Update: More on the Solar Heated Pig House

In spite of a small setback caused by a winter storm, but Jim Murphy's and John Feyen's solar heated pig house has performed well.

| July/August 1979

  • 058 solar pig house - photo.jpg
    Work continued to extend the solar pig house's collector across the entire roof.
  • 058 solar pig house - diagram2.jpg
    SOLAR PHASE II Air enters the collector through holes in the roof (A) and flows down to a manifold under the eave, then enters the building through a window-mounted fan (B) and is drawn into distribution tubes (C) buried underneath concrete.

  • 058 solar pig house - photo.jpg
  • 058 solar pig house - diagram2.jpg

In "Solar Heated Pig House," Jim Murphy told how he and John Feyen turned half of the roof of their Wisconsin pig farrowing barn into a solar collector. Now thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Department of Energy, the second half of the roof collector is finished. Instead of the hot air being blown into the barn, the "free" solar heat is ducted into pipes set into the structure's concrete floor.

"When the warm air was pulled directly into the farrowing house," reports John, "the temperatures inside the barn would often reach the high 70's during the day, but sometimes dropped to the upper 40's at night. Now we can maintain a nearly uniform 60 degrees all the time. Of course, a consistent temperature isn't particularly important for animals, but would be necessary in a building for human occupants."

Unfortunately; just before the second half of the collector was completed (the wooden batten strips had not yet been secured over the seams where the fiberglass-reinforced clear resin sheets overlapped), a terrible windstorm ripped the covering right off. That could have been a serious setback, but winter was just about over and the farm's regular insurance coverage paid for the loss.

"The claims adjuster told us that our collector wasn't 'standard construction,' and came out to make sure the problem wouldn't recur," John told us. "Had it been a unit that was just hung on somehow, the agency might have felt differently. Since our solar 'system' was an integral part of the barn, we were able to collect on the damage. I was really sorry that the accident happened, because I didn't want to see the insurance company face a claim on the first sun-heated building they'd ever covered. But let's face it: Solar energy is a reality!"

And sun power is being put to work in a number of ways around the Murphy/Feyen farm. A solar grain-drying system will be ready to go into operation next fall, while a solar-heated machine shed—which also has its warm air ducted into the floor—will be complete by the time you read this. The Feyen house is also being redesigned to incorporate heat from the sun, but that project won't even get underway for almost a year.

In the meantime, the DOE is collecting data on the ratio between the amount of solar energy available to the barn's collector and the number of Btu's the system actually produces.

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