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The Compost-Powered Water Heater: How to heat your greenhouse, pool, or buildings with only compost! Paperback – 31 Oct 2014

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This book is practical, complete, useful, and well written. I learned a lot and am impressed with the innovation and the investment opportunity for compost power. It s an exciting opportunity that doesn t need government subsidies to be viable. --Doug Casey, bestselling author of Crisis Investing"

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Hot S*** - Brown Is The New Green! 4 Jun 2014
By R. C. Williams - Published on
Format: Paperback
While working with a number of iconic Vermont companies – Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, GroSolar, and 1% For The Planet – native Vermonter Gaelan Brown found himself increasingly interested in our energy future. Driven by Peak Oil concerns about fossil-fuel energy scarcity in this new millennium, and curious about renewable alternatives, Brown spent years researching traditional, forgotten and “disappeared” methods for energy generation. His quest led him to a 19th century French farmer named Jean Pain and a biomass approach to energy that seemed all but forgotten in our age of Petroleum Man. Not content to simply theorize, Brown got busy in his front yard, constructing a “Pain Mound” to heat his hot tub through the winter, and then expanding his work to other biomass projects for neighbors. Now, Brown runs, serves on the senior management team of Agrilab Technologies, the world’s leading compost-heat-recovery company, and has authored a new book called The Compost-Powered Water Heater. We caught up with him for this interview while he was in South America researching new sites for energy regeneration.

Q. "The Revolution will be composted." Explain what you mean by this.

A. For me, realizing that we can convert “waste” materials that pollute the environment into healthy soil and emission-free renewable energy has been an epiphany mentally and spiritually. Instead of seeing doom and gloom from all the waste in our culture, I now see opportunity. That shift in mindset has been revolutionary for me in terms of my attitude and in terms of how I invest my time, and I think that inspiration is contagious for others.

Q. How did you first discover Jean Pain and his biomass heating approach?

A. In 2008 my friend and collaborator Ben Falk sent me a YouTube video documentary about Jean Pain that was made in 1981. I spent months searching the web looking for other people that had tried the concept and learning about Jean Pain, but to my amazement I could find no examples of anyone doing this. So I decided to try it myself.

Q. You learned about biomass through trial and error, by building biomass in your front yard. Any funny stories?

A. As I was experimenting with this in my yard I found a PDF of Jean Pain’s book and invited other people to be involved in research/experiments. Eventually lots of other people showed interest and asked me for help on their projects/experiments. Eventually I organized the [...] nonprofit research group, bringing together experts in engineering, perma culture, forestry, and compost science to develop best practices on the concept. A couple summers of turning my front yard into a dumping ground for wood chips and compost power mounds resulted in a lot of learning and enough success to keep a fire in my belly about the concept. (And my garden has more than a foot of compost on it now, which is great!) People involved in had several fun project days with people dancing to gypsy music on top of mounds of wet woodchips, a compost-heated hot-tub that I jerryrigged for my son to play in, and lots of UVM student projects and community groups drumming up interest in the idea. I started teaching workshops around the US and through Yestermorrow and got lots of great feedback. It turns out that during this time period as was getting organized there was in fact another group of people right here in Vermont working on compost heat recovery, led by Brian Jerose at a large scale farm project in Sheldon, Vermont. Small world, huh? Brian’s method became known as the Isobar system. Isobar systems are now a patented and proven approach for large scale compost heat recovery with several systems in operation, including one that is heating a large greenhouse at Jasper Hill farm in Greensboro, and a system at the University of New Hampshire’s organic dairy farm. Between 2010 and 2014, the network, Highfields Center for Composting, and Brian Jerose’s team started working together and eventually [...] was launched by many of those involved, to bring this concept to market in a commercially viable way.

