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Reducing Energy Costs in Poultry Houses

by 5m Editor
7 September 2009, at 12:00am

The extension service at Mississippi State University offers twenty top tips to help reduce energy costs in poultry production, and recommends keeping full records of energy consumption.

Rapid increases in the cost of fuel has forced broiler producers to reassess their energy conservation practices.

Most of the energy used in poultry production is used for brooding and adverse weather conditions can favour survival needs before productivity. Growth rate declines while feed consumption rises. Respiratory disease problems are more prevalent because of reduced air quality and utility costs increase, even while the grower attempts to maintain comfortable house conditions.

These management tips are proposed as suggestions or points to consider when evaluating energy programmes. These tips can help producers lower energy usage and costs.

Insulate houses

Keep the poultry house and equipment in a good state of repair and modify, if necessary, to prevent excessive heat losses. Insulate poultry houses to provide a minimum thermal resistance (R-value) of R-12 in the ceiling and R-8 in exposed walls. Replace or repair insulation damaged or destroyed by birds, rodents, and insects.

Vapour barrier

The R-value of most insulation materials decreases drastically when moistened. Installing a vapor barrier on the insulation's warm side protects against moisture saturation. Seal tears and damage to exposed vapour barriers.

Stop air leaks

Eliminate drafts by sealing air leaks and wall cracks. Uncaulked sill plates are the most common source of uncontrolled air entry. Seal cracks with expanding polyurethane foam. A 1/8-inch crack along both sides of a 500-ft house is equivalent to more than 10 sq ft of open wall or leaving uncovered a 2-ft section of sidewall.

Seal curtains

Repair all curtain holes and eliminate cracks between the curtains and house. Curtains must fit close to the wall and cover the entire sidewall opening. Seal bottoms of curtains with a tack-strip. Install pocket flaps over the tops and ends of curtains to reduce uncontrolled air entry. Cracks around the curtains also reduce the ability to control ventilation.

Weatherstrip openings

Thoroughly weather-strip all door openings against air entry when doors are closed.

Maintain control devices

Clean and check timers and thermostats for accuracy. If they cannot be adjusted or repaired, replace them. Usually, a thorough cleaning is all that is necessary to restore function of the devices.

Control water wastage

Reduce litter moisture by properly ventilating. Repair leaks in waterers and water lines. Leaking water systems require additional heat to evaporate spilled water. Check the pressure regulator and filters for cleanliness and proper adjustment.

Ventilate properly

Adjust ventilation so it coincides with the needs of the birds and house conditions. There is no need to over-ventilate, but be on the alert for any sign of stress that needs immediate attention. Excess litter moisture in the house requires valuable energy for moisture evaporation and removal.

Eliminate temperature layers

Uncirculated air stratifies into temperature layers with the warmer air near the ceiling and cooler air near the floor. Higher ceilings allow greater temperature variation between floor and ceiling. Use mixing fans to circulate air and maintain a more uniform temperature at all levels. This mixing improves energy utilization by moving warm air to the birds' level.

Timely ventilation

Increasing ventilation rate is often necessary to control house and litter moisture. This should only be done only during the warmest periods of the day. Moisture evaporation increases dramatically as the house temperature increases.

Maintain equipment

Clean fans and shutters frequently. After cleaning fans and shutters, lubricate motor and pivot joints. Clean shutters that allow unwanted air entry should be replaced. Cover and seal all unused fan openings with plastic sheeting or curtain material.

Fan replacement

When replacing poultry house fans, select the most efficient fans suited for your needs. Consider maintenance and service items, such as totally enclosed motors, direct drive fans, noise factor, motor overload protection, low motor starting current, and ease of maintaining/cleaning the blades and shutters. It is advisable that a replacement fan motor always be available.

Brood properly

Closely follow your company's recommended partial-house brooding program, especially during the first three weeks. Always brood the maximum number of chicks for the equipment being used.

More frequent temperature reductions

After establishing the appropriate starting temperature, reduce the temperature in two to three degree-F steps at three to four days intervals rather than weekly five degree F reductions. More frequent reductions provides comfortable conditions without over-brooding and wasting energy.

Brooder maintenance

Adopt a good brooder maintenance program. A sooty brooder indicates improperly burning of fuel that wastes gas and gives off excess carbon monoxide. Keep the burner orifices clean. Use the proper size reaming needle to avoid altering the orifice size and wasting fuel. It is wise to have spare thermocouples, valves, and other parts in case of emergency repair jobs.

Heater pilot lights

Adjust the pilot lights to manufacturers specifications. Shut off one-half the brooder pilot lights when they are not needed. In cold weather, the lit brooders provide heat until unlit brooders can be reignited.

Gas leaks

Check each brooder for gas leaks before and during each brood of chicks. Prevent gas leaks by using special gas hoses recommended for brooders. Apply a solution of soap and water to all connections using a paint brush. Air bubbles indicate gas leakage. For safety, do not test for gas leaks with an open flame.

Proper gas line pressure

Maintain a uniform gas line pressure as specified by equipment manufacturers or your gas company. Reduced gas line pressure causes burners to malfunction. Test the pressure at each burner only after all burners are burning. More than one size of gas line may be required to maintain the required pressure at all heaters. Fully open all valves when gas is in use.

Gas safety

Do not, under any circumstance, make adjustments to the regulator on the gas tanks. Notify the gas company and have them check the regulator.

Lower light intensity

In most poultry houses, more lights are used than are needed. Broilers perform well when only enough light is available to find feed and water. One-half foot candle of light is adequate in most cases. Reduce electrical usage by using bulbs with lower wattage, regular use of switches and dimmers to reduce light intensity, and changing to a more efficient light source.

Increase light efficiency

Clean the light bulbs frequently and replace dim bulbs with more energy efficient bulbs. Light reflectors on fixtures can double the amount of light that reaches the birds and reduce lighting costs by one-half.

The importance of energy conservation cannot be over-stressed. A few energy-saving tips have been presented but this programme cannot be successful unless accurate energy consumption records are kept.

Read and record electric, gas, gasoline and diesel fuel meters every month. If you have no meters, record the amount of fuel purchased; use bills as a reference. Comparing monthly fuel consumption data reflects the success of an energy conservation programme.

September 2009