| INSULATING BARN FLOORS
The use of foam insulation panels on new barn floors before concrete is poured significantly reduces energy costs, maintenance costs and can improve productivity.
After coming to Canada from the Netherlands and purchasing a dairy farm, Herman faced a dilemma: his son didn’t want to continue farming, and an ailing back and leg prevented him from continuing on alone. Selling half the quota relieved some of the workload but Herman faced another problem: his barn wouldn’t allow for silos and conveyors to be replaced with a drive-thru feed system and water was a major issue, preventing sale of the land and buildings and making the work tedious.
He says that he also had significant condensation problems in the barn due to fibreglass insulation, resulting in high energy costs. Still milking 100 cows and looking for a solution, he researched polyurethane foam insulation and decided to purchase a foam insulation sprayer to fix the problem himself. It worked so well and he started advertising in local papers, installing foam insulation to local farms and houses. By this time his son was finished high school and interested in the growing business, allowing for the sale of the remaining quota and a full concentration on Insta-Insulation.
The demand for polyurethane foam insulation is so high that since 1993, Schuts says the business has grown 30 to 40 per cent each year. This is in part due to the Schuts’ confidence in the energy-saving benefits of insulation and their desire to share these benefits with others. “The product is so good, but no one knew about it,” says Herman. It’s also based on customer satisfaction. “Customers tell me straight out that it works,” he says. “That’s what counts, and we’ve built our business on this.”
Schuts believes that most barns are not built with energy loss in mind or not insulated properly in the first place. What’s key is the type of insulation used. Most commonly used types of insulating materials, such as fibreglass, require an additional vapour and airtight barrier to protect the insulation, due to the fact that these materials do not insulate well against water and air. The insulating properties of these materials are drastically reduced when they get wet. On the other hand, polyurethane foam, says Schuts, doesn’t absorb water and unlike other materials, its thermal insulation properties (i.e., R-value – The larger the
R-value, the greater the thermal insulation) do not decrease for a very long time.
Miscellaneous costs for a broiler barn, two storeys with 10,000 square feet of floor space on each level and a bird density of 2.1 kg/ square foot, and 5.8 flocks per year. Research has shown that producers have noticed a 3 to 5¢ difference in energy costs between barns with insulated floors and barns without floor insulation. For this example, a 4¢ difference between barns was assumed.
|Bedding 2¢||Bedding 1¢|
|42,000 kg / flock
||42,000 kg / flock|
|TOTAL = 10¢||TOTAL = 6 ¢|
|Cost = $ 4,200 / flock||Cost = $ 2,520 / flock|
|$24,360 / year||$ 14,616 / year|
|SAVINGS: $9,744 / year||Floor insulation can cost as low as 45¢ per square foot. In the above example, this would mean a cost of $4,500 to insulate the floor, giving a payback time of 24 weeks, or less than three flocks.
These materials are also not airtight, and heat can be lost. Polyurethane foam is airtight and when blown into a wall or ceiling, it fills every space. It also doesn’t sag the way other materials can, says Schuts.
HEAT FOLLOWS COLD
Schuts says it’s a misconception that heat rises. In actuality, it’s the difference in the densities between hot and cooler air that is problematic. Generally, heat energy moves from hotter to colder. “Heat follows cold,” says Schuts.
Contractors building barns and houses tend to concentrate on insulating walls and the roof, but rarely the floor. Schuts says that if a floor is insulated, heat in the barn will be drawn towards the floor. Instead of heating the ground below the barn floor (as would happen with an uninsulated floor), more of the heat remains in the barn and in the floor.
This is especially beneficial in the winter months, but equally effective in warmer months when used in conjunction with cellulose insulation in the ceiling. Proper insulation in the ceiling prevents heat from the roof, travelling through the ceiling into the barn, and a cooler, insulated floor also aids in this process. Schuts says that an R- value of 50 or 60 should be used in the ceiling to prevent the heat from getting into the barn.
FLOOR INSULATION SUCCESS
It’s Insta-Insulation’s foam insulation boards known as Insta-Panels that are of greatest interest to poultry farmers, says Schuts. Insta-Panels are insulated R-12 foam panels made of rigid polyurethane foam one and three-quarter inches thick, covered in steel on both sides. They are from exterior door company and are the “cutouts” (for window placement) which would normally end up in a landfill. The panels have the same durability and benefits of sprayed-on polyurethane foam, but have the advantage of being portable.
For the floor of a poultry barn, they are laid out before the cement is poured. Covering the panels with cement does not decrease their effectiveness, says Schuts. He says that his poultry clients have experienced lower mortality rates, increased production, lower maintenance and energy costs, and less “huddling” of the birds.
A properly insulated barn that incorporates floor insulation results in warmer floors, which gives a better start for chicks, keeps litter dry (reducing bacterial loads and ammonia), reduces the amount of bedding needed, and results in less energy loss, says Schuts.
Jerry Vanham, who has a broiler operation near Tillsonburg, Ont., with his father Jack, has installed Insta-Panels in the floors of their four barns, built in 1999, 2002, and 2003/2004. They had heard of it being used in Europe, where it is actually part of the building code. “I won’t pour another concrete floor in my lifetime without it,” says Vanham, commenting on the Insta-Panels. He also had them installed in the walls.
He says the panels, along with proper ventilation management, keep the floors dry, and are especially helpful during changes in outside temperatures. “It totally eliminates sweat,” he says. “It’s a great aid to keep the floors dry.” It also eliminates ammonia in the barn and he finds that after cleanout, the barn dries up much quicker. He thinks they work so well that when he built a new house two years ago, he made sure to insulate the floor of both the basement and garage.
He also had an R-36 polyurethane insulation blown into the ceilings, and recently added another five to six inches of insulation to the ceilings to increase the R-value to between 46 and 50. He did this because he says that R-values can decrease over time, and with fuel prices increasing “I thought it would be beneficial to put some extra on.”
Poultry producer Steven Eastep of Wellington County in Ontario was a 2002 winner of the Environmental Farm Plan in Ontario for his use of Insta-Panels in his barn. Originally wanting to use Styrofoam insulation in the floor under the concrete, he used the exterior door byproduct as his as his insulation material, achieving an an R-value of 12.25 and costing him half of what it would have to install Styrofoam. He was recognized for this use of an economical and ecologically sound method of reducing energy loss.
Insulating the floor of a barn works so well that “I think the majority of barns should be utilizing it,” says Schuts.