Geothermal Heating Pays off for Local Chicken Farm

In 2006, The Hayter Group was approached by a Lambton County, Ontario chicken farm looking to double the size of their operation. They were operating a 32,000 square foot barn that was heated by a radiant in-floor system and natural gas fired boilers.

In Canada, the chicken you are serving for dinner was likely raised on a family farm. Chicks are shipped in large plastic trays, about 100 at a time. They arrive at a chicken barn and are placed on the concrete floor of the barn, which has been prepared with fresh bedding of clean shavings or straw.

Chicken barns are warmed up to almost 90°F when the chicks first arrive. Food and water is delivered through special bins that are within easy reach of the chicks. The barn is kept very warm for about a week. The barn temperature is then lowered by 2° to 3° per week as the birds begin to grow. Larger birds give off their own heat and start warming up the barn themselves.

As the chicks grow, the special feeding bins are raised higher for easy access. Chicks are able to roam freely throughout the barn. The feed is adjusted as the birds grow to be optimal for their development. Once the chickens are ready for market, the barn is completely cleaned and fresh bedding is put down for the next flock.

The Lambton County farmer felt that he already had the best possible heating solution when he approached us about his expansion plans. The radiant heating system heats up the concrete slab, right where the chicks are. He was able to keep barn temperatures lower, because there was no need to heat the air above the chicks. The natural gas boilers were able to deliver the peak heat required for the first week and then could be adjusted downwards as the chicks grew.

The Hayter Group suggested a solution that had never been tried before. It made economic sense to use a geothermal system to heat the new barn. The system would require a larger up front investment, that would pay off over time in energy savings.

To produce 5 units of heat, a geothermal unit requires 1 unit of electrical input and 4 units from the earth (essentially free energy). The system would cost far less to run than paying to fuel a natural gas boiler.

The new geothermal system would heat both the existing barn and the new barn. We estimated that the geothermal system could provide 97% of the heat needed for the two barns. The existing boiler was integrated into the system to provide extra heat for the short period of time when the chicks are first introduced to their new home.

The installation was far larger than a typical residential geothermal system. Four WaterFurnace units were required along with two 120 gallon holding tanks. A 14,400 foot, 3/4” pipe loop was installed under existing farmland. The ground above the loop is still being used for crops.

This installation has attracted quite a bit of industry attention. In 2007, the farm owner received the Innovative Farmer of the Year Award. The operation also received The Premier’s Award of Agri-Food Excellence.

Eden Energy Equipment distributes WaterFurnace products in Ontario. Farm journals from as far away as Africa have reported on the installation. Geothermal heating is now being used in all types of livestock operations around the world.

The Hayter Group is currently one of Ontario’s largest geothermal dealers. We’ve developed several innovative green energy strategies, including geothermal and solar, that are paying off for our agri-business customers. Many farming operations are large volume businesses running on low operating margins. Controlling inputs like energy costs is an area where The Hayter Group can contribute to the success of our rural customers.