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Student Implementation Of A Unique Greenhouse Heating Project

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1107.1 - 13.1107.19



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Paper Authors


Kevin Schmaltz Western Kentucky University

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Kevin Schmaltz has been teaching thermo-fluid, energy conversion and professional component courses in Mechanical Engineering at Western Kentucky University since 2002. These include the Freshman Experience, Sophomore Design, Junior Design and the Senior Project Design course sequence. Prior to teaching at WKU, he was the ME Department Chair at Lake Superior State University for five years and the University Distinguished Teacher in 2001. Before entering the academic world, he was a project engineer for Shell Oil for eight years, designing and building offshore oil and gas production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Student Implementation of a Unique Greenhouse Heating Project


For the past two years, successive Western Kentucky University (WKU) Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student teams have designed, installed and tested the performance of a bio-generated heat collection and distribution system to heat a prototype greenhouse for the WKU Agriculture Department.

WKU Agriculture Department takes leaves collected by the city of Bowling Green to process and sell the resulting compost. Compost temperatures of 150 ºF are reached in the center of the pile and by capturing this heat it may be possible to operate a greenhouse during winter months. The goal of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility of an agricultural heating system that could be used in various climates throughout the United States.

The 2006 – 07 student team designed and began the installation of a water piping system to capture and deliver energy to a root-zone heating system in a 30’ x 60’ greenhouse installed on the Agriculture Department campus farm. The 2007 – 08 team is verifying the analytical and computational techniques used in the initial design and conducting experiments to determine the actual performance of the system. Through construction of the system, the students have experienced team work to manage the project with external customers and contractors, while maintaining a schedule and budget. Through the testing of the final system the team is developing and implementing the validation of the system.

This paper details the design and ongoing installation of the heat collection system, including sizing calculations, experimental verification, and system construction. Energy storage and the greenhouse root-zone heating design will also be covered. Finally, the assessment of the teams’ performance and lessons learned on the project will be discussed.

Project Motivation and Scope

The Western Kentucky University (WKU) Department of Agriculture receives the municipal leaf collection from the city of Bowling Green. The leaves are ground before delivery, composted and sold to the community. During the composting process, the piles of leaves become quite warm, with measured temperatures in the center of the piles of over 150 ºF. In 2006, the Agriculture Department partnered with the Mechanical Engineering program to investigate the feasibility of capturing the heat generated from the composting process to heat a greenhouse at the Agriculture facilities during winter months. The primary hindrance to using a greenhouse year-round in moderate climates such as Kentucky is that heating costs are too great to economically justify winter operation. Having a greenhouse available throughout the academic year would provide a significant benefit to the Agriculture Department, but a means of heating that was less expensive than conventional heating was desired. The Agriculture Department hopes to increase revenue to the school by using a non-conventional source of heat to lengthen the

Schmaltz, K. (2008, June), Student Implementation Of A Unique Greenhouse Heating Project Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3160

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