How to Set up a Barn Ventilation System

How to Set up a Barn Ventilation System

Ventilation equipment maintains air quality and keeps your animals comfortable. From fans to inlets, here's everything you need for a barn ventilation system.

Keyword(s): barn ventilation

You probably already know that an unventilated barn is an uncomfortable place to work. But did you know that the dusty, moldy conditions can actually pose a health threat to your livestock?

An unventilated barn can lead to a buildup of harmful gases, like carbon dioxide and ammonia, and it's the perfect place for moisture, heat, and pathogens to accumulate. 

Even animals that appear healthy may suffer as a result of such living conditions. Red flags include low or slow weight gain, decreased milk production, and poor overall performance. 

Besides these issues, condensation from a moist barn environment can lead to slip hazards, rust damage to equipment, and animal stress associated with dripping roofs. 

Fortunately, a good barn ventilation system can remedy these issues. Read on for a detailed guide on how to create the best setup for your farm. 

Learning More About Your Barn's Air Quality

Before you can work on solving the ventilation issues unique to your barn, you need a thorough understanding of the problems that should get addressed. In order to do this, consider having the air quality within your barn tested.

Instruments can provide a variety of objective readings that will give you a better sense of what the air quality's actually like in your barn. 

But remember that your barn's living conditions and air quality should relate to the comfort of the animals in your care rather than what feels good to a human. Optimal livestock temperatures prove cooler than those for humans.

Even dust and contaminant levels considered unsuitable for humans might fall into an acceptable range for livestock. This might mean protective masks required for workers. 

How to Test the Air in Your Facility

What should you be testing for? Factors such as temperature, airspeed, and humidity prove important. So do the temperatures of floors and walls. Measuring levels of dust particles and contaminant gases also remain essential.

While a factor such as temperature requires little more than a common thermometer, others necessitate more specialized tools. For example, humidity is measured using a psychrometer or hygrometer and airspeed using an anemometer. 

Air streamers or smoke sticks can help you visualize the flow of air through a barn. So can very small, buoyant soap bubbles. An infrared thermometer provides surface temperature readings, and a handheld sampler pump offers gas readings. 

As you're taking measurements, keep the following things in mind:

  • Measure the air and temperature levels that animals actually feel and breath 
  • Understand what the instrument readings measure and what they mean 
  • Know how each instrument works in order to get the most accurate readings
  • Take multiple readings to make sure you've got it right
  • Record your observations and readings to review later

Once you've gotten this valuable information, you can compare it to desirable conditions

Passive and Active Ventilation

Once you've got a thorough understanding of your barn's air quality deficiencies, it's time to take steps to solve the problem. Taking advantage of two types of ventilation will help you do this: passive and active. 

Both types of ventilation help displace heat, humidity, pathogens, harmful gases, and odors. 

Passive ventilation relies on building openings such as open sidewalls, ridge vents, roll up doors, and eaves to deliver fresh air to your barn via wind force. Passive ventilation proves the most affordable because it requires no electricity.

It works well in colder climates where summer temperatures never climb too high. That said, if you live in a warmer climate or experience periods of time with little to no wind, then passive ventilation won't prove sufficient.

That's where active ventilation comes into play. It relies on equipment including air inlets, baffles, and dairy barn ventilation fans to determine airflow patterns and tightly control the temperature.

For both cost-efficiency and energy-efficiency, it's best to go with a barn ventilation system that takes full advantage of both passive and active forms of airflow.

This means taking prevailing wind directions and structural intakes into account before placing any inlets or fans in a barn.

Cross Ventilation: The Best Passive Ventilation Option 

To harness the full capacity of passive ventilation, cross ventilation remains the most popular option. Why? Because it allows barn owners to take full advantage of the wind.

How does cross-ventilation work? Much like cooling a home by strategically opening windows, you want to force cooler air into the building through inlets. At the same time, warmer air should get pushed out through windows or roof vents.

Inlets include a variety of building design features such as wall louvers, gables, interior ceiling baffles, and open windows. 

To take full advantage of cross ventilation, make sure that inlets and outlets measure similar in size. Why? Because you want the same amount of air flowing in and out. 

When done properly, cross ventilation decreases barn temperatures while providing a constant stream of fresh air. It costs absolutely nothing, but it does require wind power.

As a result, it doesn't represent the most effective means of reducing extreme humidity and heat levels in a structure. 

Your Best Active Ventilation Options

When it comes to active ventilation, you've got three reliable options:

  • Tunnel ventilation
  • Positive pressure ventilation
  • Negative pressure ventilation

The most common approach remains tunnel ventilation. This ramps up cross-ventilation by using barn ventilation fans to exhaust out warm air while cooler air gets drawn in through inlets. 

It can reduce summer temperatures as much as 15 degrees, and it helps cows efficiently rid themselves of body heat. That said, during the winter months, it can lead to cold drafts harmful to animals. 

Passive pressure ventilation uses livestock ventilation fans in the end wall to draw cool, fresh air into the barn. This air gets deposited via ducts into individual stall beds.

It reduces pathogen levels and lowers your animals risks of respiratory ailments. It also proves essential for structures with doors that must stay open throughout the day to let livestock circulate.

But for the system to work properly, your barn must boast airtight construction. 

Finally, negative pressure ventilation provides a solid solution for areas where the weather proves mild and airtight construction is not possible. It relies on fans and air inlets to move cool air around the interior of the barn. 

To do this effectively, make sure that you match the air inlets with the exhaust fan. It also works better if the barn doors can stay shut from time to time. 

Barn Ventilation and Your Livestock

When it comes to barn ventilation, there's no one perfect solution. Instead, take full advantage of both passive and active ventilation based on your area's unique needs.

Hybrid barns designed to allow for both tunnel ventilation and passive ventilation prove an excellent solution for some farmers. This means high air quality and temperature control throughout the year. It also means energy efficiency.

No matter which system you choose, your livestock should enjoy optimal air quality and living conditions year-round. 

Ready for more tips on affordable, easy ways to keep your livestock healthy and happy all year long? Contact us today with your questions and concerns. 

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