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Recognizing the Many Faces of Jean Pain  RSS feed

 
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In the 40+ years since Jean Pain introduced his compost water heater to the world, many people have made a thousand variations and permutations of his original system. Monsieur Pain's design was simple and elegant, but unwieldy. It worked for him because of his job with the French equivalent of the Forestry Service, but most of us simply can't obtain wood in the quantities he used. As a result, hundreds of people have "tinkered" with the original methodology with varying success. Some were scholarly, scientific experiments conducted by universities; some were journalistic inquiries performed by curious reporters; most were backyard hackers trying to lower their bills and help the environment - as was M. Pain himself.

But here's what I want to know: with so many studies (many done scientifically with solid, measurable data), has anyone compiled a list/ranking/chart of the available data? Is there a quick reference guide available to give a permie some idea how to construct a J.P. system for his/her individual needs? It seems such data is probably available - as very few green energy methods have been more thoroughly examined than this one. But has anyone gone to the trouble of compiling all this valuable data into one work?
 
master pollinator
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Myself, I am not sure if it is the VOLUME of wood required, as much as it is the way the wood has to be converted to be in usable form, that makes this method to heat a home ultimately abandoned. Jean Pain was a forester as you noted, but he was not merely trying to use wood, he was trying to create a market for pre-commercial thinings. This required a special chipper to render the wood usable to compost, and which requires lots of work to create a pile big enough to heat a home.

As is everything in life, we must ask ourselves, not so much if a method will work, but if this is the most effecient way to get there. There is no question compost heat works, but for me, in the same amount of time it would take for me to form a compost pile, I could go out and cut a few cord of firewood. I do not think I am alone in this.

So this leads to the question, is there a way to reduce the amount of firewood required? For me this has meant building super-insulated homes. It would be true that a compost pile could be smaller in size in a super-insulated home, but because the compost pile gets heat from mass, it is not in direct proportion to a homes r-factor.

For many, a rocket mass heater just makes more sense to reduce the fuel consumption (and time to produce the fuel they need).

For me, they do not fit my heating needs, so I am going in a different direction. IF I can reduce my overall required BTU's via a super-insulated house, I can further reduce the fuel required by a heater type that never overheats my home by controlling how much fuel the fire is fed. I can do that via a pellet stove. Since producing wood pellets is not feasible by any numbers I came up with, it only makes sense to feed the machine corn kernels or sunflower seed that I can produce. Ultimately this could be the Holy Grail of heating systems: fully sustainable, organic, least amount of consumption per amount of BTU gleaned, and 100% mechanization.

Ever since I was a kid, and cut, split and stacked 25 cords of firewood per year to heat our house, then, only a few hours later, used a bucket loader to dig silage out of the pit to feed our cows with silage so hot you could barely touch it, I thought, "this is stupid, we spend all this time getting heat from firewood in our houses, when heat is just sitting here in our silage pile", but as great as the potential is...moving that heat is just not as efficient as other methods. Ultimately I think, that is what many, many people find out through their own endeavors. As for documenting it, since the basic premise is flawed (its efficiency and not whether or not it can actually be done), few people want to say as such.

 
steward
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Gaelen Brown wrote a book recently about compost heat.  They have the system working without a specialized chipper and there are plans to work from.  About half the book is geared towards big operations but there is plenty if info for people wanting to heat a house or greenhouse.  The Compost Powered Water Heater
 
