Author: Dakota Lavento
Thanks to an economical, ecological, and easy-to-use heat pump, the Pirkola farm is now home to both happier pigs and happier people.
Located in Yppäri, a small village in North-Western Finland, the Pirkola farm has provided for the Pirkola family since the 1720s. Today, the fully modernized farm is run by Tomi and Juha Pirkola along with their spouses Anniina and Lea. The farm raises pigs and produces barley, oats, and wheat to feed the herd.
The farm has two large pig houses with room for 3,700 pigs. Each year, approximately 14,000 pigs leave the farm’s gates.
In the summer of 2020, a large 1,400 m2 expansion was completed in the newer of the farm’s two pig houses. This included four new halls as well as heated storage for straw and sawdust.
As part of the new construction, the building was upgraded with new features that improve the animals’ well-being. The new systems, such as automatic showers, fans, and controllers, are all under remote control and monitoring. “I’m still astonished how often I tend to check on the systems with my smartphone. We can even monitor feeding,” Tomi Pirkola says.
There’s no need to worry about power outages either since the remote control system is protected by battery backup. For extended power outages, the farm has a portable generator, which switches on automatically.
Effortless ground source heating
The old pig houses used to have oil heating. There were many reasons why the Pirkolas wanted to upgrade to ground source heating instead.
“We have ground source heating in our own houses, and so does the farm’s office building. In the pig houses, we wanted to use ground source heating mostly because it’s a convenient, reliable, and worry-free solution overall,” Tomi Pirkola says. “In a modern farm, there’s a lot to do already. There’s no time to waste fighting with heating.”
The farm’s Oilon and Lämpöässä ground source heat pump has been in operation since November 2020. Tomi has been very happy with the system.
While environmental considerations and low operating costs were key factors in the decision to upgrade to ground source heating, this was also an opportunity to improve the welfare of the animals and their handlers.
The heart of the system is a 43 kW Oilon and Lämpöässä ground source heat pump. The storage tank is a TV 1000 superheat tank with two high-capacity LK60 domestic hot water coils. The cooling circuit for the slurry channels as well as transmission of excess heat is managed by a special Flexible Cooling+ program developed for pig farms. The heat pump features an ÄssäControl LAN remote connection for control and monitoring.
In the new halls, heat is extracted from slurry using plastic pipes running at the bottom of each slurry channel. The total length of the cooling pipes comes to slightly under 600 meters. Cooling the slurry reduces ammonia emissions, which has a major impact on indoor air quality.
Putting recovered heat into good use
The heat extracted from the slurry channels is used for heating. Small piglets require the most heat, but there is enough heat to go around for heating 180 m2 of staff facilities and storage space as well as the building’s 60 m2 feed kitchen.
“In addition to this, we need plenty of hot water, since we take a shower twice a day,” Tomi Pirkola adds.
In summer, the slurry provides more heat that can be used for heating, and in winter, the slurry alone is not a sufficient source of heat. To account for this, the system includes two 300-meter boreholes. Any excess heat extracted from the slurry is transmitted into the boreholes and, when more heat is required, the required heat is extracted from the boreholes.
The heat pump system’s ÄssäControl PLC manages the entire process automatically. When the slurry channels no longer provide enough heat, the control system starts to circulate brine through the boreholes instead.
Slurry channel cooling does not yet cover the older section of the building, but since the main slurry channel already runs under the central corridor, the Pirkolas intend to extend the cooling loop to the old channels as well.
Improved air quality
The heat pump investment reduced emissions by 30 per cent.
The heat pump system was installed by a local contractor, Putkivoima Oy. The system was first switched on in November 2020, and the experiences have been extremely positive. Everything works as expected: the system provides the necessary cooling and reuses the recovered heat for heating. Both the pigs and their handlers have been very happy with their improved conditions.
According to Tomi Pirkola, the air quality in the new halls is much better than before. It’s immediately noticeable when you enter the new section. Both the pigs and their handlers feel comfortable.
“We need to report our atmospheric ammonia emissions in the annual reports we submit to the local center for economic development, transport and the environment. The Oilon and Lämpöässä ground source heat pump reduced our calculated emission levels by 30 per cent.”
The Pirkola farm in brief:
Finishing house expanded in 2020
Scope: four halls, 1,400 m2
Heat recovery from slurry: slurry cooling and utilization of extracted heat for hot water and space heating
Heat pump: Lämpöässä Emi 43
Storage tank: TV 1000 superheat tank with baffle and two high-capacity LK60 domestic hot water coils
Software package: Flexible Cooling+, specifically developed for pig farms
ÄssäControl LAN remote connection
Two 300-meter boreholes Installer: Putkivoima Oy
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