A new system that recovers heat from poultry litter could save on energy costs and have positive environmental benefits, according to reports from its initial users.

The system takes the heat the litter generates while composting and transfers it into the chicken houses, reducing the amount of propane normally used to warm the barns, according to Triea Systems Inc., the system's creator. This can save roughly 70 percent on heating costs, said company owner Jim O'Brien.

There could be possible environmental benefits, according to Will Taylor of Cottage Hill Farm, a facility using the heat recovery system. "If you take the litter straight out of the chicken house, you get a lot of gassing off of ammonia and nitrogen,” said Taylor. “Once you compost it and make it more stable, you reduce that, also. So there’s several ways you can improve the litter environmentally, just by stacking and composting.”

A new heat recovery system costs around $80,000 per chicken house. But with the energy savings, the costs will be fully recouped within five years, said Mike Hesse, Triea’s regional system engineer. “We know that the system performs,” said Hesse. “Now we just want to make it more efficient for the farmer.”