Thanks to funding from Growing Forward 2, from January to March 2018 3D Energy and Prism Engineering completed energy assessments for 9 existing layer (and pullet) barns. They also completed pre-construction consultations for 5 farmers building new facilities. While each participating producer received their own personalized report, the findings and recommendations were also compiled in a summary document. Key findings were as follows:
The average energy cost per layer ranged from $0.24 to $1.35. This large variance demonstrates the value in understanding how your barn stacks up in comparison to other barns with similar characteristics – are you leaving money on the table? In some cases, energy consumption differences were more closely related to management practices than to equipment. For example, one free run facility had very high energy costs. This barn had a minimum ventilation rate of 1.18 CFM/layer versus the average of 0.8 CFM/layer during winter months. While the gas consumption was comparable to other facilities due to a lower indoor barn temperature, there was a large increase in electrical consumption due to increased fan usage. The most frequently recommended energy conservation measure was the installation of turbulators on older heating and ventilation equipment. While replacing equipment can have high capital costs, turbulators can be added as low-cost improvements to existing infrared heating tubes and fire tube boilers. The average payback period for this was 1 year with a 152% return on investment.
Depending on the type of insulation you have, it may be worthwhile to do thermal imaging every few years on your barn wall/ceiling. Rodents, moisture infiltration, and/or settling can all result in insulation degradation which may increase your heating costs. High savings are seen when low performing existing wall assemblies are retrofitted with insulation.
The summary report is available on the producer website, under Best Production Practices, Environment. Thanks to all producers who participated and enabled the development of this educational resource. While the project with 3D Energy and Prism Engineering is now complete, the Farm Energy and Agri-Processing Program (FEAP) continues to offer a 50% cost share (up to a maximum of $9,000) to anyone wishing to have an energy assessment on their facility.