Low-cost solar heater for poultry barns

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September 2, 2019
Yes I would like to get some info on solar for heating
Poultry House’s
September 3, 2019
Hi, yes, I would like a more detailed description of the set up: two layers of landscape fabric on a poultry mesh wall... how does the heat get in the building? How can it be regulated or stored? Thanks, Emily
September 3, 2019
That is a very interesting topic.
September 3, 2019
i would like to try the solar in ireland for ele and heat.
September 4, 2019

Thanks for this innovation of solar for poultry, I would like if you could explain more.

September 5, 2019

Thanks for your interest in this topic. The dark grey or black landscape fabric (2 layers) over a chicken mesh wire would cover all of the inlets on the southside wall of the barn. When solar air heating is needed, air will be pulled through the fabric and will enter the house through the ceiling or sidewall inlets. You want all the air to be pulled in through the fabric so leakages through the seams and sides have to be minimized. We designed the system to handle suction velocity of 8.8 ft/min, i.e., if your cold weather ventilation rate is 880 cfm, you would need 100 sq. ft. of the solar air heater.

In NC, weather can change rapidly and even in the middle of winter, you can have warm days. To make sure that we do not overheat the animals by supplying warm air all the time, we had a small 15 in curtain that dropped when the air inside got too warm. This allowed the fresh air to bypass the solar air heater. Therefore, once the house goes out of the heating mode, the solar air heater no longer operates. However, it was difficult to make the curtain control system work well.

In terms of results, in a 120-piglet nursery, we did not save propane or improve performance. However, over a 9-hour period, when the system worked well, we obtained average temperature rise of 20.7 F with a maximum temperature rise of 35.5 F. The take home message is that the system works but we need to work out the bugs in the system.

If you are really interested, please contact me at sbshah3@ncsu.edu and I'll try to help you design the system for your house. Thanks again,

Sanjay Shah

September 6, 2019

Sanjay Shah I am amazed that the landscape fabric heats up so much and that you can capture this heat by pulling air through it. I am building something also very low-tech but quite different. We started with an old hog barn that had 3' half walls down the north and south sides (155') with 4' of open space above. Last year we put reflective insulation on the upper space of the north wall and poly on the open space of the south wall. This did not capture measurable heat, but worse, it made the interior quite dark despite good quality poultry lighting. We are at 50 degrees latitude in a valley that is semi-desert; winter weather is below freezing for about 4 months, but there is a lot of sun. I think putting dark fabric on the south wall would made the barn too dark and the cost of running fans to pull air through it would be high.

What we are planning this winter is to insulate the outside of the north wall with rigid styrofoam on the outside of the building, reflective insulation on the inside wall. On the south side we have taken out the concrete half wall entirely and are replacing it with double glazed sliders (french doors) and fixed windows to let max sunlight in and warm the floor and litter on the south side of the building. (Used insulation, windows etc., all very cheap or free.) I will attach photos of the north wall as it is in summer, and the south wall as it is now waiting for door/window installation.

The flock is only ~700 heritage breeders so the need for ventilation is much less than would be needed in a high concentration poultry building.

We expect the building to drop below freezing during our coldest winter weather, especially over night, so the waterers are thermostatically heated and there are radiant heat panels above the roosts. The cost of heating this large space with a gas furnace for such a small flock would be prohibitive.

In any case, I am intrigued by your idea with the landscape fabric, but I hate to keep chickens in the dark, especially during the winter when the days are so short anyway.

Emily Robertson

September 6, 2019
Sanjay Shah I could not figure out how to attach the photos.
September 6, 2019
Hello Emily:

I couldn't figure out how to attach photos myself. Please note that the solar air heater we evaluated was in a solid sidewall house; so the animals do not get any sunlight.

When you have black plastic on the side facing the sun, the plastic does heat up and radiates heat inward but very little; worse, during nighttime, it will radiate heat to the outside. This type of radiant heating is very inefficient. Convective heating that you have with air pulled through black fabric or to a lesser extent, through a black plenum covered with clear plastic is more efficient.

I agree with your idea to insulate the north wall. Based on your latitude, you might need R-19. I would prefer insulating also the south side to conserve heat. You could consider using insulated curtains (Farmtek has some) if you wanted to lower it under temperate conditions. I agree that using radiant heaters might be better. Take care,

September 18, 2019

I thank you for your information. Please share more details.

December 19, 2019
Thanks so much for your notification. Please, help me with details to learn More about a solar heater
December 19, 2019
I would like to know how to use it? How to install it ? Where to find the product?
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