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How to Heat an Outdoor Structure

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    ROBERT: I have a friend who’s planning on building a horse arena – an indoor horse arena, the place where we board our horses. It’s going to be a very large arena. I’m sure they’re going to insulate it well. There will probably be some stalls inside. Dirt floor, so – for riding. So there will probably be some Bobcats in and out of there, occasionally, changing the dirt out.

    And my question is as far as heating – she’s doing some research to try to find the best, cost-effective and efficient way to heat this. So far, I think she’s kind of narrowed it down to coal. I mentioned to her about solar. I also mentioned geothermal. What, in your opinion, would be the best efficient and cost-effective way to heat this arena?

    TOM: And so, first of all, when you talk about solar and coal, you’re talking about fuels. What kind of heating system does she want to use?

    ROBERT: Well, I think I suspect she might be using water, I’m thinking, under the dirt. Possibly a water-type …

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t know how that’s possible if you’re going to have Bobcats driving over that. I would think that’s too heavy.

    ROBERT: What about some sort of blowers?

    TOM: Well, yeah, like a forced-air system. I mean that’s probably going to be something in line with that approach.

    Now, in terms of solar, what I would do is if I was building a barn, I would make sure that I designed it to take advantage of passive solar energy. So, essentially, you will design the windows in the barn so that it captures the sun in the winter and protects from overhead sun in the summer, so it doesn’t overheat in the summer but traps some of the heat in the winter. The idea of passive solar energy as a design concept is something she should definitely look into.

    In terms of fuel, it doesn’t – the fuel is only part of the equation. It’s really what kind of system you’re going to use. So if you were going to use coal, I doubt that you’re going to be using a forced-air system.

    ROBERT: OK.

    TOM: You’re probably, with a forced-air system – I don’t know that I’ve seen it coal-fired. I’ve seen forced air with wood fire and I’ve also seen wood-fired boilers, where you have a wood-fired boiler that would convert to a hot-water coil that air is blown over, in the sense it’s an air-to-air heat exchanger that way or a water-to-air heat exchanger.

    ROBERT: OK. So you don’t think that coal, as the energy source, could maybe somehow work with the forced air combined?

    TOM: It depends on what the heating system is. It’s got to be properly matched with the heating system.

    ROBERT: OK.

    TOM: If coal is readily available and there’s a system that’s designed to work with it, then it could be a fine fuel. But it really depends on what the system is.

    ROBERT: It is readily available. It’s about probably 10 miles down the road from where she’s going to build this facility.

    TOM: Ah, I see why she’s interested in it then, yeah. If I was you, I would focus on the system first and the fuel second. And if you want to use coal as the fuel, just make sure you have a good, efficient system in which to burn it.

    ROBERT: Alright. Thank you, guys. I appreciate it and love your show.

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