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Biomeiler questions

 
Posts: 62
Location: Shenandoah Valley, VA
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I have been using Biomeiler heat recover systems.  I'm about to build mound my 7th mound.  We use the heat for drying lumber, drying firewood, heating a green house, heating 2 houses and a shop.  We have a back up boiler that gets used from time to time.

I know there not very popular in the US and can ve very hard to find good knowledge about them in English.  

Dose anyone use them or know a lot about them?
 
pollinator
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I think most people around here refer to them as the Jean Pain method.  Perhaps that may help your search for additional information.
 
Bob Anders
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I have done a lot of searching under Jean Pain method.  There is only so much information out there.

Thank you Chad
 
steward
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Hi Bob, that's awesome that you are having luck with them!  I've done a fair bit of research and usually I see where someone built one for a school project or on their own, they missed a key part, it didn't work and then they don't try it again.

What size wood chips do you use?  How are they chipped up and are you picky about tree species?  How big are your piles?  Do you put in things other than wood (hay, "greens", etc)?  Got any pics to share?
 
Bob Anders
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We chip whole junk trees; soft and hard woods.  I have a drum chipper that's set up close to a #2 chip.  I think most chips are a #1 unless there is a real reason for them to be smaller.

I make them in an old covered feed bunker that is set up to catch catch liquids and use a sump pump to recycle the liquids on a timer.  We make the pile 20' by 12' by 8' (70ish yards).  I don't have it set up for air flow like some people talk about.  I have done 2 of them on a pad before.  

I do a 18" base, a layer of pig or cattle manure, 100' of 1" pipe, thin layer of chips, geo fabric (makes clean up faster), then repeat with 12" lifts till around 8'.

I feel that most piles fail with a lack of water.  If it's built dry you will never get it wet and will not put off the heat and break down.

I'm still working on building my current pile.  I'm on my 4th lift in my current pile.  I have a 5gpm pump on it and am getting 89* water.  With a few more layers and some time I should be able to get a 15 to 20* temp rise at 5gpm.

I would say it takes about 250 labor hours to set one up if you do your own chipping and about 100 labor hours to tear it down, clean it up, and spread compost.

we have had a few days of rain so will not be doing much till the woods dry up a bit.
 
Mike Jay Haasl
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Awesome set up!  So do you have to add any water during the heating season or is the sump pumped liquid enough to keep it in a steady state?  By "covered bunker" does that mean you have a silage tarp on top of the pile?  Or is it exposed on top to the elements (and extra rain/snow water)?

That's great that you don't need air to keep it working.  Especially with the layer of manure, which I'd assume would block airflow anyway.  How long do you get heat from it?  And how thick is the manure layer?  Lastly, how does the geofabric make clean-up easier?

Sorry for all the questions but since we don't have many people talking about successful implementations, I figured I'd pepper some ?'s at you

I'm trying to heat my greenhouse with a small compost hopper inside the greenhouse (8 yards).  I definitely had it too dry last winter.
 
Bob Anders
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Yes I will add 100 gallons of water from time to time.  The silage pit has a roof with with some leaks.

I use them for about 11 months.  Spread the compost and left over chips and build a new one.  I build them as a heat source and with the amount of labor that is needed to build a new one I need to preplan building a new one.

I have about 3 yards of cattle manure for this pile.  I kinda think that the manure helps to jump start things, but with green whole trees should not be needed.

The fabric helps in a few ways.  It helps by giving you something to look at as you dig the compost off the top with a loader.  Once you get most of it you tie the fabric to the loader and pull off the rest.  Right below the fabric is the pipe and is ease to remove and roll up.  The down side is the fabric causes bridging, but don't know how much of an issue it is.  I have found some huge fungus growths where there was bridging.
 
Mike Jay Haasl
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Do you have a way to know when it's time to add water?  

So 5% manure by volume.  That's not too bad.  For my system, it's indoors so I'm a bit worried about ammonia.  I've debated adding some hay or coffee grounds to my wood chips for this winter's pile.  I don't have a chipper so I just get the municipal chips which may be a bit bigger than ideal.  They're generally from fall clean up around town so a decent amount of green bark and some leaves mixed in.

I fill and empty mine with a pitch fork so I guess I don't need the fabric.  And my heat extraction is to just let the hot pile bleed heat into the room through the metal walls of the bin.  So I don't have tubing to worry about.  I do have a 4" drain tile under the pile with a fan to force air up through the pile and out into a planting bed.  So I'll harvest some heat that way but lose some moisture.

But enough about me.  Does the material break down enough in 11 months to be good compost?
 
Bob Anders
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To me the pile is broken down to the point where any left over chunks are to small to bother me.

I have not used large wood chips in years due to there size.  IMO it's hard to get the amount of nitrogen mixed into a pile when using #1 chip to fully compost with 1 round.  I think "Joel Salatin talks compost" even says they use the same feed stock and will do 3 compost rounds with it.  I don't have time to check the video I have to go sit in the office at a hospital soon...

Yes you need to be careful with indoor composting.  It's not something I have ever messed with.

I add water till the chips on top are soaking wet.  I have used 2,500 gallons of pond water so far building this pile.  Once it's build I'll put about 500 gallon on it a month or more.
 
Mike Jay Haasl
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Thanks Bob!  That's wonderful that it's broken down enough to not matter.  My goal is heat for 5 months and compost in the end.

How big are your #2 chips?  The ones I get from the city vary from something the size of a pencil chopped into thirds up to a hunk that's 1" by 1" by 1/4".

Just to make sure I'm not doing something dangerous, what things should I be careful about with indoor composting?

Pardon my math but if you're on your 4th lift, could I assume you are about 50 yards of the way into your 70 yard finished size?  So then 2500 gallons of water divided by 50 cubic yards gives me 50 gallons of water per cubic yard of chips/manure.  I'm just trying to get a ballpark of how much water I should be adding as I build my tiny 8 yard pile.

If I want to get all the heat and composting done in 5 to 6 months instead of your 11 months, do you have any recommendations for a feedstock recipe?
 
Mike Jay Haasl
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Bob Anders
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I did a lot of looking at wood chip specifications.  It's all in mm and not easy to understand...
I think a #1 chip is about 1" long and 1/4" thick.
I think a #2 chip is 3/4" long and 1/8" thick.
It cost a lot of money to keep wood chips looking good.  I send my chipper to the shop once or twice a year (about $400 a trip) where they pull the knives and anvils to sharpen them.  They also do all the preventive maintenance when it's in the shop.
With city trees you get all sorts of metal trash.  They chip to reduce size of the material and make easier to move.  They are not selling the chips so there are no standards they have to keep up with.

Composting inside.  I know nothing about it.  I'm sure some kind of air exchange would be needed for your safety.
To get that broken down in 5 months I would think mixing the pile every few weeks would be needed.
You might want to look into green house composting.
 
Bob Anders
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Thank you Mike.  I was not sure on all the rules and did not want to post that.  
 
Mike Jay Haasl
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Yup, it's encouraged to link youtube videos.  Just use the Youtube button above your post and paste in the url from the video.  

Ok, I'll keep experimenting with this indoor composting.  I'm using a fan to aerate it (in place of turning) and I think I'll use some garden clean up debris and/or coffee grounds and/or hay to bump up the Nitrogen level and speed up the process (same heat over less time).

I think I'm out of questions for you for the moment.  Thanks for sharing everything you've learned, it should help many others who follow!
 
Bob Anders
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I finished everything off yesterday.  I asked my wife to take some pics for me and put them on my computer.  If she dose I will upload them.
 
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