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

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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