Recapturing Money

Heat recovery system recycles heat back into poultry barns

14562678661_265519e1cf_kPhoto by Morgan Lieberman.

A new system that saves up to 50 percent of the biggest variable expense in poultry production has been developed at the University of Missouri.

The system can save the typical poultry operation about half of the 7,000 gallons of propane used each year – more than $10,000 in savings at today’s prices. The cost reduction would be even greater in cold Minnesota, the largest turkey producing state.

The system captures waste heat normally expelled from barns where turkey and broiler chickens are raised, while maintaining the extensive ventilation these birds need to grow and thrive.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded $367,913 to help the program move into the next phase of research.

The project is a joint effort by the MU College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Robert Reed, associate research professor of civil and industrial engineering, is the primary investigator. He is working with Shawn Xu, energy efficiency research associate professor, and Jeff Firman, professor of poultry nutrition.

Turkey barns require tremendous air flow to promote the health of the birds. Much of the energy used to heat the barns is exhausted into the environment.Turkey barns require tremendous air flow to promote the health of the birds. Much of the energy used to heat the barns is exhausted into the environment. Photo by Morgan Lieberman.

There are about 100,000 poultry barns in the U.S. If adopted nationally, the system could save the poultry industry $100 million each year, Firman said. It could also be readily adopted for greenhouse operators, hog farms, egg laying farms and other operations with dusty environments or wet and corrosive air.

The Air Heat Recovery System works by capturing the air ventilated from poultry barns. This warm air is pushed through a grid of tubing of fresh air that is being directed into the barn. About 60 percent of the heat that would normally be exhausted to the outside is transferred into the grid and put back into the building.

Air exchange in poultry barns is critical to maintain air quality for workers and birds, Firman said. Better air quality means the birds will require fewer antibiotics. There is also evidence that improved air quality helps birds gain weight faster, have greater feed conversion and less mortality.

Early Tests Save 4,000 Gallons of Propane in 150 Days

Xu tested their heat recovery units on a poultry farm with four broiler chicken barns in Pettis County, Mo. Two of the barns were retrofitted with the system and two were unmodified as controls. The two test barns required 4,367 gallons of propane to heat during the 150-day test period of three flocks versus 8,327 gallons for the standard barns.

Jeff Firman.Jeff Firman.

The Waste Recovery System also improves the air quality going into the barn, reducing dust, ammonia and carbon dioxide levels, Firman said. The reduction of water and dust also helps control odor.

Xu said the cost to install the system would be recovered in three to five years.

The next step in the research is designed for cold climates like Minnesota. This technology will combine the Waste Heat Recovery System with a heat pump for greater efficiency. “This will provide another potential 50 percent reduction in propane use,” Firman said.

“Our goal is to reduce propane consumption to 20-30 percent of current level, so that the producer can fill up their tanks once a year,” Xu said. “It will be a great benefit in their propane management, if they can buy their propane in summer time to cover the whole year demand.”

Missouri is ranked fourth in the nation in turkey production; raising 17.5 million turkeys, producing a total of 575 million pounds, with a production value of $415 million, according to the Poultry Federation. Missouri is ninth in the nation in broiler production; raising 271 million broilers with a production value of $651 million. Missouri is 15th in the nation in egg production producing 1.9 billion eggs with a production value of $171 million.