Chicken Barn Goes Geothermal


Because of the increasing cost of heating barns, this chicken and hog farmer was looking to reduce costs with a geothermal system.

Project Details

  • Barn Size: 32,000 Square Feet
  • Unit Type: Synergy3D 4-ton
  • Number of Units: 4

Equipment Used

At the 2006 Western Ontario Farm Show in London, Ontario, The Hayter Group had a display demonstrating the benefits of geothermal systems to rural customers. Because of the increasing cost of heating barns, they knew that one day there would be a market for geothermal heating. An active chicken and hog farmer approached their display, mentioning that he was interested in doubling his chicken barn to 32,000 square feet which he had planned to heat with radiant floor heat by installing wall-mount natural gas boilers in the addition.

Typically, a chicken barn does not have a continuous heat supply. When the chicks are small, the temperature in the barn needs to reach 90° F, then drop slowly until they are large enough to produce almost all the heat themselves. The challenge was attempting to incorporate the geothermal units with the existing boiler system. The natural gas boiler needed to come on to support the heat load. The Hayter Group called Oklahoma State University, who suggested that there was no reason this would not work, however they had no experience in designing such a system. The Hayter Group came up with a plan to incorporate a WaterFurnace geothermal system with a boiler backup, set up on an outdoor thermostat. The heat would come primarily from 4 WaterFurnace EW060 hot water geothermal heat pumps, with two 120-gallon insulated storage tanks.

The old part of the barn was also to be heated by the new geothermal system. It already had the in-floor heat installed and working, but the radiant heat loops were almost 600 feet each, which was double what the Hayter Group was used to working with. Three-phase power was not available from the road, so smaller single phase units would have to be installed. But there simply was not enough space to install the units in the barn. The only sheltered area available was a generator room 20 feet away. The Hayter Group had to install 2” insulated underground piping through the slab on grade and below a 4.5’ foundation wall. Because the farmer wanted the piping to be as close to the barn as possible, the loop field had to come up through the existing slab. The loop bed consisted of individual piping to each unit with 1.25” supply and return piping. A local plow-style tiling machine was used to install 14,400 feet of 3/4” pipe. The field drainage tiles could not be located, and the farm could not be excavated for fear that topsoil and subsoil would be mixed.

The Hayter Group invested over 550 hours in the project and it worked better than they had ever expected. The once hesitant farmer is very surprised at how little it has cost him to heat his barn. In fact, he has doubled the size of his barn, and is still saving money in operating costs. This system was the first geothermal-heated chicken barn known in North America, garnering interest with the Ontario government. The owner has since received the Premier’s Award of Agri-Food Excellence, and the 2007 Innovative Farmer of the Year award for this unique geothermal installation.

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