The Cost Of Light

Artificial light is a critical component of modern livestock farming. By introducing artificial lighting, farmers can control the environment by optimizing feeding schedules, regulating sleep patterns, and enhancing well-being of stock to ensure peak animal performance.

The future, for now, of livestock and general lighting is LED. The benefits of using LEDs in agriculture is already proven and there should be no consideration of other lighting technologies on your shipping list.  

Ok, so LED it is but there are LEDs and then there are LEDs. As with all products, there are vast differences in performance, quality, functionality, durability and price. The formula for selecting the ideal lighting solution is fortunately quite simple. As the farmer, you want the most cost-effective system to implement and maintain while at the same time yielding the highest returns in terms of animal performance.

Firstly, we need to understand Poultry Light Biology

Light is critical for egg production and pullet growth. While humans respond to light from around 400–750 nm, chickens can also see UV-A light (315–400 nm). Sensitivity for the red and blue spectra is much higher for chickens with additional peaks of light sensitivity around 480 nm and 630 nm. It is therefore important to select a light source that can deliver the right amounts of red, green and blue light. Light bulb colour is expressed in Kelvin (K). Research has shown that Broilers exposed to LED lights with a blue / green wavelength (cool white) have better body weights. Pullets may be reared in warm or cool white but laying hens should have lights with a red spectrum of between 2700 and 3000K. Keep it simple!

Secondly, insist on a product that is designed for this application

A purpose built, professional poultry lighting system should offer high efficiency, it should offer long lifespan and durability, and it should enhance animal performance. Essentially, a commercial farm or any business for that matter, needs the best possible equipment to be competitive. This is a bit of a grey area as many waterproof LED bulbs are falsely marketed as being specialized poultry lights. As a rule of thumb, if it looks like a normal light bulb then it is not a purpose designed poultry light.

Below are the 3 golden rules to product selection:

  1. Compare Lumen and wattage. A 10W light from one supplier can have the same Lumen output as a 5W light from another supplier
  2. Compare lifespan. A product with a 25 000-hour lifespan will need to be replaced 4 times in the life of a product with a 100 000-hour lifespan. Consider the labour aspect, stock control and replacement cost of the shorter lifespan product
  3. Functionality. A broiler house gets high pressure washed with chemicals every cycle. Make sure your lights can withstand this. If you want Dusk to Dawn dimming, then you must to be able to dim down to 0%. Any percentage above this and it will be more like mid-morning to late afternoon dimming - Pointless.

Now days, LED chips are commercially available in lumen output ranging from around 100 Lumen per watt to beyond 200 Lumen per watt. The higher the lumen output the higher the price and the better the efficiency of the product.

The lifespan of LEDs is determined by their quality and by how hot they operate. High-end LED luminaires have aluminium PC boards with large aluminium heat sinks to dissipate heat. The cooler it operates the longer it lasts. Most LED products are not designed to withstand the high ambient temperatures that are typically found directly under a tin roof in Africa for example. Overheating results in a dramatically reduced lifespan. Don’t by plastic lights!

LED chips are usually low voltage DC. To convert the incoming 110/220V AC to the required voltage for the LED chips, a Driver (transformer) is required. In 110/220V LED bulbs or tubes, the driver is built in. 9 out of 10 times, if the luminaire fails, then it is the driver that has failed. These small devises offer very little protection against poor power supply and EMI (electro-magnetic interference) from switching electric motors. In a poultry house environment, it therefor makes more sense to use an external industrial grade Driver to power multiple lights. These devices offer superior protection against high and low voltage surges and EMI, and they are available with Power Factor Correction (PFC). Because the lighting circuit is now low voltage, there are also no issues with short circuits caused by water in conduits and no risk of electric shock to anyone making repairs.

Thirdly, we need a professional Lighting Design

This will ensure that your desired lux and uniformity levels are met. There is no point in having the perfect product if the installation is not optimized. Provide the designer with as much information as possible including details of nesting boxes, pillars or beams or any other obstructions within the house. The more accurate the simulation, the more accurate is your result.

Below is an example of 4 poultry lighting systems with varying prices, lumen output and lifespans. The system with a higher lumen per watt uses less electricity to reach the same lux levels. The systems with the shorter lifespans, 25 000 hours for example, need to be replaced 4 times during the lifespan of the 100 000-hour product.

Sunbird price comparison parameters table
Sunbird price comparison parameters table

Sunbird Competitor Comparison Table
Sunbird Competitor Comparison Table *Figures based off estimates

Sunbird cost of ownership over lifespan
Sunbird cost of ownership over lifespan

In Conclusion

Keep it simple!

Get the right colour temperature lights, cool white for broilers, warm white for everything else. Ignore the rest of the noise.

Then choose the system that has the highest efficiency, the longest lifespan and the functionality that you require.

Ask us for cost comparison spreadsheet template so that you can make sure that you are getting the best value for money.

We look forward to hearing from you!