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Thread: Experimental Shop Heat (the plan)

  1. #1

    Experimental Shop Heat (the plan)

    Well as many of you know, I have been researching a "massively crazy idea". A thread I started on this very sub-forum that you can find easily and read. In a nut shell I want to use the heat of a compost pile to heat my house and shop.

    Well I have done a lot of online research and I found out, this is not only possible, but a lot of people are doing it. Well okay maybe not a lot, but some are doing it.

    Well this is my plan. In order to test the system this winter, I want to do a trial run and see how it works. I have a small, but well insulated shop that would be awesome if it was heated 24/7, but costs keep me from doing that. My plan is to try using a compost pile to heat that shop. This will allow me to keep costs to a minimum, and yet see if this is even close to feasable.

    So I am going to take haybales and form a square 2 haybales wide, by three haybales long, by two haybales deep. About 6 feet, by 10 feet, by three feet deep. The haybales will help insulate the pile from the cold outside, and help promote decomposition. I will then fill this pile with wood chips (slow decomposition) haylage and corn silage (both fast decomposition) as I own a farm and can get this stuff easily. In the end I will cover the pile up with insulated Styrofoam to keep the heat in.

    As I build the pile up, I will add some black dirt to get the system going, and place black plastic pipe in coils all through the grassy/ corn matter. I will then bring these two pipes into my shop and run one through a circulator, and also through a car radiator. I will then put a box fan behind the radiator to blow the heat into my shop.

    This is a very basic system I know, but I think I can get a good idea if this system will work. Everything will be manualy controlled. No expensive timers, switches or meters. If it gets too hot, I will stop the flow of water by shutting off the pump. If I need more heat, I will turn it on. If nothing else I am out a few bucks and still have a non-heated shop 24/7.

    Any thoughts on my experimental heating system as explained?
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    I'd like to say "Go Get em Travis! "

    One thing I'll point out, if it even sort of works, it will work a LOT better in an inslab setting, as the exchange of heat from the circulator and radiator will be much less efficient.

    Good luck, take pictures!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    make sure you have a positive seal between the box fan and the radiator...duct tape will work for a trial. otherwise the air will do the path of least resistance thing.
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
    That sounds like the perfect experiment Travis. I expect that it will work well. Good luck!
    Cheers, Frank

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    I think it's going to work just fine. As Tod said ... make sure you get optimum (but not necessarily maximum) air flow thru' the rad for maximum heat transfer and also make sure your piping is well insulated so that you don't lose too much heat as the warm fluid travels from the heat source pile to the rad.

    My "economy of operation" thought about this small experiment is that even if all you get is a shop that is warm enough 24/7 so that tools don't rust and warm enough 24/7 so that a bit of extra heat application is all that's needed to get you to working temperature, then you've succeeded massively. To my way of thinking, that "paying for itself" temperature is something just above freezing 24/7 without adding extra heat

    Please keep us posted?

    cheers eh?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Travis, good idea but I would put the pile far enough away from the shop in case it caught fire.

  7. #7

    An Alternative Plan

    My father came up with an alternative plan. Maybe something that is a bit easier and cheaper to build. Its interesting because for experimental reasons, it might make for a good heater test.

    His plan was instead of running water through black plastic pipe, use a blower to push air through 4 inch diameter sewer pipe (the kind without holes). In his way of thinking, it would be quicker and easier to have several coils in the pile of compost and then pump that heated air into my shop directly. The infeed end would be in my shop for a cold air return.

    This would simplify things greatly as I am not dealing with the thermal dynamics of water. Just warming air.

    My initial thoughts were it would be hard to push air through a pipe that has so many coils and turns in it, but my father disagrees. He thinks that once the air inside the pipe gets heated, thermal convection air currents will help push the air into the shop. He thinks a small blower would be enough to do what I need.

    Which idea do you think is best? I really am swaying towards my dad's idea as it is very easy and cheap to do.

    Sorry about going back and forth on this thing, but I am just thinking aloud and trying to get some input and thoughts from other people. I have always said, "No one person here is smarter than all of us put together".
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  8. #8

    Power Generation: really thinking outside the box

    Please take a look at this page, and then scroll down just a bit to the animation of the Stirling Displacement Engine. I keep looking at that animation and keep thinking..

    Would it be possible to use my unique geography here in Maine to power a small 2 horsepower Stirling Engine?

    For those that are not familiar with a Stirling Engine, its a engine designed in 1819 for powering pumps. Its different in that it produces power by heat transfer and an external source. It's neat because cow chips can create heat to power it, just like ice can. Its the difference in temp that makes it run. The greater the temp difference, the faster it rotates.

    Anyway, I was thinking that by using the heat of my compost pile from below, and the cold from Maine winters from above (or an ice house in the summer), I could power a 2 hp engine. I happen to have a small 1000 kw generator that could easily be hooked up to a small Stirling Engine. That way I could use all the wiring that has gone into this small gen set and I would only have to worry about powering it. Again this would be another easy, small scale test bed. I am not looking to go off the grid here, but I think it would be cool to add what would be 10% of my total house load just but letting some grass clipping rot. (it takes 10 kw to power a home roughly)

    After looking at the animation, what do you guys think? Am I way off base here or is the theory sound?
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    on the air in a pipe`ll really depend on how many cfm you push through the pipe as to how much heat is actually transfered to the air...the ol` convection vs conduction arguement.....if air is the carrier of choice many small diameter pipes would be much more efficient..(fluid too)....with air it`ll loose its thermal mass much more quickly than a liquid.......i ain`t no engineer but most thermal transfer systems rely on fluid to do the heat transfer probably for a reason....
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    North Central Texas - DFW

    This is not may area of specialization, but I believe you should consider the efficiency of the difference between water and air and the ability to transfer heat. I know that when trying to remove heat from a data center, it is much more efficient to use water than air. I have heard 3 to 4 times more efficient for water than air. Here is a link to a web page that goes into the science behind this. It also has a table that talks about the specific heat capacities of common materials.

    It is also why solar collectors, engine cooling systems, etc. tend to use water and not air cooling.

    As a result of this, I would consider water before I would try to use air.

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