Q. What are the biggest political and technical challenges to successfully achieving your vision?

A. The biggest economic challenge with any “disruptive” new technology is that you have to convince people to change the way they do things in order to put the new idea to use. “If this works how come everyone’s not already doing it?” Any farm or compost production site could put compost heat recovery to work in economically viable ways, but all of them will have to make some changes to their operation in order to do so. The good news is that compost heat recovery investments can pay for themselves in just a few years, in terms of Isobar systems, and the modified Jean Pain method can also be very strong in terms of economics, without need for any subsidies. So we really just need to get the word out and put effort into showing people how viable the concepts are. The way human psychology works, if something is not being sold enthusiastically with a price tag, people will assume it doesn’t work. Really it all comes down to people understanding that the concept is viable, getting the word out, empowering people to put this to work in their lives. That’s why I wrote this book, hoping that millions of people will be inspired by the stories and case studies and information presented so they feel confident to dive into their own project. The main political challenge is that people need to understand that politicians are not going to solve any of their problems for them, and that compost powered energy is one great way they can save money and reduce pollution at the same time.

Q. Say more about AgriLab.

A. Agrilab Technologies is a Vermont-based startup company that is bringing a patented engineered compost heat recovery technology to market. The Isobar system is essentially an automatic compost aeration system that pulls air down through the composting material into pipes or channels in the ground, and then runs that hot steamy air through a special heat exchanger to instantly convert that hot air into hot water. To turn manure, food scraps, etc into compost requires that the material be given access to oxygen. Many compost operations do that by using tractors and heavy equipment to tumble and stir the material regularly, which takes a lot of time and fuel. The active aeration method that Agrilab Technologies uses does that aeration with a small fan that runs for 15 minutes per hour, saving tons of energy compared to mechanical tumbling, and creating the ability for that hot steamy air to be run through the heat exchanger. The other interesting advantage of this aeration approach is that the exhaust air after the heat has been captured can be run through a very simple bio-filter, to remove odors. Odor control is a big challenge for most compost operators.

Q. So brown really is the new green…?
A. Biomass energy is hot s***, and it might help us save the world.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This booked helped me build my first pile! 6 Jun 2014
By chloe corsini - Published on
Format: Paperback
Here at UCSC, Joseph Haggard just finished teaching a class titled 'Composting for Communities: Waste-Energy Solutions for our Future'. This book was one of the main readings for the class and together, we were able to develop a comprehensive understanding of the concepts and applications of composting and compost heat recovery. Using this book as a key resource, the class was able to build a 10'X10', 7' tall compost water heater at CASFS, the UCSC campus farm. The pile is currently in its 7th day of trial and is already showing an average temp of 150F throughout the pile, water is not yet steadily flowing through the compost, but the initial water temp showed 120F on day 5. The trial is expected to run throughout the summer, providing hot water for bathing and washing for the apprentices who work on the CASFS farm during the summer. This project will also provide a proof of concept study to help the university consider the feasibility of building an on-campus composting facility to manage the organic waste stream from UCSC.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Timely, essential reading for the small holder, farmer, gardener, innovator. 4 Jun 2014
By Ben - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've been waiting for a book like for a long time. While we'll see more in the future on this topic, here is a good baseline and some important research done so far. The only thing more surprising than the massive potential for compost-based heat capture is how long it’s taken to get a book on the subject. This is a topic and book the world has needed for a long time.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A must read !! 5 Jun 2014
By David Lane - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Don't let the hand drawn cover lull you into thinking this is a beginners guide to the science of compost water heating. Whether you are looking for a great small project for your home or shop or looking to rethink the way to build in a sustainable and intelligent manner; then this is a must read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Teach a man to fish? Teach a man to compost! - Keep him warm throughout his life, then fertilize his garden with the 'waste'! 14 Oct 2014
By Nicholas L. - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've had the pleasure of working with Galaen on a number on fun projects, including one where we built a compost powered hot water system for a local farm in Waitsfield, VT. Using available information, and combing Gaelan's own independent Vermont intuitiveness, he was able to develop comprehensive content and put it all into not just a great 'how-to' manual, but a book which gives reason, foresight, and simplicity for why we as humans may want to go the compost heated way. I could think of a lot of places I could spend $12 or $13. Without a doubt, a book like this is a wise investment.
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