Converting your home to run on poop, also known as human waste, may sound unappealing at first. However, using poop as an energy source can provide many benefits for both you and the environment. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through everything you need to know to convert your home to run on poo power.
What is Poo Power?
Poo power, also known as biogas or methane gas, refers to the gas produced from the breakdown of organic matter such as human waste, food scraps, animal manure, and plant materials. This gas is comprised primarily of methane and carbon dioxide.
Methane is the main component of natural gas that is used for heating and cooking in many homes. Therefore, poo power can be used in place of traditional natural gas.
The process of producing biogas from organic matter like poop is called anaerobic digestion. This involves placing the organic matter in an oxygen-free container called a digester where bacteria breaks down the material and releases biogas as a byproduct.
The biogas can then be captured and used directly for heating and cooking needs. When powering a home, the biogas is usually converted into electricity using a generator.
Benefits of Using Poo Power
There are many advantages to using poo power:
- Renewable energy source – Biogas is considered a renewable energy because it is derived from organic waste materials that can be continually replenished. It does not rely on finite fossil fuels.
- Reduced waste – Using human waste and food scraps as an energy source gives these materials a purpose rather than sending them to landfills.
- Lower utility bills – Producing your own biogas can lower your reliance on electricity and natural gas from the utility company.
- Energy independence – You have control over your own energy source which provides independence and security.
Ways to Produce Biogas at Home
If you want to convert your home to utilize poo power, there are several methods you can implement:
Septic tank digesters – This involves installing an extra chamber in your existing septic tank to collect the methane gas that is naturally produced as waste breaks down. The gas can be fed directly into your home.
Garbage can digesters – A simple DIY option is to place organic waste matter into a sealed garbage can, allowing it to produce biogas that can be collected. However, this method produces very low volumes of methane.
Prefabricated digesters – There are many pre-made digesters you can purchase designed for home use. These have the benefit of being engineered for optimal biogas production. Expect to spend $1000-$5000 on a good home digester system.
For greater biogas production, you may want to consider installing an industrial-scale digester system. This involves building large concrete or steel tanks as digesters. Benefits include:
- Produce large volumes of biogas for home heating and electricity.
- Ability to process waste from multiple households and farms.
- Automated mixing and heating systems optimize methane production.
- Can cost $20,000 to $100,000+ to install.
Septic Systems with Biogas Capture
You may be able to modify your existing septic system to collect and utilize the methane gas that is produced. This involves:
- Installing effluent filters to trap solid waste and send it to a digester tank.
- Building a sealed digester tank where waste is broken down.
- Connecting the digester to your home’s gas plumbing system with a blower to move the biogas.
- Adding a flare to burn off excess gas.
- Using a scrubber system to clean impurities from the gas before use.
Expect to invest $15,000-$30,000 for this type of biogas system for a standard home septic tank.
Biogas Generation Process
To understand how biogas is produced, it helps to learn about the anaerobic digestion process:
- Feedstock preparation – The organic materials are ground, mixed with water, and piped into the digester.
- Hydrolysis – Bacteria breaks down the feedstock into simple organic matter like sugars.
- Acidogenesis – The sugars are converted into simple acids like carbonic acids and hydrogen.
- Acetogenesis – Simple acids are broken down into acetic acid as well as carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
- Methanogenesis – The methanogenic bacteria create methane gas as a byproduct.
- Biogas – The end result is biogas comprising 60-70% methane, 30-40% CO2, and trace gases.
Controlling factors like temperature and pH are important to foster optimal conditions for biogas generation by the bacteria.
Estimating Biogas Production
To determine if you can generate enough poo power from your household waste to meet your energy needs, you’ll need to estimate your potential biogas production.
The amount of biogas produced depends on:
- Quantity of feedstock – The more organic material you can feed into your digester, the higher your methane yield.
- Type of feedstock – Human waste yields more methane than food scraps per pound. Animal manure can produce a lot of biogas.
- Digestion time – Longer digestion results in greater gas yields.
- Temperature – Warm temperatures speed up methanogenesis. Heating your digester can increase biogas production.
Here is a simple formula for estimating your potential biogas production:
Biogas Production = (Organic material in lbs) x (Methane yield constant) x (Conversion factor)
Typical methane yield constants:
- Human waste = 0.06 ft^3 methane/lb
- Food waste = 0.033 ft^3 methane/lb
- Cow manure = 0.023 ft^3 methane/lb
- Cubic feet to kWh = 0.003 kWh/ft^3 methane
So for example, if your household of 4 produces 50 lbs of human waste per day:
Biogas production = (50 lbs/day) x (0.06 ft^3/lb) x (0.003 kWh/ft^3) = 0.9 kWh/day
That’s enough to power a single efficient cook stove for a day!
Using Biogas in Your Home
Once you have established biogas production, you need to use it for your home’s energy needs. Here are the main options:
Heating and Cooking
The simplest option is to pipe the raw methane straight into your home’s natural gas plumbing and use it to fuel appliances:
- Gas stove and oven
- Natural gas heaters and furnace
- Gas clothes dryer
- Gas fueled hot water heater
You may need to clean and filter the biogas first to remove impurities like hydrogen sulfide. Always inspect appliances for compatibility with biomethane before converting from natural gas.
To produce electricity, the biogas can be fed into a generator unit. This converts the chemical energy into mechanical energy that powers a generator to produce electricity.
Connect the generator to your home’s electrical system to power lights, appliances, electronics and more. Store excess electricity in batteries for off-grid use.
Typical home biogas generators provide 2-10 kWh per day and cost $2000-$10,000 installed.
Cooking and Heating Stoves
There are specialized methane gas stoves and heaters designed to burn biogas as a fuel source. These provide an efficient way to use your homegrown methane instead of propane or natural gas.
Maintaining a Home Biogas System
Like any system, your home biogas plant will require regular maintenance and monitoring:
- Temperature – Maintain ideal digester temperature of 90-100°F. Heat during colder months.
- pH – Test pH regularly and adjust to 6.5-8 range by adding baking soda or wood ash.
- Feedstock – Collect household and farm waste daily to continually feed digester.
- Effluent removal – Remove and dispose of effluent sludge regularly.
- Pipe inspection – Check biogas piping for leaks.
- Water protection – Ensure digesters have proper liners to prevent groundwater contamination.
Taking diligent care of your digesters and biogas system will allow it to produce renewable poo power for your homestead.
Is Poo Power Right for You?
Converting your home to utilize biogas from waste can provide an array of benefits related to savings, self-sufficiency and sustainability. However, it also involves considerable investment and maintenance costs.
Consider these key questions to determine if a home biogas system is right for you:
- Do you have ready access to substantial sources of animal/human waste to feed the digesters?
- Are you willing to routinely maintain the digesters and biogas system?
- Does your household have sufficient energy needs to utilize the amount of biogas produced?
- Does your climate allow the digesters to be productive year-round?
- Can you afford the upfront installation and construction costs?
If you answer yes to most of these questions, then poo power may be a viable renewable energy solution for your homestead.
Take the First Step Today
Converting your home to run on renewable biogas from waste provides exciting possibilities for energy independence, cost savings, and sustainability. I hope this comprehensive guide has illuminated everything involved with installing a poo power system.
Start today by researching quality biogas digesters and generators that suit your household’s needs and budget. With some diligence and commitment, you’ll be cooking dinner with poo in no time!