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Alternative fuel systems

Jess Campbell, Jim Wimberly, Gene Simpson, Jim Donald, and
Max Runge
National Poultry Technology Center
Ken Macklin
Systems, LLC

Our bout with $2.00/gallon propane early last year caused
serious pain in the bottom line for most growers and they are now very much
aware of the need to control energy costs. This fall, even though gas prices
have eased up a good bit, the number one question we are hearing from growers
is “How can I reduce my fuel costs?”

Those too-high heating costs last year are also leading many
growers to ask about alternative fuels and heating systems. Many have heard
about alternative fuels that sound like they would be very much cheaper to
operate, so much cheaper that switching to one of those systems just might take
heating costs off the worry list. Alternative fuel systems have been improved
in recent years, and some may well be worth looking at. However, growers should
be aware that there is no national standard or independent laboratory testing
or certification for poultry house heating systems, as there is for ventilation
fans, for example. This means that published energy efficiency and cost comparisons
of an alternative fuel with propane or natural gas should be looked at with a
critical eye.

Further, even accurate “laboratory-tested” data may not
necessarily be what can be achieved in a poultry house. It is also well to
remember that simple BTU output and operating cost numbers are not by a long
shot all you need to know in order to make an economically sound decision about
investing in an alternative heating system.

That kind of decision requires 1) careful thought about all
the real-world factors involved; 2) research to determine the true facts (and
numbers) about the given alternative fuel system; and then 3) calculation of
the possible long-term gains (or losses) that would likely result. This
newsletter provides the basic information you need to consider those real-world
factors and the research-based facts about a whole range of possible
alternative fuels and fuel systems. Plus, we are putting on our website a simple economic outcome calculator (an Excel

spreadsheet) for alternative heating systems. Once you have
all your facts and numbers in hand, you can use the calculator to test whether
switching from propane to a given alternative heating system would pay off for

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