Ross School - Senior Projects 2010

Student: Charles A. McIntosh      

Mentor: Hugh McGuiness


Title: Using Organic Matter to Heat A Residential Home


For my Senior Project I decided to find an alternative way to heat residential homes. I focused on extracting heat from composting organics. I assembled a 10 x 8 x 14 ft composting bin in which I placed a 40-gallon water tank. The water tank extracted the heat and pumped the hot water through a radiant heating system in my basement to heat my home. I documented this in a research paper consisting of energy data that I collected. It also contained photographs that I shot to document my Senior Project process.





For my presentation, I talked about the different crises that helped me choose what I wanted to do for my Sr. Project. Next I talked about how much garbage was thrown away and that majority of that garbage could be composted and used to heat the average home. I then gave an overview of my product consisting of: compost reactor, 40 gallon heat exchanger, thermopex tubing, 120 gallon hot water storage tank and the radiant heating system in my basement. I then talked about how much woodchips I needed in order to make this project a reality, I showed a video on a truck delivering woodchips and how this was only one of five that I needed. Next I talked about the testing equipment I used in order to monitor the individual compost heaps and my compost reactor on old analog data loggers. I then explained how distributing feedstock in certain areas of the compost pile rather than just piling it up in the center was more efficient because it slowed the composting process down, though it still gave an extremely high heat output. To begin testing I first had to prepare my basement, and that required destroying my basement, and then laying down the radiant heating system and then re-pouring my basement with new concrete. Next I explained how I needed to move a hill in order to build by compost reactor and that I needed to make sure that everything was level. Then I talked about construing my compost reactor. Then I talked about installing my 120-gallon hot water storage tank and digging the trench from the compost reactor to my house. Then I talked about how the cold set me back because it froze everything and how it forced me to work in the cold. Because of the cold I was forced to close the compost reactor early and use tarps in order to protect the compost.

Works Cited

Blue Egg. 2009. How to Compost. <> Published 12 November 2009.

Cenus. Population and Household Economic Topics . <>. The Physics of Composting. 2009. < >.

Dunn, Collin. Compost: How to Make it, Bins, Piles and More. 19 07 2007. < >. Published 19 July 2009

Fiarkoski Sr., John E. Compost Water Heater and Method. USA: Patent 5,144,940. 8 September 1992.

Gauthier, Paul L. Compost Aeration System. USA: Patent 4,521,517. 4 June 1985.

Green Mountain Technologies. Aerated Static Pile System. <>. Published 10 March 2009.

Hopwood, Nick and Jordan Cohen. Greenhouse Gases and Society. <>

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "IPCC." Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. <>.

Jenkins, Abigail and Lukas Van Zwieten. How to compost on farm. Wollongbar. Published 3 June 2003.

Jenkins, Joseph. COmpost Myths: To Turn Or Not To Turn, That Is The Question.

Lawrimore, Jay. Greenhouse Gases. <>. Published 23 February 2010

Lowes. Lawn and Garden. 12 November 2009. < >. Published 12 November 2009.

Mother Earth News. DIY Water Heating with Compost . Topeka, 1981.

Nova. Biomass – the growing energy resource. <>. Published 2009

Ouellette, Joseph P. Biomass Heating System. USA: Patent 7,135,332 B2. 14 November 2006.

Owen, Marion. Compost Happens! 1996. <>. Published 1996

Raloff, Janet. "Science News." GLACIER MELTS ARE ERASING CLIMATE RECORD. <>. Published 12 October 2008

Richard, Tom. Chipping Woody Wastes. 1976 . 12 November 2009 <>. Published 12 November 2009

Sudrabin, David A. Accelerated Composting Plate and System for Use. USA: Patent 5,518,922. 21 May 1996.

Trautmann, Nancy and Tom Richard. Moisture Content. 1996. <>. Published 1996

Monitoring Compost Temperature. 1996. <>. Published 1996

Trautmann, Nancy. Compost Physics. 1996. <>. Published 1996

Trautmann, Nancy M and Marianne E Krasny. "Composting in the Classroom." n.d.

Tucker, Molly Farrell. EXTRACTING THERMAL ENERGY FROM COMPOSTING.  Published 2006.

Community Member (Details)

Richard Palmeri (Handyman)