know quite a few people wanting to put in their own heating systems, so this info (well, and any other you may have;-) is great!

Clarkson, KY

That's exactly what I was thinking of---it comes in 300 foot rolls so it should be very easy to configure in a spiral which could then rise out of the compost and fall back down to the beginning of the loop. Find the pinch on rings if you can though. The plastic hand done stuff doesn't last (I think, anyway) and the perfect O crimpers are $100 per pair.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

PEX tubing is cheap (comparatively), but requires a special tool that's about $100 to crimp the joints. One shot deal but remains a useful tool and I couldn't find one to rent. Buying the tool and making repairs in the old stuff myself was far cheaper than hiring a plumber.

I think I paid under $20 for a hundred foot roll of 1/2 inch tubing. It comes color-coded red (hot) and blue (cold), plus white. The original PEX in this house is grey. Also comes in 3/4 inch, different tool... I'd have gone to 3/4" lines if I hadn't been repairing 1/2 inch lines.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Yee-ouch! Glad to know you've got the dough!
Bit steep for me, and I sure don't need 300' for my little project.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Cross-posted!

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Cross-posted, too. =0)

100' is more feasible; I'll have to compare it to black plastic tubing per foot.

Unfortunately the original article doesn't specify what diameter tubing she used. From the pictures, it looks like 1/2" in the pile and 3/4" or 1" under the planting tables (?).

Bugs me when folks don't put in enough info to reproduce the project...

Clarkson, KY

Darius and Jay-- they have cheaper fittings now so that you can bypass the plumber. Rings with a little crimp in them that a pair of pliers will close, or plastic screw on fittings in addition to the original O rings. Sorry I didn't post enough info. The 3/4" would probably be preferable cost-wise as you need less tubing to get the same amount of water warm, and it should maintain temp slightly better. I think 1" would be overkill. We just put radiant flooring in my parents basement and used 1/2" tubing at 12" intervals. The radiant guys said that using 3/4" would have allowed us to space it at 18" but may also give too much heat locally (ie hot and cold spots). FWIW...

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

As what I'm thinking about is a way to keep a horse tank thawed, probably the larger diameter would be best. 3/4 to 1". Less friction as well.

Darius, do you think a differential of 3' is enough for the thermoloop to work? That's about the height of the barrel...

This message was edited Jan 6, 2009 11:17 AM

Clarkson, KY

Was thinking about this again during lunch. How will the horse tank be insulated? With the flooring, the cement holds heat fairly well and it distributes fairly evenly. Are you planning to run the pex(r-whatever) inside the tank or outside. And if outside how will the tank be insulated? I suppose you could almost insulate the tank with the compost if there were a way to keep the two from mixing...

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

J... try a filled 5 gallon pail and a siphon tube at the barrel height and see what you think... I'd guess that without any air in the lines, you'd get a slow loop. A lot will depend on temp. differential, or how fast the heating source functions...

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