Reap cost savings from new lighting systems

Lighting in poultry buildings is becoming increasingly more important as producers attempt to simulate natural daylight as required by the welfare codes, while keeping costs down.

On top of this, tungsten bulbs are being phased out, forcing poultry producers to consider alternatives, all of which offer reduced overall running costs, but at differing installation costs.

The options include fluorescent lighting using either analogue or digital high frequency control; standard dimming fluorescent lights; energy-saving light bulbs and the latest LED lights.

All have their advantages and disadvantages, but will show considerable running cost savings compared with traditional tungsten systems.

Standard Dimming Fluorescent Lights (SDFL), which are normally spaced at 6m (19.7ft) intervals along and across the house, offer savings of 40-50% against the traditional tungsten bulbs due to half the number being required. Various types of tubes with differing light outputs and colours are available. Dimmer controls are inexpensive and require three cables plus an earth to the fittings.

Some spiralling (of the light in tubes) can occur at lower settings with these fittings and this should be taken into consideration when selecting the most appropriate lighting for the house.

Analogue High Frequency Fluorescent Lights (AHFFL) offer a further 50% saving in running costs compared with traditional models. These can be controlled down to 3% of light output with reduced risk of spiralling. Controls are more complex offering producers simulated dawn/dusk lighting, manual dimming or twilight effects. These are crucial for layers.

The control requires two mains cables and a good earth to all fittings. In addition, a screened two-core control cable is required due to the high frequency nature of the signal.

Digital High Frequency Fluorescent Lights (DHFFL) offer similar running costs and initial purchase price to the AHFFL fittings and dimming down to 3% of light output available. They require four standard cables plus a good earth to the fittings for their control, thus reducing the cost of installation in comparison to the analogue version. The controls available are as with AHFFL, but are slightly more expensive due to the required signal conversion.

Energy Saving Bulbs (ESB) are suitable replacements for tungsten bulbs, particularly where dimming is not required. They offer considerable savings in running costs and can be directly plugged into existing lampholders, thereby keeping purchase and installation costs at a minimum.

Dimming versions of these bulbs are available and require a complex control system. The type of livestock being produced should be taken into consideration when selecting this option as bulbs need to be “heated up” at maximum brilliance for approximately a minute or two before they can be dimmed and this may not be suitable for some livestock.

Finally, the newest lighting technology is Light Emitting Diodes (LED) lights. However, care should be taken in selecting the correct unit to suit your application. Some LEDs are not dimmable while others can be dimmed with the use of special controls.

As with energy saving bulbs, most LEDs produce light towards the blue end of the spectrum causing poultry physiologically to believe they are cold. Consequently, they tend to eat more to raise their metabolic rate and produce body heat.

LEDs are available which have higher red light output, but a reduced infra-red content which can cause aggression. These are easily dimmed by conventional controllers.

Replacing 1.2m (about 4ft) fluorescent lights at 6m (19.7ft) intervals would require 9 watt LEDs spaced at 3m (9.8ft) intervals. The cost of the lights would be similar, but would show approximately 60% running cost savings compared to dimming fluorescent and traditional tungsten bulbs.

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