Compost Heating vs Passive Solar for a Greenhouse (2018)

These days, everyone talks about passive and
active solar heating for greenhouses. Most use a solar greenhouse design, north
wall insulated, and charge a seasonal thermal battery to heat the greenhouse with internal
heat or external evacuated solar tubes. This works, but only achieves slightly above
freezing in the winter. There is another option, one that doesn’t
require an expensive excavator, can be added to most any existing greenhouse, isn’t
weather sunshine dependant and provides free heat 24/7 all winter long. Sound Impossible? Stay Tuned! Simple Tek, Practical effective technology. I made this channel to experiment with simple
technology for agriculture and energy. Clicking the subscribe button tells youtube’s
algorithm you want to see more videos like this. Click the subscribe button now. So I came across this idea of compost heating. Basically using the heat from decomposing
plant material to heat your greenhouse in the winter. The modern science of compost heating was
originated by a frenchman named Jean Pain. There’s links below to his research. It’s extraordinary! Jean pain took brush and made wood chips from
it, He then created large 50 yard piles, ran plastic tubing throughout those piles, and
achieved piped heated water, 24/7, up to 140’F or more for periods of 7 to 10 months from
just one pile. The down side is it takes 2-3 days labour
to create one of these Jean Pain compost heating piles. But the upside is, a year later you have over
30 yards (the volume shrinks as it heats) of valuable compost. Literally 500 plus 40 litre bags of compost
to sell, which can offset the labour cost and even make the heating project profitable. Also worth noting, when running a commercial
greenhouse, making your own compost, a material you control production of, from start
to finish, is a huge advantage for the entire operation. A fertilizer far better than any corporate
chemicals for your plants. Now compost heating gets better, wood chips
are great, but you can make a big steaming pile subsutiting HAY for the wood chips and
achieve similar results. Meaning you can heat your greenhouse simply
by cutting and collecting nothing more than long grass aka Hay. The implications for northern communities
are enormous. Northern communities experience extreme cold
in the winter, and two factors limit greenhouse use. Heating and lack of light. With useable sunlight often down to 4 hours
or less in the winter many northern communities are forced to truck in fresh produce. Using wood chips and hay, something that can
be harvested locally around most northern communities changes EVERYTHING! Now a greenhouse can heat itself all winter
with local materials. That leaves only electrical power for additional
light to help the plants grow. Power for supplimental LED lighting to lengthen
the growing day in winter can be generated from windmills, with no expensive batteries or
energy storage needed. Building the pile is easy, but some steps
must be taken in it’s construction to ensure it provides enough heat to last the entire
winter. I’ll show how to build a Jean Pain pile in
the future with a video when I construct mine, for now just check out the links below. Compost heating isn’t just cheaper, active
solar heating needs multiple evacuated tube arrays at $1000 plus each and both active
and passive solar heating need an excavator to dig and install the thermal battery, which
is a hugely expensive endeavour. Compost heating provides heat 24/7, all winter
long with no thermal battery needed and can be easily added to existing greenhouses with
little modification. Does it work in an urban setting? No. But Real commercial food production should
be done just outside of the city where the land and property taxes are cheaper and it’s
properly zoned. Please comment your thoughts below, I’d love to
hear your ideas on this. Thanks for watching! Stay tuned for future updates. Don’t just hit the subscribe button, also
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17 thoughts on “Compost Heating vs Passive Solar for a Greenhouse (2018)

  1. Have you ever used this heating system? Please comment your experience as I plan to build this for the 2018/19 winter.

  2. If you have a lot of biomass available….and a chipper then it is an interesting method for sure. If you want to use it for showers I have heard it can often smell (and make you smell) like compost. If the goal is to heat the greenhouse then don't underestimate the power of hugelkultur garden beds. The breaking down of the organic matter can go a long way to warming the soil. Also don't forget about the 2 liter solar collectors can reduce the solar evacuated tube costs…I plan to build one of this this spring so I'll let you know how that goes.

  3. For heating a greenhouse, the simplest and most efficient method would be to forego all the tubing etc., and just locate the composting material inside the greenhouse. Doing so would ensure that 100% of the heat generated would be utilized. I suppose smell might present an issue .

    Something like a huge, metal, barrel-shaped, rotatable container placed with its long side horizontal to the ground on a wheeled stand so that the compost could be easily turned seems like it might be the ideal set-up. Have you investigated the numbers using this kind of set-up? Thanks!

  4. Hi Simple Tek,
    I hope things are going well for you. It's been a while since your last post. I just hope your too busy developing Oak Point. Cheers,

  5. As a kid on a farm in the 80's,some years we'd lose a hay field to too much rain. Rake it off into big piles, and despite -20 and 5 feet of snow,those piles would be steaming all winter with no snow on them. I recall getting a fork and digging into them,and I could feel the heat on my face. I always thought it'd be great to use that heat somehow.

  6. I’ve been working on a “carbon base” composting bin with great results for a few years now. I feel a carbon base composting pile holds great potential on the subject! A lot easier to make than Jean Pain’s pile and I feel you can regulate consistent heat better, time will tell!
    Nice video, thanks for sharing.

  7. A little history on my compost adventure here in Alaska. I have been making 30-50 yards of compost for our five 100ft long green houses for 6-7 years now. Four years ago I poured a 12ft by 48ft concrete pad next to our cow paddock. I then build a 6ft tall block wall on three sides and then built up block dividing walls into four bins. Each being 12ft x 12ft.  I clean the cow pen out in the spring and fall and I  am able to load it over the back wall and fill two or three of the bins on each cleanout. It only takes me approx 60 minutes, but,  I can only accomplish this since I have a large enough tractor and a excavator. It is a much more efficient  and sanitary system over the way I use to just plop it into big messy piles in the past. Since the bins are open in the front I use the tractor forks to mix and aerate the piles usually once a week. I  routinely see temps in the 140 degree plus range and I have been able to make finished compost in as little as 6 weeks. That was until this year. Last winter I changed the way I feed my cows and I have reduced my hay waste to less then probably 5% from the approx. 20% plus waste in the past. That seemed like great news till I discovered that the cow poop I was loading into my bins had a terrible carbon/nitrogen ratio.  We had a heavy rain year and I don't have covers over my compost and I was lucky to get the temps into the 100 degree range if at all on one of the bins. They were stinky an slimy.  I  lost an entire season of compost making from these two simple mistakes. So last fall I got free deliveries of approx. 100 yards of fresh wood chips. I did not have time to do anything with these chips and piled them into one big pile. Now the temps in that chip pile is hotter then I was able to achieve in my compost bin and I didn't even do anything.  go figure huh? One of my neighbors stopped by and was concerned that I had some type of unground fire going when he saw all the steam.  haha.  I am thinking next spring I am going to blend my cow poop piles with wood chip, bury plastic water pipes and then plumb that to my shop baseboard and see how that works out?

  8. Don't bother with pipes. Put the compost pile inside the greenhouse.
    Commercially, that'd mean designing building greenhouses round compost bins / piles / trenches.

  9. Have you started the pile heating system yet? I've done a couple of research projects on it, and prototypes. The type of organic material really makes a difference, so does how the pile is constructed, heat exchanger type used, and piping material. I've successfully tried a number of methods to supplement the system during cold weather stalls, which happen with many pile heating systems.

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