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Wood-Heated Barn Sends Fuel Costs Up In Smoke
"It works for us," says George Key Carrollton, Ga. who for the past two winters has heated his 18,000-bird brooder barn almost entirely with wood, saving thousands of dollars it propane costs.
Although winter temperatures in Georgia are relatively mild, they do remain consistently in the teens and 20's during the coldest months. Key says his furnace design would work as well, and reap even more benefits, in northern states and Canada where winters are much more severe.
What Key has designed is thermostatically-controlled wood furnace housed in a shed not more than a few feet away from the 325-ft long barn. Air is ducted into the barn by conventional heating ducts to large center duct that carries heat to either end of the long barn, keeping temperatures from 60?to 90?, depending on the age of birds.
To get heat from the elevated duct down to the young chickens near the floor, flexible 8-in. "downcomers" made from steel and plastic, channel the hot air down to within a couple feet of the floor and out through 18-in. diffuser plates. Key now uses his conventional brooder stoves only as back-up heat.
The 47-cu. ft. furnace firebox has room for log chunks up to about 4 ft in length, according to Key. Outside air is force-fed into the sealed chamber by a small thermostat controlled fan. When the fan shuts off, the fire cools down.
"The furnace is so efficient it'll burn at full capacity for eight hours," says Key. "Since outside temperatures normally warm up during the day, I can usually keep it going by stoking it once in the morning and once at night. That's important to me because I work a full-time job in addition to farming."
Key has had to fire up his propane brooder stoves in the coldest part of the winter up to about 25% of heating requirements but feels that, with an increase in air flow out of the furnace, he could rely on it 100?/x. Even so, he saved about $2,000 in his propane bill the first winter, and a comparable amount last year. Subtracting about $900 for wood (29 cords of "scrub" wood which he is able to buy at $30 a cord), the $10,000 system would have a payback of about 9 years.
Key has a second barn located 100 ft. from the wood-heated barn. It's the same size and is heated with propane. Besides cost savings, Key says the wood-fired barn is dryer and healthier. And, he says, you don't have the open flame you have with propane brooders.
"The only drawback is labor. Even if you only have to stoke the furnace twice a day, getting the wood and handling it are a lot of work. Propane costs will have to increase before I convert my other barn. I just don't have time at this point to take care of another wood-fired barn."
Key's system was designed by research engineers at Georgia's Institute of Technology, Atlanta. Engineer Dale Atkins told FARM SHOW they're pleased with the first-of-its-kind system and are now working on a self-stoking furnace that would eliminate much of the labor required.
For more information on the system and its components, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dale Atkins, Georgia Institute of Technology, Engineering Experiment Station, Technology Applications Laboratory, Atlanta, Ga. 30332 (ph. 404 894-3623).

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1981 - Volume #5, Issue #1