Chris Watson
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Mart Hale wrote:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvMi6hgfcnw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_txtPXJF98
http://waldenlabs.com/7-steps-to-build-a-compost-water-heater/
https://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=1ZU2fjObvZ4&u=/watch%3Fv%3DR8F8i7_XzVM%26feature%3Dshare
http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=eBE9NO26_YE&u=/watch%3Fv%3DoF5iL-nUGMQ%26feature%3Dshare
https://archive.org/details/Another_Kind_of_Garden-The_Methods_of_Jean_Pain
http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=nNTmQa7PppE&u=/watch%3Fv%3DzGCj7NA0OIs%26feature%3Dshare
http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=cuBw5q1KAYU&u=/watch%3Fv%3DJHRvwNJRNag%26feature%3Dshare
http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=0ONUJPeRY68&u=/watch%3Fv%3DX8m899omjqY%26feature%3Dshare
http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=0WaqDvu6EIU&u=/watch%3Fv%3D5O1LyKGuKU4%26feature%3Dshare
http://onestrawrob.com/?page_id=4
http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/jean-pain-zmaz80mazraw.aspx#axzz2lJaFDGQ1
http://energymd.wordpress.com/2008/12/05/heat-free-nearly-with-a-compost-furnace/
http://www.permacultureactivist.net/PeterBane/Jean_Pain.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch/?v=5O1LyKGuKU4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmzxQmRL69A
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1s8aey08wU


Thanks for the info. In a sense, this is what I'm talking about. Here are 17 sources of info on a thoroughly-researched subject. It seems nobody yet has "written the book" on harnessing compost heat. It's a fragmented data set that (it seems) could be compiled into one handbook - albeit probably a rather thick one.

Maybe I'll write it. I'm working on six books now (and for the past 15 years.) What's one more?
 
Mike Jay
steward
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Before you write it, check out Gaelan's book.  I think he pulls together a lot of good info into one book.  
 
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my 5 cents worth --(sorry we dont have 1 or 2 cents here anymore) Jean s priority  in making the large composting piles was not to create hot water  or methane to power his little car or cook with ,but to rejuvenate the forest floor and build up the soil , plus clear the firebreaks of the estate he was managing---he also seems to have been working with a very small number of helpers --if any ?---he needed a quicker way and faster method to compost down the material that had before been considered waste and a fire hazard , on a very large scale but as quickly as possible and with out burning it. Plus he had to take into consideration the lack of water and had to be economical with it, his own design of shredder is still made . The hot water and methane was an added bonus and his hard earned hands on approach gave the best working model of this system , i think in trying to down scale this down is where the whole idea falls flat , his brother has made a few youtube clips which are very interesting and fill in a few blanks of the mans life and a glimpse at his character---and madness---using a small homemade compressor to pressure fill tanks of methane from old truck tube holding reservoirs--then  strapping this onto the 2cv vans roof and driving around the estate----our world is just a little bit less interesting ---he would have made the health and safety mob reach for the drink---with him now gone.
 
pollinator
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Gaelan Brown's book is a good resource.
In it, he states that the Btus available from composting can exceed the Btus released by burning the same amount of wood, plus you end up with compost leftover instead of ashes.

Jean Pain did make his own chipper (and it is still made today) Equipe Jean Pain.
His chipper made thin chips (1/16" thick) increasing the surface area for composting, and his were ramial chips (from small diameter, green, thinnings and prunings) NOT the blocky, woody chips we often get when the tree services cut whole trees down and chip them.
Water. lots of it. more than you think.

Scale is a BIG factor in the success or failure. Insulation is another. Pain was in the south of France, not Maine, Minnesota or Montana, insulating against the cold to keep the pile working through the winter is necessary.

No, it's not for everyone. In fact, I don't think it could be.
Space, available chips, equipment, ability/skill... all bars to entry. There are plenty of resourceful people like Pain, who see an opportunity in an undervalued resource, who can make it into something.
For a farm or a nursery business, with greenhouse heating needs and compost needs, it would make much more sense than for a residence.

 
tony uljee
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if you type in BIOMEILER , and jean pain , it will show a whole lot more on german ,dannish , dutch sites that have built really big systems and some have good details and plans drawn up--just hit goggles translate and bobs your aunty jenny in some of the direct swop over to englash--but you wiil get most of it,cheers
 
tony uljee
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would like to get this enlarged and hang it up in the manshed bar, on the wall of inspiration
jean-pain-heater1.jpg
[Thumbnail for jean-pain-heater1.jpg]
his gas powered van
 
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