Considerations selecting your Heat System

The creep area must have heat, but which type of heat do I go for?

Below we give you the experience, which we have gathered over the recent 13 years. Nobody has dealt with this matter as intensively as we have done. 



Floor heat

trk_illustrationMany sees floor heat in the creep area as the best, and in some countries floor heat is established to get rid of excessive heat from biogas plants or slurry cooling systems.

But the creep area is not the piglet’s bath room, it is their sleeping room.

Floor heat is well known from people’s bath room, where it is very nice to walk at a warm floor. But this is no argument.

You may have tried sleeping in a water bed (the mattress is warm water). The temperature of the water is extremely critical. Half of a degree too high may wake you up sweaty, and half of a degree to cold may keep you awake freezing with joints stiff next morning.

Try this one evening lying comfortable in your bed: Remove the blanket. When you start to feel cold, which side of your body is coldest? Is it the side downwards or upwards? You may know the answer already; it is the upwards side, which feels coldest. You do not need floor heat but an insulated floor.


So heat to the piglets must come from above

But not as hot air, because hot air rises and pulls cold air over the piglets from the surroundings. As a matter of fact, the air inside the creep area must be as cold as possible minimizing air exchange and consequently draught sensed by the piglets.

Look at the sketches below. To the left radiant heat is installed, the air inside the creep area can be cool and the piglets still feel comfortable. To the right you see floor heat, and to make the piglets feel comfortable you must heat the air inside the creep area, which rises and pulls cold air over the piglets. Floor heat is a very inefficient way to heat piglets in a creep area.

Radiant heat is compulsory. And it must not produce hot air besides the radiant heat. It must convert minimum 90 % of the supplied energy into radiant heat, and this still must be the case in 5 and 10 years.



The best heater.

Today only one heater comply with this requirement, and it is the old fashion heating bulb. It one negative, and it is the shelf life. Lab test proof lifetime of 5000 hours, and with a consumption of 22 kWh for one batch this is 35 batches or three year. If bulbs have to be replaced at shorter intervals the bulb quality is poor or they are treated in a destructive way.’

If the bulb is ON while the canopy falls down the filament inside the bulb will experience mechanical shocks, which over time results in a rupture of the filament. Also the glue fixing the threaded metal piece at the bulb comes lose, and later the wires break and the heat has gone. This typically generates another problem at the threaded metal part stays in the bulb holder, when you try to replace the bulb. This may damage the heat lamp removing this part.

Today VengSystem only sells bulbs, where the threaded metal part does not depend on glue to stay fixed.

Some bulbs can easily destroy the heat lamp itself. This involves bulbs with inadequate protective plating of the metal parts. If the metal parts are brass colored (gets black over time), then you will damage the bulb holder over time.

Also bulbs with bright metal may be bad, if the plating is too thin. The plating breaks down over time, and a bad connection to the terminals of the bulb holder occurs. This starts a vicious circle: The bad connection reduces the voltage of the bulb itself, the filament gets colder and pulls more current, which again reduces the voltage of the bulb. The result is an electric arc, which generates so much heat, that the solder melts, metal parts evaporates and both bulb and heat lamps are damaged. 

VengSystem have set up minimum specifications, which suppliers of heat lamps have to comply.


Other heat systems.

Alternative heat systems to the heat bulb emerge regularly, which promise longer life time than three years. They seem attractive because the cost of replacing bulbs with present wages is not low. Time has shown that the shelf life has been disappointing, and if they stay functional the piglets show sign of missing heat. This happens after one to three years, where you notice is with the smallest piglets.

Med jævne mellemrum kommer der alternativer til varmepæren, som ser ud til at have en levetid over 3 år. De er fristende, da det med dagens lønninger ikke er gratis at skifte en pære. Tiden har desværre vist, at holdbarheden er skuffende, og hvis de har kunnet holde, så begynder smågrisene efterhånden at fryse. Der går nogle år, inden man bemærker det hos de mindste grise. 

The explanation is very simple. Radiant heat behaves exactly as light. It is imperative that the heater stays bright and polished, similar to a clean mirror. When this fails up to 50 % of the heat is not radiated anymore (generates hot air inside the creep area, which rises and generates draught), and further heat is radiated in all directions, where some also hits the sow. 

Compare with the head light of a car. A new car has excellent light because all light from the bulb is concentrated and sent forward. As the car gets older, the reflector gets less shiny and less light goes forward. When you replace a bulb in your car you are told not to touch the glass with your fingers, because the fat from your fingers will evaporate and deposit at the reflector, so the light gets weaker.

The alternative heat systems have an open reflector in stainless steel or chrome plated steel. The reflector is exposed to washing water monthly and the aggressive air all the time. It can get chalk, when the creep area is whitewashed, and when the washing water dries up, limescale and ochre deposit. It loses fast its shiny surface and the heat disappears.

Honestly, if you suspend a head light without glass in your pig house a couple of year and then replace it in your car, how much light do you think you will have forward?



Heat distribution at floor level

It does matter whether a heat system of say 150 Watt goes to a quarter of a square meter or to one square meter. The piglets will sense much less heat, if it goes to one square meter.

The alternative heat systems diffuse the heat much more than the heat bulb. An argument is that they heat the whole creep area. But is this really what we want? The demand for heat is maximum just after farrowing, where they occupy only a fraction of the creep area. And when they occupy the complete creep area, they no longer demand any heat.

We have tried to determine the space required by 15 newborn piglets. They take 0.5 times 0.5 meter or a quarter of a square meter. The optimized heat system must radiate the heat to around one third of a normal size creep area, not all over the area.

We have developed a method to test the efficiency of a heat system in order to heat new born piglets. None of the alternative heat systems could nowhere near enough heat the piglets compared to the heating bulb. Also tests show that some bulbs radiate heat too concentrated. .

The heat bulb is the red curve, the alternative is the blue. The energy consumption is almost identical, but the heat bulb heats the space with the small piglets three times better. With this high efficiency you have the basis for big energy savings using the intelligent heat lamp. And you have sufficient heat dealing with very small piglets or lack of milk.

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