Friday, December 15, 2006

Poultry Litter Heats Chicken House

It's a poultry growers dream -- a furnace that uses the farm's own poultry litter to heat chicken houses.

Dr. Tom Costello, an engineer with the University of Arkansas, has teamed up with Lynndale Systems Inc. of Harrison and built the prototype for such a furnace. Costello is using it at the university's broiler research farm in Savoy.

On Thursday, Costello and his team demonstrated the poultry-litter biomass furnace to a dozen or so industry representatives. Poultry litter is a combination of poultry waste and bedding such as rice hulls or wood chips.

"Finding a way to use the litter and help the farmer get the benefit as well as generating a little economic activity in our region is what first peaked my interest in this project," Costello said.

Local poultry growers attending the demonstration gave the system a nod of approval and were anxious to hear all the details.

The litter-fired furnace uses a direct combustion process that is ignited with a propane pilot. The furnace burns litter in its combustion chamber, and the heat generated is directed into the poultry house through a closed-duct system.

According to Costello, the average tests indicate the rate of efficiency ranges from 4,500 to 5,000 Btu per pound of litter. British thermal units are a common measurement of heat.

The unit is wired directly into the house's internal thermostat and when heat is needed inside, the furnace automatically fires back up.

A conventional broiler house in Northwest Arkansas uses roughly 5,000 gallons of propane per year and represents one of the farmer's greatest input cost at roughly $8,000 per house, said Bob Dodson, Lynndale System's CEO and president.

The prototype targets a peak output of 200,000 Btu per hour which would meet 50 percent of the annual heat load and could cut a farmer's propane costs in half, according to Costello's projections.

Other benefits of the unit include a viable solution for disposal of poultry litter which has been the target of environmental issues in recent years.

The remaining ash is a 10 to 1 reduction in terms of volume, Costello said.

"Because the ash contains a highly concentrated phosphorus and potassium content there is a demand for the material in fertilizer products and the ash can also be used as mix in concrete," Costello said.

The furnace also provides a drier source of heat that keeps the house floor and circulating air's moisture and humidity low.

"A drier house provides a healthier environment for birds," said Roger Koehn, a Tyson Foods broiler grower.

Koehn said he was interested in learning more about the system and was in favor of using any method that could save money and provide an advantage for growing healthier birds.

"It's like walking on the moon for poultry growers, there are so many good applications for this type of unit. This technology is exciting for growers," said Johnny Gunsaulis, Washington County extension agent.

Jim Green, a commercial grower with 60 houses, said he could think of lots of places to try this technology and he would be willing to give it a shot.

"But it all comes down to the cost," Green said. "Litter removal is not the problem it was three or four years ago. Growers need a way to raise their margins and cutting costs is the best way."

"With the litter burner, growers can achieve a two-year payback or positive cash flow from day one with a four to five year equipment lease," said Bob Dodson, Lynndale's CEO and president.

Making the units affordable, Dodson said, is a primary objective.

The retail units are expected to be available in the fall of 2007, Dodson said.

The overall cost has not been released because the final system has not yet been developed. The prototype is a constant work in motion as the group continues to modify its aspects to improve gross efficiency.

"If the system is not too expensive it will catch on fire with growers because they are looking at ways to cut costs and improve pay in this low margin business," Green said.

He warned that it doesn't take long for costs to get out of control and said keeping the price of this invention low would be the difference in whether or not growers buy it.

The furnace could also serve as an incinerator for dead birds, providing more savings on propane costs which appealed to Green, who said he spends $800 a flock to incinerate dead birds for a six-house farm with a normal mortality rate.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Tips for keeping house, family safe during holidays


CLEVELAND Home decorations help make the holidays joyful and festive for friends and family. While you are stringing the lights and spreading warmth and cheer, one of the most important considerations is how to keep your house and family safe from fire and injury.

“A home fire, gas leak or electrical accident can be especially devastating during the holiday season,” said Sue Dempsey, vice president, North American sales and marketing forCSA International. “Yet a few indoor and outdoor safety precautions can help protect your family and achieve comfort and joy during the holidays.”

CSA International, a these important tips for safe holiday decorating:

1. Going out? Lights out! Always turn off holiday lights when you leave the house unattended or when going to bed.

2. Don’t be dismayed, but discard the frayed. Carefully inspect holiday light strings each year and discard any frayed cords, cracked lamp holders or loose connections. When replacing bulbs, unplug the light string and be sure to match voltage and wattage to the original bulb.

3. Help your tree resist a fire. Try to purchase a freshly cut tree, as they are more resistant to fire. Keep your Christmas tree watered and far away from open candles. When using an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled fire resistant. Regardless of the type of tree, place it away from heat sources such as radiators or fireplaces.

4. Contain any flames. Don’t use open flames or candles on or near flammable materials such as wreaths, natural trees or paper decorations.

5. Check for a certification mark. When purchasing light strings, extension cords, spotlights, electrical decorations, gas appliances or carbon monoxide alarms, look for the certification mark of an accredited certification organization such as CSA International, UL or ELT to ensure that the products comply with applicable standards for safety and performance. Also know the warning signs of counterfeit and potentially unsafe decorations, products and gifts. These warning signs include missing parts, instructions, safety features or warrantees; packaging with spelling mistakes or poor graphics; or products significantly lower-priced than all other brands.

6. Use one and be done. Never connect more than one extension cord together; instead use a single cord that is long enough to reach to the outlet without stretching, but not so long that it can get easily tangled.

7. Don’t meddle with outdoor metal. When hanging outdoor lights, keep electrical connectors off the ground and away from metal rain gutters. Use insulated tape or plastic clips instead of metal nails or tacks to hold them in place, and be sure to choose the correct ladder for the job.

8. Remember that timing is everything. Use a certified outdoor timer to switch lights on and off. Lights should be turned on after 7 p.m. to avoid the electricity rush hour.

9. Keep the gas behind glass. Do not use your gas fireplace if the glass panel is removed, cracked or broken. Only allow a qualified service person to replace fireplace parts.

10. Be alarmed. Be sure to install smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms on every level of your home especially near sleeping areas and test the alarms monthly.

11. Be a friend to your furnace. To help prevent CO hazards in your home, have a qualified heating contractor perform a yearly maintenance check of your furnace and venting system, and clean or replace your furnace filter frequently during the heating seasons.

12. Clean the clutter. Do not store combustible materials such as gasoline, propane, paper, chemicals, paint, rags and cleaning products near your gas furnace. Gasoline or propane cylinders should only be stored outside the home.

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