In January 2017 the Center for Urban Agriculture at Knoxville Botanical Garden reached out to ARiES for a solution to heat water in its chicken coop. While they initially were interested in solar, ARiES developed a different approach that better fit their needs: transferring heat from a compost pile.


  • Project Designed & Installed by ARiES Solar

Water for hens in the Center for Urban Agriculture’s Urban Chicken Coop was freezing over as temperatures dropped in the winter. The initial request from the garden was for a solar panel installation that would power a hot water heater.

However, after analyzing their needs, ARiES Engineer Matt Ellison instead worked with CUA employees to design a solution using materials already present at the gardens: compost from weeds, brush, and animal waste. Matt has an interest in permaculture and had recently completed training that fit this project.

This solution fit in with the work of the gardens — compost is already used throughout the planting beds — and was a very cost effective solution for the nonprofit organization.

Heat from the compost pile – which can reach up to 170 degrees Farenheit – is transferred via piping coiled throughout the pile to copper pipes filled with water inside the coop. The copper is wrapped around a container holding the hens’ drinking water.

Some material for the project, including straw bales used to contain the compost pile, were donated from the community.  Thanks to K Brew, Crafty Bastard Brewery, and Last Days of Autumn Brewing for providing additional green materials!

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