Passive Solar/Alternate Heat Part 2? Focus on Water

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by DawnSuiter, Nov 19, 2009.

  1. DawnSuiter

    DawnSuiter Chillin' With My Peeps

    I didn't want to cloud this very good thread (https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=100552) about solar pop can/passive heating up with these questions, but I saw a different topic emerge there that I've been chewing on for the last year almost.

    Heating the water, or at the least keeping it from freezing.

    I've been thinking of hot rocks, placed inside an insulated metal barrel/bucket and simply setting the waterers on that. The victorians used these metal skillet thingys and put hot coals in their beds to keep them warm at night... this seems similar to my pea brain. Maybe if you have a fireplace hot coals would work better...

    DH thinks the rocks will cool off too quickly...

    But a soup thermos keep soup HOT for a LOOOONG time... mine will keep my coffee hot for at least 5 hours!

    What do you think?
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    This is an interesting topic and I hope more people play around with it. Next year I will be building a separate, no-electric-available turkey shed and will need to fool with ways of keeping water liquid as long as possible without electricity so I also have a strong personal interest <g>

    Sorry but I am with your DH, rock has a lower thermal mass coefficient than water does, you would be better off AFAIK with an extra amount of *hot water* than adding hot rocks. Also hot water is easier to obtain safely than hot rocks (just carry from house faucet in lidded catlitter bucket).

    To me, the two far-and-away biggest features that a good "passively freeze-resistant" waterer would have to incorporate are:

    1) a large amount of water. This could be a large reservoir of potentially-drinkable water, or it could be a two-part system where some or much of the water is in a separate, sealed container that is contributing thermal inertia thru uninsulated contact with the container that *does* hold the drinking supply. One thing to be careful of is that the construction does not fail spectacularly if freezing occurs, as you don't want some icing-up to destroy the waterer (as it does with galvanized metal double-wall waterers) and you REALLY do not want a freeze-thaw cycle to cause a flood in the coop!; and

    2) a large amount of insulation everywhere except where the chickens actually have to *access* the water to drink it. By large I mean *large*, as much as space and physical feasibility permit, because every little bit helps.

    One possibility would be to design a freeze-resistant waterer with no actual source of heat per se, just intended to make the water you carry out there stay liquid as long as possible. One step up from that would be using some source of 'free heat' -- solar and ground source are the most obvious options, those with large livestock might also consider manure heat I suppose although I feel that would be high-work-input and difficult to engineer in a way that preserved air quality. The most technical version would be to attach a solar panel (no battery, just panel) to something that actively heats the water (or a thermal ballast it sits on) during the day. There was an interesting few posts on the popcan-heater thread (I think) regarding the possibility of wiring an aquarium heater to a small solar panel for this latter purpose.

    But none of these heat sources are going to be relevant without a good sized amount of thermal mass involved, and a whole lotta insulation.

    (e.t.a. - the biggest design challenge in terms of insulation, IMHO, is figuring out a good arrangement for the chickens to *drink from*. The most successful frostfree livestock waterers are those where the water surface is 100% covered except when the animal drinks, pushing down a floating cover or something like that to access the water. I am a little skeptical how well this would work with chickens but have not tried it. If you cannot have a floating insulated cover on the "chicken/water interface" then you have to figure out the best arrangement to prevent that particular area from freezing up. I suspect you want the area deepish and not too small, and atop (or surrounded by) the warmest part of the thermal ballast, but that is purely a guess.)


    Pat
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
  3. DawnSuiter

    DawnSuiter Chillin' With My Peeps

    So we would need to forgoe the water trough type of thing and instead go with round containers?

    I just read that water has the most thermal mass.. interesting

    So my ideal plan, is sounding a lot like the only real solution anyway... a 50 gallon insulated drum painted black which feeds a sloping pipe running along the back of the coops and then a tap/spigot in each coop with a valve at the end. On freezing days, shut the valve off at the drum and open the end of the line to allow any remaining water to drain.

    the taps in the coops would allow us to fill waterers as normally but not drag a hose around with us.... I would like drinkers in each coop instead of a tap but they honestly seem more trouble than they are worth...
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:A long trough is going to lose an awful lot of heat (unless you cover most of it and only let them access a portion). I don't honestly know how much area of open water you need to have per how many chickens -- any idea? (This # may *or may not* be the same as when they say 'recommended minimum waterer area for X chickens', it depends what the latter number is based on)

    But pretty much anything, regardless of shape, will stay warmer longer if it is sitting on a big well-insulated thermal mass -- e.g. a row of jugs of water in between insulated walls of the area.

    I just read that water has the most thermal mass.. interesting

    Yup, water is the best you can do without getting into bizarre things not readily available to yer basic chicken owner. The fault of water as thermal mass is that it expands when it freezes; salting the water to saturation helps somewhat but not all *that* much. Antifreeze has similar thermal mass and obviously an even lower freezing point, but most types are poisonous and I'd be concerned about leaks/spills around chickens.

    So my ideal plan, is sounding a lot like the only real solution anyway... a 50 gallon insulated drum painted black which feeds a sloping pipe running along the back of the coops and then a tap/spigot in each coop with a valve at the end. On freezing days, shut the valve off at the drum and open the end of the line to allow any remaining water to drain.

    That sounds like it would be useful, even if it is not solving your problem entirely. I don't nkow how cold you get for how long but I'd worry about the spigot at the drum freezing and being damaged, though. If you could make a heavily insulated wrap to cover that area it might be worth it; also you'd want to be sure all the water *is* draining from the line, maybe install a small tap right next to where the pipe exits the drum that you could open to release suction and *ensure* full drainage.

