Solar Heated Pig House

The author and his partner thought they could save money with a solar heated pig house—and were right.

| May/June 1979

  • 057 solar heated pig house 1 pigs and barn.jpg
    Originally, the solar heated pig house (aka barn) covered only half of the southern-facing portion of the roof. The success of that setup led to its expansion to the whole south face.
  • 057 solar heated pig house 2 applying support ribs.jpg
    John Feyen and Sharon Murphy install support ribs for the second half of the collector. Note how the pig-raisin' people have cleverly—and economically—used the original roof of the barn as part of their collector! The lumber comes from trees cut on their own land, and the ductwork is made of inexpensive pressed board, so the biggest material expense was for the fiberglass resin skin (the film used in the first collector cost $270).
  • pig2
    Cross-sectional diagram shows materials, dimensions, and the path of air convection through the structure.  
  • 057 solar heated pig house 3 interior farrowing house.jpg
    This interior view of the farrowing house shows one of the fan-controlling thermostats (the second thermostat is inside the collector), the temperature gauge, and the outlet for the hot air duct.
  • 057 solar heated pig house 4 manifold.jpg
    The manifold is about one foot square (slightly larger ductwork might work even better) and carries the heated air into the barn through a farrowing house window that once held an exhaust fan.

  • 057 solar heated pig house 1 pigs and barn.jpg
  • 057 solar heated pig house 2 applying support ribs.jpg
  • pig2
  • 057 solar heated pig house 3 interior farrowing house.jpg
  • 057 solar heated pig house 4 manifold.jpg

I suppose I should admit it right off: When John Feyen and I first decided to turn our jointly owned pig house to a solar heated system, our motive was more financial than ecological. We simply wanted to trim the cost of heat for our sows and their babies and figured that—by using the sun's warmth—we could cut our fuel expenses.

Now that we're into our second season of solar heat, though, I can pronounce the project a rousing success. We have saved money! In fact, by the end of this winter, our installation will have paid for itself. But that's not all! As an added bonus, John and I have become totally hooked on solar energy as a safe, dry, ecologically sound heat source that can be adapted to any number of uses.

Perhaps most important of all, though, what we did can be done by anyone who knows which end of the hammer meets the nail! All that's needed is a bit of planning, a commitment of time, and enough confidence to overcome the notion (which many solar-products companies have tried to foster) that "sun heat" has to be complicated and expensive. The operation at our two-family farm in southwest Wisconsin offers a simple, inexpensive rebuttal to that particular solar industry claim.

Back to Basics 

In the fall of 1977, our families invested about $550 and a few weeks' work in the construction of a solar collector which now sits on the south-facing roof of our barn. The farrowing house is in the lower section of the building, so it was a simple matter to duct the collected hot air into the enclosure, rig up a fan controlled by thermostats in series, and let 'er rip!

She ripped very well. By the end of that first winter, our backup gas heater was not only shut off, but removed from the farrowing house altogether. (We'd spent $250 on liquid propane for that heat source during the previous year.) Now, the only conventional energy the farrowing house consumes is electricity to power a 1/4-horsepower fan (to pull the hot air from the solar collector) and another blower which removes the stale air from the building.

The U.S. Department of Energy was as impressed as we were with the initial results. In fact, that agency has since chipped in some money to help us expand our system. As a result we're working to double the collector size, add heat storage, and incorporate a sun-powered grain-drying operation. In return for the grant, DOE wants to study the setup for five years and let other people take a look at it. That's fine with us, because we're proud of our accomplishment, and—as far as we know—it's the only such "solar system" in these parts.

11/24/2008 11:19:07 AM

Good article but greatly lacking in Photographs


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