Farm Progress

Plan for the future when you consider investments like in-floor heating.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

March 29, 2017

3 Min Read
READY TO FIRE: This outdoor wood burner supplies warm water that circulates under the floor of Woody Nichols’ shop/warehouse. It wasn’t burning on a March day because the building was still warm from the last time the burner was on.

The building that houses Woody and Kayla Nichols’ retail feed and livestock supply business stays toasty in the winter. And most of the time, it costs no more than a few man-hours of labor cutting wood off the farm, and some gas and oil for the chain saw to keep it going.

The Nicholses operate Prairie View Ag Supply near Frankfort. The building they heat with in-floor heating could be a shop, but they use it as a warehouse for their business. Even on a blustery March day, it was warm in the well-insulated building. Yet the heat source wasn’t even operating — the building retained enough warmth on its own from the last time the outdoor wood burner was fired.

Slick system
There’s no wood mess inside the building. It’s all outside. In fact, the wood burner is located a considerable distance away from the building. “I was thinking ahead when I put this in,” Woody Nichols says. “The space we heat is 5,000 square feet. I bought a wood burner big enough to supply energy to heat up 10,000 square feet. I figured that someday I might want to use it to heat another building or a house.”

Nichols located the wood burner where he did in case he wanted to use areas closer to the building as future building sites. The burner is still easily accessible. All the wood he burns in it comes off the wooded part of the farm.

When he built the original building, Nichols installed an in-floor heating system that consists of plastic tubing filled with water. There are several runs of tubing that supply heat to the building.

Looking ahead, he figured there might be times when he didn’t have enough wood cut, or it just wasn’t convenient to stoke the outside wood burner. “We installed a propane-fired heater as a backup,” Nichols explains. “It doesn’t run unless the wood burner stops supplying heat. Then it kicks on automatically, and that heater warms the water. It’s a seamless system. We don’t have to be here to switch anything or turn any valves to make it work. This way we know we will have heat for the building no matter what.”

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ALWAYS READY: Should the wood-fired boiler run out of wood, this propane heater kicks on and warms the water going under the warehouse floor.

Unique setup
There are plenty of shops with in-floor heating. Most were built within the past two decades. Typically, a boiler sits in a utility room and heats water.

The Nicholses are not the first people to use wood to generate the heat. This is especially economical when there’s an endless supply of firewood right on the farm.

What makes this system unique is the combination of the wood heater generating the energy to warm the water most of the time, and the propane unit standing on call whenever it’s needed.

“It just made a lot of sense when we put it in,” Nichols says. “It’s worked out really well.”

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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