Waterside hot water hay pellet furnace

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The waterside hot water hay pellet furnace is technology that was developed to convert grass and hay into energy that can used in home heating, also known as grass pellet heating.[1]

The waterside hot water hay pellet furnace was invented by Gus Swanson a farmer from Pictou County, Nova Scotia.[2] Swanson came up with the idea after search for an affordable alternative to home heating to oil after the price of oil began to increase.[2] Swanson and two of his partners, Philip Landry and Jim Trussler, founded the company LST Energy Inc. as a way to grow and build their hay pellet furnace technology.[3]

Development and method of operation[edit]

The waterside hot water hay pellet furnace converts hay pellets into energy by burning them in a furnace, wood stove, or pellet stove.[1] The hay pellets are made from dried field hay (grass) that is harvested at the end of season and then pressed into pellets.[4]

Swanson developed a furnace with a local Pictou furnace maker, a Cape Breton company that makes pellet machines, and scientists at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.[2] While developing the furnace Swanson and his team had problems related to the building up of glass that was produced when the hay was burning in the furnace. This is because hay contains sand and potassium chloride, sometimes referred to as clinkers,[3] and its ashes are heavy. Therefore, when the hay is burning in the furnace the sand turns into glass that can be up to an inch thick and this was causing problems because the glass would build up enough that it was putting the fire out(which was the energy created by the burning of the hay). Thus, Swanson and his team had to find a way to break the newly formed glass back into sand. It took 10 different prototype burning pots before one was created that had an ash breaker that would work.[1]

The temperature in the water chamber of the furnace can reach the boiling point within seven minutes and at that rate the furnace can burn off the majority of the ash and leave little waste.[4] Once development was complete on the furnace the final working prototype of the Waterside Hay Hot Water Pellet Furnace was 45 inches tall and around a foot in diameter. It can burn 50 – 125 pounds of pellets a day and releases 30,000 – 190,000 BTU's (British thermal units) an hour.[1]

It is estimated that it will take 8,100 square metres of grass to heat an average Canadian home per year.[2]

Key partners in development[edit]

Swanson and his company have received grants to help assist in the patent and safety certificate testing from Agri-Futures Nova Scotia, which is the provincial distributor of funds through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF) Program.[4]

LST Energy Inc. received a $100,000 prize offered by Innovacorporation for winning first place in a regional technology start-up competition in 2010.[3]

The Nova Scotia Agricultural College has been helping LST energy Inc. on the development of the hay pellet furnace. In 2009, when LST Energy advanced to the final round of the regional technology start-up competition they had one of their completed prototypes installed and up and running at the Agricultural College.[3]

A Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia company has been recruited to produce the hay pellets suitable for use in the furnace.[4]


Hay, which comes from grass, is an economically viable, renewable and sustainable resource. Two acres of hay will heat an average home for the winter and it would only take 4% of Canadian land to produce enough hay to heat every Canadian home.[1] The hay pellets used in the furnace are also an environmental friendly energy source.[1] It is considered a carbon neutral energy source.[3] The hay pellets burning efficiency is increased by its low moisture content and it burns without producing any smoke and as clean or cleaner than any fossil fuel. Wood stoves release 45g of particulate/hour, while hay pellets only product 1.2g/hour.[1]

Research has been conducted to discover what type of grass is best suited for use in the Waterside Hot Water Hay Pellet Furnace and it was found the reed canary hay pellets, produced from reed canary grass is the most efficient grass pellet source. It emitted 90% less Carbon Dioxide (CO2) than heating oil, propane or natural gas. Eighteen thousand tonnes of CO2 can be saved from being emitted into the atmosphere for every 50 acres of reed canary grass burnt as hay pellets in the Waterside Hot Water Hay Pellet Furnace.[1]

It’s a potential new source of income for the struggling agricultural industry.[4] This new furnace also has the potential to strengthen the agricultural community in Canada because farmers may soon be able to sell their hay for pellet production. Farmers currently make $30/ton of hay, however it is predicted that if demand for hay increases because it is needed for pellet production that the farmers could potentially make up to $100/ton, with the consumer being charge $200/ton of pellets.[1] Presently, one tonne of hay is equivalent to around $700 worth of heating oil.[4] It is predicted that a farm in Nova Scotia with 100 acres of hay could make up to $50,000 a year selling their hay for production of pellets that will be used in the furnace.[4] An increase in demand for pellets made out of hay could also potentially increase jobs available in rural farming areas across Canada.[2]

Heating a home with hay pellets is a much cheaper alternative to that of oil. Swanson currently heats a three-bedroom apartment, a two-bedroom apartment, and a two-bedroom house using hay pellets and it cost him only $300/month, compared to the $900/month it used to cost him when he was heating these properties with oil.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jones, H. (2008, Aug 21). NS farmer has an answer to energy and greenhouse gas problems. Farm Focus of Atlantic Canada. Retrieved from http://www.atlanticfarmfocus.ca/NB-NL-NS-PEI/2008-08-21/article-1054532/NS-farmer-has-an-answer-to-energy-and-greenhouse-gas-problems/1
  2. ^ a b c d e f CBC (2011, Sept 13). Farmers learn about converting grass into fuel. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2011/09/13/ns-grass-pellets-heat.html
  3. ^ a b c d e Kelly, S. (2010, Jan 28). Pictou County Company wins a $100,000 Prize. Farm Focus of Atlantic Canada. Retrieved from http://www.atlanticfarmfocus.ca/NBNLNSPEI/2010-01-28/article-1055307/Pictou-County-company-wins-100000-prize/1
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Goodwin, S. (2008, Sept 2). Farmer says he’s found a way to create heat from hay. The Advocate. Retrieved from http://www.pictouadvocate.com/2008/09/02/farmer-says-he%E2%80%99s-found-a-way-to-create-heat-from-hay/