Energy Efficiency Advice for Poultry Farmers

Feeding machines, ventilation, and lighting comprise the largest elements of energy use in typical poultry production.

General principles:

Feeding machines, ventilation, and lighting comprise the largest elements of energy use in typical poultry production.

Consumption can be reduced by ensuring correctly sized ducts and fans for ventilation systems, buildings are sufficiently insulated and heating and ventilation controls linked. Replace old fans as new fans are far more energy efficient.

Temperature controls are important as temperature demands vary based on bird age and weather conditions, mature birds require much less heat than young birds (22°C compared to around 30°C). Thermostats need to be in the correct locations to avoid overheating, so away from draughts or doors.

Reducing lighting where possible under regulations and fitting new energy efficient fixtures and dimmers can reduce lighting costs considerably, one of the major costs for poultry farms.

Clean fans and air ducts – dirt can reduce fan efficiency by 60%.  

Draught proof doors, windows, and ventilation louvres to stop heat escaping.  Fit accurate heating and ventilation fans, use free heat from roof ridges which can be 10 degrees higher than at floor level.

Ensure that air ducts allow the smooth passage of air – battens and obstructions can decrease efficiency by 20%.

Specify as high performing ventilation equipment as possible.

All fans and ducts should be included in the end of batch clean and filters should be replaced.  Dirty ducts and fans can increase running costs by 60%.  

Ensure the minimum winter ventilation rate is controlled accurately where heating is used in a building.  If the level is too hight then heating costs will increase significantly, too low a level will produce foul air conditions.

Replace tungsten lights with energy efficient alternatives such as fluorescent or sodium lamps to save 70% of lighting costs.

Solutions for saving energy

Building energy management systems

Building energy management systems are also available, which provides options for analysis of energy use on a regular basis for monitoring boiler lighting or fan running times, for switching off equipment, for zone control of heating and numerous other applications.  Savings of between 10-30% of energy consumption are possible.  

Boiler and space heating systems

Efficiency of oil and gas-fired boilers is extremely important.  Regular servicing of boilers and cleaning of heat transfer surfaces is recommended potentially yielding savings of between 10-15%.

Insulation and air tighteners

The energy needed for heating and ventilation can be reduced by improving wall, roof and floor insulation.  This will help to keep buildings, warm in winter and cool in summer.  A balance needs to be struck between the levels of insulation and the density of birds otherwise overheating could occur in summer or excessive levels of ventilation will be required to maintain proper environmental conditions.

Temperature and ventilation controls

Multiple sensor controls for heating and ventilation provide greater accuracy and should be installed directly above the birds.  Excessive ventilation in heated poultry production facilities during cold weather can dramatically increase heating energy and will have a big impact on heating running costs, sometimes by as much as 300%.


Older incandescent and tungsten halogen lighting can be replaced with high frequency dimmable fittings, yielding savings of over 40%.  

Variable speed drives on fans and pumps

Reducing the speed of a pump or fan by 20% using a variable speed drive could save 50% of the energy consumed.  Water pumping and conveying systems can benefit from technology, especially when speed is linked to the flow and pressure requirements of the system.

Brooding curtains

Allow chicks to stay warm while restricting them to a smaller area of the house without the expense of heating the entire house. To perform efficiently they should form a tight seal along the ceiling, walls and floor.

Air circulation

By circulating pre warmed air into the poultry house, less heat and consequently less energy is needed to keep the birds warm.  The effectiveness of ceiling inlets is linked to their placement the number of ventilation fans in use and the static pressure in the house.

Circulation fans

The hottest air in a poultry house is near the ceiling as air warmed by the birds rises upwards.  Slow moving circulating fans should be used to push hot air back down to the floor, the more uniform the house temperature, the lower the heating costs.

Reducing energy use makes good business sense, it saves money, provides a competitive advantage, enhances farm reputation and plays a part in reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: Teagasc, Energy Use in Agriculture