Conserve energy in hog barns this winter

By Mark Whitney

ST. PAUL, Minn. (12/1/2008)With cold weather underway and increased heating costs, energy conservation is key in minimizing the cost of raising pigs. Substantial savings can be realized by evaluating and investing in ventilation, heating, lighting and equipment improvements.

In a typical swine barn, 85 to 90 percent of the heat loss is associated with ventilation. Providing too little or too much air exchange can be costly. Animals lose heat to their environment, but observing the pigs will determine comfortable levelpigs lying on their sides and slightly touching each other is desired.

Many barns are maintained too hot. Overheating a 1000-head nursery by 4 degrees increases heating costs by 50 percent or greater. Keep temperatures slightly cool to stimulate feed intake in growing pigs. Avoid temperature swings (10 degrees or more) and drafts to maintain animal comfort and health.

Consider adding insulation to barns if they are poorly insulated. Concrete sidewalls should be insulated, reducing heat loss and keeping barns dryer due to less condensation.

Ensure inlets are set properly and air is not leaking from other sources. Curtains that are not properly adjusted don’t provide adequate overlap when closed and can over-ventilate barns.

Heaters and exhaust fans need to be set correctly with each other and temperature sensors correctly located to ensure pig comfort while minimizing heat loss. Provide enough heater offset (1.5 degrees) to prevent overshooting desired temperatures, but not so tight that exhaust fans kick in and run in conjunction with heaters.

Oversized heaters are less efficient than properly sized ones, and can also overshoot temperature goals. Ensure fans are properly sized and the appropriate motor curve is set in the controller. Different fans have different efficiency ratings, and some utility companies offer rebates for use of more efficient fans in barns.

Supplemental heat is required for young pigs or piglets. Using hovers and space heating, while maintaining overall room temperature at a lower level, is much more efficient, and in the case of farrowing barns it also keeps sows from getting overheated. Use of lamp and mat controls to provide variable output allows creep temperature to be managed while saving energy.

Evaluate energy costs and opportunities to increase energy efficiencies to reduce production costs while improving animal comfort. For more information on reducing power costs, access a webinar on the subject available at