Research Finds Propane Is Cleaner Energy Source for Orchard Heaters

Washington, D.C. (February 22, 2007) New research has demonstrated that propane supplies clean and efficient power to orchard heaters. A research project funded by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and conducted by Oregon State University studied the heat and smoke released by three types of frost protection systems in northern Oregon

"The recent below-average temperatures along the West Coast are a reminder of how vital efficient and effective frost protection is," said Robert Jacobs, PERC Agriculture Advisory Committee chair. "Propane is an excellent energy source for orchards because of its portability and it provides powerful heat with a smaller environmental footprint."

The research put three different frost protection systems through laboratory and in-field tests in Oregon during the spring season, including AgHeat propane heaters, shell casing propane heaters, and diesel-burning smudge pot heaters. Researchers monitored and recorded the amount of heat released by each type of heater, the smoke emitted by the heaters, and the fuel consumption rates, as well as the average temperature increase produced.

Thirty temperature-monitoring systems were placed throughout the orchard. Each system was programmed to record temperature data every five minutes. A weather station tower equipped with instrumentation to monitor wind speed and direction, dry-bulb temperature, and relative humidity was also installed in the orchard and programmed to record data every five minutes. In-field tests were performed with each type of heater on a rotating basis during 2005 and 2006.

The test results showed propane to be the cleaner and more efficient fuel for the orchard heaters. In fact, the AgHeat propane heaters provided the greatest temperature rise on less fuel compared to other types of heaters tested. Propane's high heat content and the heater's unique design allowed them to radiate more heat into the crop, thus increasing the efficiency of protection crops.

"Ten years ago AgHeat wanted to take a modern approach to the age old problem of frost and freeze control in commercial fruit orchards," said Jess Munos, President of AgHeat, Inc. "The AgHeat propane heater is the fruit of our labor. It is the most fuel efficient and modern heating system in the industry today."

During the laboratory tests, the diesel heaters produced the most smoke emissions, between three and four times the amount of smoke released from the propane heaters. Propane heaters also proved to be a cleaner alternative in relation to soil contamination. A diesel spill can contaminate ground and surface water, as well as the surrounding soil, making it a significant risk to the surrounding orchard trees. Propane is nontoxic and insoluble in water. It vaporizes into the air, eliminating any risk of soil or water contamination.

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