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Book Review by N. R. Mallery

The Compost-Powered Water Heater

How to Heat your Greenhouse, Pool or Building with only Compost!

by Gaelan Brown, The Countryman Press, 162 pages, $16.95

Gaelan Brown and I connected a number of years ago because of compost-powered heat, after we ran a full-page section about the Jean Pain Mound, in Green Energy Times. Jean Pain was a pioneer of sustainability, whose lifestyle in France led us towards a more responsible life on this ailing planet.

Following that initial connection, Brown and Green Energy Times together published many examples of his work, showing how well compost works to heat hot water in your home or to create heat in a greenhouse for the winter. Examples included the University of Vermont as well as at a number of other locations around Vermont and New Hampshire, built as a result of his expertise in this field.

As a fellow Vermonter, Brown is the founder and inspiration behind CompostPower.org. He has developed new ways and methods of generation to make hot water and energy from his well-designed and tested compost systems. He is also on the management team of Agrilab Technologies, the world’s leading compost heat-recovery company.

Many locals agree this book is a valuable resource that is critical to adopt as an accepted practice for our future. From Bill McKibben (350.org) to Paul Comey (Green Mountain Coffee Roasters), to Marshall Webb (Shelburne Farms), to Dr. Richard Foley (Professor, Sustainable Product Design and Innovation at Keene State College, NH) or Ben Falk (Whole Systems Design), all agree that Gaelan’s book is a must-have asset for one’s library. This technology should be considered as we move towards a sustainable future.

As Carl Smith, the editor in chief of Green Technology wrote, “Organic materials make up about two-thirds of the solid waste stream. Gaelan Brown’s book will add momentum to the growing — and vital — movement to treat this waste as a valuable resource. As he demonstrates through a range of fascinating case histories, composting offers more than the most earth-friendly solution for feeding crops — it can also be a source of energy…”.

A specialist in the field of compost heat-recovery, the author has written about a practical, useful, new-to-most, technology that works. You can actually generate your own reliable heat and hot water from compost.

The book is a guide. It is an instruction manual. It is an inspiration that not only shows pitfalls and how they were overcome, but also how to avoid them. Excellent examples include detailed plans for building a DIY system using wood chips and sawdust. The instructions include step-by-step illustrations and photos that can guide you through the construction process — complete with calculations to help you estimate the heating capabilities for different compost heat-recovery systems.

You very well may find that you want to build one yourself. You probably have a space in your bookshelf, waiting to be filled with this valuable resource.

N. R. Mallery is the publisher of G.E.T.

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