Compared to other green energy installations such as solar or wind, one can set up home biogas with a much smaller initial investment. We’re talking hundreds instead of thousands of dollars. This is only one of the benefits of home biogas, many of which we’ll be looking at here.
What Is Home Biogas?
In a home biogas system, organic material is used to feed anaerobic bacteria in a sealed tank. The bacteria produces methane, with smaller amounts of hydrogen sulfide, CO2, and water. This gas blend is comparable to natural gas. One can collect and use it in any number of ways to replace other energy sources. With a home biogas system, the household not only saves money, but it also lowers the household’s carbon footprint for a very reasonable initial investment and the low-labor chore of adding organic waste to the system on a regular basis.
How Does Home Biogas Work?
The mechanisms behind the process are simple. Organic waste (vegetable or manure) is added to a sealed tank where it is digested by anerobic bacteria, which produces biogas. The biogas rises to another tank, where it is collected for use. The digested organics are pumped into a third tank. From here, you can be use it as a high-grade fertilizer, just as you would with compost.
Home biogas itself has a wide variety of uses, including:
- Powering an electric generator.
- Generating steam for steam-power applications.
- Cooking (as a replacement for natural gas).
- Fuel for a car, truck or tractor. It’s not difficult to convert a standard engine to use biogas or standard fuel, depending on circumstances.
- Production of Methanol. This requires a catalytic chemical oxidation, and is probably only suitable for larger installations.
The decision of how to use home biogas will depend heavily on how much biogas it produces. This depends entirely on how much organic material one feeds the system. One may use an urban residential system to power a grill and/or generate some of the electricity for the household. On the other hand, a farm, particularly one with livestock for manure, can generate enough biogas to use home biogas in a number of ways, depending on their energy needs.
The Advantages of Home Biogas
Low initial investment
Compared to other energy generation options, a home biogas system can be very inexpensive. Buying a complete system (typically about $1,000) will, of course, cost more than buying a kit. On the other hand, building one from scratch can cost about $200, or even less.
Low operating costs
Once the bacteria is installed in the digestion tank, what is added regularly would otherwise be waste.
Low labor investment
All one needs to do to run a home biogas generator is to feed organic material into it on a regular basis. Afterward, store or use the fertilizer from the output.
Improves the environment
Home biogas reduces the carbon footprint of a household. It also reduces the waste stream, taking material that would otherwise go to a landfill and putting it to good use. The energy produced replaces energy that would otherwise be generated by hydrocarbons.
Simpler than other biofuel options
Home biogas is much simpler and less expensive to produce than other methods of producing biofuel, such as biodiesel, ethanol, or biobutanol. It is ideal for small household or farm applications.
Actively cleans the environment
Anaerobic digestion will deactivate pathogens and kill parasites, removing them from the local environment. This will help prevent health problems for your livestock, pets, family, and neighbors.
It’s also an easy step toward becoming completely energy-sufficient or going off-grid.
The Disadvantages of Home Biogas
Regular labor requirement
This is not a set and forget project. Regular attention, in adding organic waste and removing the enriched compost is essential. Attention to this will become a regular chore, although it’s not very labor-intensive.
Difficult in cold climates
The bacteria will work best at warm temperatures, 30-37° C. Temperatures below -10° C or above 90° C will kill the bacteria. In cold climates, one may use some of the biogas to heat the digestion tank. However, that will require a more complex installation.
Hydrogen sulfide is corrosive
This is not an issue with some applications, but use with internal combustion engines or storage in mild steel tanks will require its removal. One may achieve this chemically or via a membrane barrier. Regardless of the method, it will be an essential step to use the biogas with machinery.
All in all, home biogas generation is an option available to almost any household. All that is needed to run it is a steady source of organic waste, a plan for using the resulting biogas, and a use for enhanced compost. It reduces both the amount of waste to dispose of and the household’s energy bill. Consequently, it’s good for both the environment and household finances.
With a relatively low initial investment and a minimal amount of ongoing labor, it can be a solid ongoing benefit to many households. With few moving parts, there is very little maintenance in order to keep an installation working well. Many homes and farms are already enjoying the benefits of this particular bonanza, all over the world. Shouldn’t you be, too?
It’s an option well worth considering. If you’re already using a home biogas system, please comment and tell us about your experience with it. Are there tips or tricks that you’d like to tell our other readers about?