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Boiler Uses Hay To Heat Farmhouse
During the financial crisis of 2008, Michael Kramer began looking for a way to use resources on his Pennsylvanian farm to reduce energy costs and become more self-sufficient.
    Since he had lots of hay, he started looking at ways to use it to heat his older farmhouse.
    In 2014, he took the first step by purchasing a Denmark-based company’s biomass boiler that Cornell University was selling (www.reka.com/en/).
    “I wanted something automated, and I thought the Danish REKA boiler had excellent possibilities,” says Kramer. “The programming is configurable, so I figured it would work with burning my grass and hay to provide heat for my house.”
    He set the boiler in a small building about 60 ft. away and buried an insulated pipe to carry the heated water to his home.
    To feed the boiler, he pieced together an assembly line of equipment beginning with a chopper that shreds large square bales into approximately 1/2 in. pieces. Kramer accomplishes this portion of the process manually by forking hay into the chopper about once a month.
    The chopper blows the loose hay onto a moving floor which feeds a bin that holds up to four bales worth of hay.
    “One large square bale lasts about a week in the coldest seasons,” Kramer says. “This would vary with the temperature and house size but that’s about average for us.”
    The hay then moves from the bin floor into a set of silage wagon beaters that direct it into a 10-in. open topped auger which delivers it into the boiler.
    The boiler is fitted with electronic controls varying the air and fuel supply to control the amount of required fuel. An oxygen sensor in the exhaust stack optimizes combustion and a probe in the water jacket monitors temperature.
    Kramer uses a programmable controller to run an electric motor that operates the beater and auger assemblies.
    “The biggest challenge was matching everything I designed to what the boiler wanted. It assumes it has an unlimited supply of fuel that’s always available and it was up to me to ensure it got it. That’s where the controller comes in. The moving floor, feeder bars, beaters and auger needed to work together properly.”
    Kramer says the boiler heats the water to about 180 F and circulates it through his home’s radiator system, maintaining a comfortable and consistent temperature.
    He’s working on an automated and safe way to eliminate the manual feeding of the chopper to make it more user-friendly.
    “It works great but it’s probably not for everyone,” he says. “It has some good possibilities for farms or greenhouses with a supply of by-products such as rice hulls, cherry pits or peanut hulls. The boiler is made to burn almost anything.”
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Michael Kramer, Quakertown, Penn. 18951 (ph 610-703-0925; Michael.Kramer@bosch.com).

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #5