Hay, What a Good Idea! Quakertown Inventor Harvests Abundant Savings on Heating Oil Costs

man with machine
Image via Chiara Kramer at Lancaster Farming.
Michael Kramer and his automated biomass boiler; it burns chopped hay from his fields.

A Quakertown mechanical engineer has reconfigured a biomass boiler — a natural-burning, hot-water producer for home heating — to run on hay fed to it automatically. Tom Venesky harvested this story in Lancaster Farming.

Michael Kramer wanted to get the high cost of home heating oil off his back.

His ah-ha moment came from a nearby farm: Its bales of bundled hay got Kramer thinking about its use as a fuel source. Could it be used in a biomass boiler for heat?

That turned out to be a yes. But maintaining an appropriate temperature required a steady input of fuel (straw).

The enterprising Edison then devised a system to chop hay into more easily burned pieces that are automatically fed into his boiler.

Kramer configured the whole works so it could be run conveniently from a phone app.

“I’ve completely eliminated a fossil fuel heating bill,” he said.

During this winter’s cold snaps, the boiler was consuming one hay bale a week. Year-round, however, Kramer estimates that 16 bales should suffice to keep his rooms and bathwater sufficiently toasty.

“It’s very satisfying knowing I’m keeping my family warm with heat produced from a product that comes from my own land,” he said. “It really feels good to be at this point.”

More on this inventive way to sidestep heating oil costs is at Lancaster Farming.