Thursday, January 6, 2011

Animal water in winter - solar charge it!

6 Jan '11 : I met a farmer in Screwfix who is doing a PhD part time in our department. He is an organic livestock farmer, just a few miles outside Nottingham. He has had a bad time over the winter, as the animals need a supply of fresh water, and any external water containers were freezing solid in the prolonged cold conditions. The main water vessel is a 1,000 litre metal tank that froze through, and they had a troublesome session with blowlamps to free it up - very energy intensive!
   I proposed a simplified Solar charging solution that would be cheap because he already has a digger, and no heat pump is needed. Simply the ground temperature itself is sufficient providing it has been topped up during the summer. Using a 3-port valve, one can design two loops that combine into a single ground loop that can run out in a horizontal trench protected against freezing with foam insulation.
The Sunbox itself can be a metal radiator or a spare one of my swimming pool panels, enclosed in a ETFE or Polycarbonate box. As this is just a water tank, not a house, one such panel should be enough. One AKO thermostat could manage both loops, and only one pump and solenoid valve would be needed.
  Mind you.... if he just insulated it efficiently, that might have reduced the risk of freezing solid. The cold snap was so prolonged (not much of a 'snap') that it would probably have frozen through any amount of insulation.
  He was very enthusiastic at the time, but hasn't replied to the idea, so perhaps I needn't have bothered. But it was an exercise in thinking.

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