Energy-saving bulbs can have attractive paybacks for poultry growers as long as you chose one that will hold up in a poultry house and you have the right kind of dimmer for the bulb. Dr. Brian Fairchild, professor, poultry science, University of Georgia, said that the first thing your poultry house lighting system must provide is uniformity. He told the audience of WATT Global Media’s first poultry grower webinar, "Broiler house nighttime ventilation & LED Lighting," sponsored by Choretime Inc., that you want to keep the variation in light intensity from one part of the house to any to less than 20 percent.

Fairchild said that while the price of the bulb is an important consideration, there are other factors that need to be considered, and the least expensive bulb may not be the best choice. Lumen output, the amount of light the bulb generates, is obviously important, but lumen depreciation, the amount of light output that is lost over time, is also an important consideration. He said that some bulbs can lose as much as 20 percent of their output after a year of use. Lumen depreciation becomes really important for long-lived bulbs like LEDs, which can be rated for 30,000 to 50,000 hours, meaning as long as five years of service in a broiler house.

The spectrum of light emitted by a bulb can be a significant consideration for layers and breeders, but it isn’t much of a factor in the bulb selection for meat birds, according to Fairchild. A really significant factor for meat birds is the ability of the bulb to be dimmed and what type of dimmer should be used. He said that premature bulb failure can result from using the wrong kind of dimmer.

Incandescent bulbs are easy to dim, but waste a lot of energy. Cold cathode can be dimmed, but Fairchild said that he would only recommend them for operations that want really low light intensity from bulbs when they are dimmed. Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs don’t tend to work well with dimmers, he said, as dimming can result in high rates of failure for these bulbs.

LED bulbs can be a good choice for your broiler house if they are compatible with your dimmer or you buy a dimmer that will work with them, according to Fairchild. It doesn’t take long for the bulbs and a new dimmer to pay for themselves. A broiler house with incandescent lighting will have 30 to 40 percent of its electrical use going into lighting. LED bulbs can cut electrical use for lighting by two-thirds or more.

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LEDs are still relatively expensive, but the prices keep coming down.

Looking for more? View these videos Managing the heat generated by poultry in your barns and Factors to consider in poultry house lighting decisions.