Space Heating

Illustration 4: Radiant Brooder Unit Heater. Source: University of Kentucky

Illustration 4: Radiant Brooder Unit Heater. Source: University of Kentucky

Poultry barns are heated during chick rearing, typically with radiant heaters, for the first few weeks after hatch and then the temperature is slowly reduced, Illustration 4. Older pancake brooders heat an area of 6 to 8 feet in diameter, while newer energy efficient brooders are mounted higher and cover an area of 14 to 16 feet in diameter (5). A floor temperature of 90°F is recommended when chicks are introduced to a house. Radiant heaters preheat the litter while forced air heaters heat the air which requires more energy. There can be a 15-20°F temperature difference between the floor and ceiling temperature due to hot air rising. Using low speed ceiling fans to mix the air can reduce floor to ceiling temperature differential and reduce energy use by 8 percent (12A). Using radiant heaters can reduce energy use by 15 to 30 percent over pancake brooders or forced-air heaters. Radiant tube heaters can also be used and have the advantage of covering a larger area which can keep poultry from bunching smothering each other than a radiant brooder heater.

High Efficiency Boilers and Furnaces

If a barn is heated with a central heating system, heating costs can be reduced by having the system serviced annually, cleaning heat exchangers regularly, and insulating ducts or piping. High efficiency boilers and furnaces with efficiencies above 90 percent should be considered for replacing old inefficient units or as an add-on unit to reduce energy consumption. An add-on unit will operate as the primary heater but is installed in parallel with existing heating unit. Typically the add-on unit is sized to meet about 80 percent of the heating requirements. The existing unit will only operate if the add-on unit can not keep up with the heating load. This typically saves on installation costs but does require that the existing heating unit continued to be maintained even though it only operates a few hours per year. Add-on units may be the most cost effective choice.

Thermostats and Controls 

A central controller is highly recommended to control heating and cooling. If multiple separate controllers are used and the offset between heating and cooling are too close, the heater can be running and at the same time a cooling/ventilation fan is  on to cool the space.. Controller temperature sensor ocation is also important to reduce cycling of heaters and fans.  Avoid placing the sensor near any heater outlet, fresh air inlets or where sunlight can hit it. It is important that the set point temperature not be any higher than necessary. As chicks or piglets grow, they are better able to regulate their body temperatures and can tolerate cooler temperatures.

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