    I would think you could also work on insulated containers for each coop, though, so that the actual drinking supply for the chickens doesn't freeze any faster than necessary?

    Pat​
     
  5. DawnSuiter

    DawnSuiter Chillin' With My Peeps

    Technically I'm in a position to run a heater to my reservoir HOWEVER that isn't the point here... no power would be BETTER and would help those who are not in that position so I'll keep on along those lines.

    One more valve at the drum would be easier than opening the taps in all the coops.. too many doors etc.. If you click on my BYC page you'll see an updated pic of all my coops at the top, a panorama of the front yard, forgive the perspective mistakes. I want to run the reservoir along the right bank of coops. Now that I think of it, since all the fronts face the winter sun, I should be running this pipe along the front of the coops to benefit... the only place I could do that is along the roofline... which means my gravity fed waterer would have to sit up TOO high or like a small towns water tower... could be cute I suppose but not feasible to fill easily or shut off.

    So I thought I could just put the reservoir in the front in the sun, blah blah blah..

    Half of our waterers are 3 gallon buckets already... a sleeve for the bucket should be easy enough.... a floating plastic top maybe would that stop the top from freezing? This way the peck at it, and it sinks a little so they still drink?
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    One more valve at the drum would be easier than opening the taps in all the coops.. too many doors etc..

    You would still need to open one of the coop taps though, you can't rely on gravity to reliably drain a smallish diameter line from just the bottom valve, need to open a top valve (top in this case meaning near the reservoir) to release the vacuum and let all the water drain out swiftly.

    If you click on my BYC page you'll see an updated pic of all my coops at the top, a panorama of the front yard, forgive the perspective mistakes. I want to run the reservoir along the right bank of coops. Now that I think of it, since all the fronts face the winter sun, I should be running this pipe along the front of the coops to benefit... the only place I could do that is along the roofline... which means my gravity fed waterer would have to sit up TOO high or like a small towns water tower... could be cute I suppose but not feasible to fill easily or shut off.

    Why not run the pipe across the fronts lower down? So it looks like you have a pipe running across the front of the coop, boo hoo <g> I dunno whether it is worth it though. All that having the pipe in sunlight would do for you is let it thaw bettter during daytime, the pipe will be narrow enough that it woudl freeze at night anyhow (on some nights it would probably freeze even if insulated) so I suspect you'd be better off just hand-carrying buckts of water during colder weather, with the pipe drained.

    So I thought I could just put the reservoir in the front in the sun

    That does sound like a good plan, since it would be large enough to hold its heat overnight. I would suggest a metal tank, the front painted black and the non-sunward sides (back, bottom, and E/W ends) insulated as heavily as you can stand to; an insulated quilt to toss over it during the night in cold weather might be desirable too, I don't know whether it would be essential.

    Half of our waterers are 3 gallon buckets already... a sleeve for the bucket should be easy enough....

    Yup, ideally you want a thermos-like arrangement where the bucket is sitting on insulation as well as surrounded by it; cans of expando-foam can be useful if you have a larger container that the bucket fits into and want to insulate the airspace between. Wrap the bucket in a plastic bag or etc, then part-fill the larger container with expando-foam, put the bucket in to sit correctly, then fill the rest of the way with expando-foam. Let harden. The plastic bag you wrapped the bucket in will make it easy to remove the bucket, leaving a custom-fit 'jacket' that it sits down into. Have done this with horse buckets, works pretty well.

    a floating plastic top maybe would that stop the top from freezing? This way the peck at it, and it sinks a little so they still drink?

    Worth trying, let me know what happens! [​IMG] I wonder if painting red speckles on one corner of the floating lid would encourage them to discover that if you push an edge down,water is accessible? I would really like to know whether poultry *can* be trained to use that sort of a setup.

    Pat​
     
  7. Rangely

    Rangely Out Of The Brooder

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    How about using the old light bulb in the cookie tin beneath the water bowl trick? Use solar to run the rechargeable AA batteries. Unless you have multiple days below zero, a 40-60 watt bulb would do fine. Question is, can you rig up a solar panel strong enough to operate a 60 watt bulb overnight(12 hours or so)?? I use solar landscaping lights to light the coop during the night, but they are only 5 watt leds. I suppose you could string together 3-4 of the panels and two AA batteries, if you know how to solder.

    Would this work or am I just crazy?
     
  8. DawnSuiter

    DawnSuiter Chillin' With My Peeps

    I figured the pipe across the front would need to be high so water would drain from it when I opened the tap.. if it runs along the bottom I'm not sure what kind of pressure I would get, besides the top already slants away so that would be good, but I see your point, it wouldn't help much if at all except during the daytime...

    I should try a variety of things this winter... it's supposed to be a cold one... [​IMG]
     
  9. Rangely

    Rangely Out Of The Brooder

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    True.

    Old Farmers Almanac says very cold Winter.

    Here in CO, Bald eagles usually show up from Canada, around Thanksgiving and stay until St. Paddy's day. This year, they arrived around Halloween! That is a harbinger of a cold Winter.
     
  10. Bettacreek

    Bettacreek Overrun With Chickens

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    Without reading the entire thread... Maybe a black bucket atop the cages/coop, with an airline tube dropping into the cage/coop? If you paint the tube black, at least during sunny days it would resist freezing. Then at night cover the bucket with some type of toasty insulation. Just a random, somewhat efficient idea.
     

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