6 Smart Energy Strategies that Start Paying You Back Immediately
When winter hits, the costs to heat your poultry houses naturally start to spike.
You cannot control the outside temperature. But you can control the condition of your poultry houses and how you generate your power. This article will show you how to save money on winter heating bills without compromising the quality of your flocks.
Costs Will Continue to Rise
Whether you’re heating with electric, propane, natural gas, or some other method, you must invest heavily in the winter in order to keep your flocks healthy and growing. The costs of these heat sources continue to climb.
Every time heating costs go up, your profits go down. You can’t solve this by reducing the heat inside the houses, because lower temperatures reduce body weight for your flocks.
You probably already know this, but just so we’re all on the same page, multiple studies have found that brooding at 85oF compared to 90oF in just the first week of life “can result in feed conversion differences of two points or more and lower body weights.”
And as Manna Pro puts it, “Most baby chicks don’t die from illness, lack of food, or dehydration. They are far more likely to die from being cold.”
So, if you want to reduce your winter heating costs, reducing the temperature is not the right approach.
There are two ways to cut heating costs that are under your control, and that won’t affect the health or body weights of your flocks. Those are:
- Improve energy efficiency – reduces losses due to the condition of the poultry house
- Change your energy production – Change your sources of energy
Big changes in both of these can result in dramatic cost savings that accumulate with each passing winter. The great news is, most of the strategies that save money on your winter heating costs will also reduce your summer cooling costs. See 4 ways to reduce summer heating costs.
Here are 6 things you can start doing this winter, and before next winter arrives, to reduce your poultry house heating costs and increase your profits.
1. Button up the building – seal air leaks and doors
Air leaks from cracks in walls, gaps on the sides of doors, and other structural flaws can cause massive heat loss from your poultry house, especially in the coldest months.
If it’s 40 degrees outside, and you want your young flocks to remain at 90 degrees inside, those cracks and gaps aren’t just sucking out the warm air. They’re sucking your profits with it. Changing the temperature of air by 50 degrees requires enormous energy, regardless of how you do it. But this becomes even harder if that warm air keeps escaping through the walls, replaced by more cold air.
Taking some time and spending a little money to seal up your poultry houses will greatly reduce your lost heat in the winter. This relatively small investment can save you a lot of money.
However, by itself this isn’t enough. One estimate found that a typical 18,000 sq foot poultry house generally loses about 80% of its heat in the winter because it has to cycle out the air, thus replacing warm air with cold fresh air. So even with energy efficiency improvements, you still face the daunting problem of raising the temperature of air by 40-60 degrees, or more.
There is a solution, so keep reading!
2. Confine your youngest flocks in smaller areas the first couple weeks
If you have a way to cordon off smaller areas for a few weeks and surround them with brooding curtains, you can reduce the square footage that must be heated for your young chicks to thrive.
Brand new chicks simply don’t need as much room as fully grown adults. So when you start a new flock in the middle of the winter, this is again a pretty low-cost way to save a lot of money on your heating bill.
3. Produce your own energy with solar
The single best way to put the greatest dent in your heating bill is to install solar panels on the roof of your poultry house.
Poultry houses are uniquely situated to be ideal for solar power. They have low-grade roofs and plenty of space, and usually have no trees or other obstructions nearby. That means they will soak up the sun nearly all day, every day, summer and winter, even on cloudy days.
By taking advantage of federal tax incentives, the REAP grant, and other strategies, you have the potential to install solar panels but pay less than 50% of the cost.
And because solar panels are warrantied for 25 years, they will produce energy for decades – long after you have paid off the initial investment. We are seeing poultry farmers already on pace to save hundreds of thousands over the life of their solar panels. Some farmers who installed solar just a few years ago have already saved enough to cover the initial costs.
4. Recirculate your warmer air
Remember the 80% estimate for heat that is lost due to replacing warm air with fresh cold air?
A researcher developed a waste-heat recovery system that transfers the warmth from your poultry house’s exhaust to the fresh but cold (in winter) air coming in. This process was found to warm the temperature of the fresh air by over 40 degrees.
Some poultry farmers now using this system in the Midwest have cut their heating bills in half. And, this system can be partially paid for by a REAP grant, the same one that can reduce your solar installation costs by up to 25%.
Keep in mind that this system has been applied mostly to poultry houses in Midwestern and northern states – ones with longer and colder winters than Southeastern states like Georgia and Mississippi. So energy and cost savings on an annual basis will probably be lower than for farmers in those states.
5. Increase insulation
There is a surprisingly wide variation in the amount of energy used in poultry houses, and one of the biggest causes, according to one study, is the amount of insulation installed.
They found a fourfold increase in energy efficiency between the most and least insulated poultry houses. So yes, while insulation is expensive, it is a fixed cost. If your poultry barns are poorly insulated, you’ll save a lot of money over time by fixing this issue.
6. Clean your ventilation fans
Dirty fans have to work harder to do the same job – just like air filters on your HVAC system. One study found dirty fans to be 40% less efficient than clean and well-maintained ones.
In the winter months when your fans help disperse heat throughout the poultry house, you can reduce some lost profits just by keeping your fans clean.
What’s the Impact of All These Changes?
The Poultry Site walked through a hypothetical scenario to get a sense of how much money you can save by implementing just a few of these changes. Their example assumes you are using propane to supply heat to your poultry houses.
Assuming a poultry house has little to no insulation, minimal ventilation fans, and cracks in walls and door frames, and assuming propane costs $2 per gallon, you would spend $151 – per DAY, to heat a poultry house to 90 degrees if it were 40 degrees outside.
Just by sealing cracks and closing gaps in walls, and by adding ceiling insulation, that cost would be reduced to $72 per day.
That’s over 50% less.
Over a three month winter period, that equates to a savings of $7,110.
And that’s just one winter.
This should give you an idea of what’s possible. If your poultry houses are inefficient, you have the potential to capture large financial savings and greatly increase your profits by making a few targeted improvements.
Lastly, and best of all, if you made those changes and supplied 50% or more of your poultry farm’s energy through solar power, whatever you don’t save by improving your efficiency, you will save by generating your remaining power needs yourself.
You could, in theory, reduce your power expenses to $0, if you implemented the right combination of these improvements.
The Poultry Farm Solar Specialists
Coastal Solar wrote the book and broke the ground on poultry house solar energy.
We’ve helped more farms install solar than any other solar installer, by far, and we’ve done it throughout the country.
Reach out to our poultry house specialists by clicking below, and get a poultry farm solar quote.