MAXIMIZING Energy Potential and Animal Comfort in a Dairy Barn

Published on Fri, 05/01/2015 - 9:50am

For dairy farmers, comfort of the herd is an important indicator of the success of their dairy. Throughout the year, farmers must perform a balancing act to keep their barns at optimum temperatures. Throw in the cold temperatures of winter and the heat of summer — and this can become quite a challenge. The question becomes — how to achieve this balance while keeping heating and cooling costs down. Enter Northwest Envirofan (
Northwest Envirofan is a division of Northwest Environmental Systems, Inc.; a family-owned business located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Northwest supplies industrial, commercial, and agricultural ceiling fan products to various industries — and also Sani-Sure Cloth Dairy Towels to the agricultural industry.
Northwest’s answer to these issues of ventilation and air movement is a simple one: Agrifan Model 190 ceiling fans. Northwest’s Agrifan allows farmers to reduce heating costs in the winter as well as reduce cooling costs in the summertime. The Agrifan was the original agricultural ceiling fan manufactured for the dairy and poultry industry to withstand the severe service demands of the agricultural industry; the design has been so successful that the company is still utilizing the same design features 30 years later. While continuing to meet production demands, farmers can ensure the happiness of their animals while reducing heating and cooling costs year round by using Northwest Agrifans.
Agrifans are specifically designed for agricultural use and for use in harsh environments. The Agrifan has undergone rigorous testing by UL. It has passed UL’s spray-proof and humidity tests to qualify it for the UL agricultural status that ensures the fan is rugged enough to last for years in dairy and poultry applications. Northwest Envirofan further endorses the durability and reliability of their Agrifans by offering a three year warranty on each Agrifan sold.
The Agrifan is designed for continuous use year round. The fans help to minimize heat stratification in the winter months, leading to more uniform air temperature throughout the facilities they are installed in. This is achieved by mixing the hot air that rises to the ceiling back in with the cooler air at floor level, creating a uniform temperature in the facility and reducing the run time of a facility’s heating units. The Agrifan also allows the user to reduce the cost of air conditioning in summer months by assisting with the process of evaporative cooling, leading subjects to feel much more comfortable in warmer temperatures. Agrifan’s speed can be regulated with solid state variable speed controls to allow ultimate control over the speed of the fan from 0–330 RPM.
Janet F. Dahl, president, notes, “Agrifans operate on a completely different principle than the large direct drive wall fans. Agrifans recirculate, mix, and homogenize air by moving large volumes of air. This helps the air to filter downward and move more freely throughout an entire facility.” Studies have shown that when temperatures rise above 80º F., milk production drops. Further research has demonstrated that blowing air at just 5–10 mph on the backs of the animals can bring milk production back to normal by cooling the animals without the use of any air conditioning.
Agrifans reduce heating and cooling costs in an efficient and cost-effective way. Dahl describes, “Ceiling fans are very efficient. Agrifans only use 0.7 amps on average speed, about the same as a 40-watt light bulb. We recommend that the fans are run 24 hours a day, all year long, as they can offer benefits in both summer and winter. In this era of ‘Going Green’ our ceiling fans assist farmers in conserving energy. Each Agrifan costs about 7 cents per day to run. They can save up to 30 percent of heating and air conditioning costs, so they are a logical answer to save money and help reduce our carbon footprint.”
A farmer from Hancock County, Iowa, states, “In the free-stall barn, Agrifan’s keep the cows comfortable, and the Agrifan in the milking parlor keeps me comfortable. If a cow is not comfortable, she won’t eat or produce. The fans will more than pay for themselves the first year with increased production.”
Southern California Edison, UC Davis and the California Energy Commission demonstrated Agrifan’s efficiency in a recent study. The 5-foot-diameter Agrifan ceiling fans were compared against traditional 36-inch wall-mounted direct-drive fans and 20-foot diameter ceiling fans. In the study, similar 1,000-cow free-stall barns were equipped with either 100 Agrifans, 100 36-inch wall fans, or seventeen 20-foot diameter ceiling fans. (Keep in mind that this is a study for a very large operation. You can scale back the numbers if you are not operating a 1,000 cow barn.)
The results of the study are listed below:
Agrifan (5-Foot-Diameter Ceiling Fans)
•  Equipment and Installation Cost:
100 fans ($330 ea.) = $33,000
•  Total Energy Cost:
100 fans = $1,800 per year
•  Total = $34,800
36-Inch Wall Fans
•  Equipment and Installation Cost:
100 fans ($700 ea.) = $70,000
•  Total Energy Cost:
100 fans = $10,760 per year
•  Total = $80,760
20-Foot-Diameter Ceiling Fans
•  Equipment and Installation Cost:
17 fans ($5325 ea.) = $90,525
•  Total Energy Cost:
17 fans = $1496 per year
•  Total = $92,021
The findings above show that Agrifans would cost approximately $45,000 less than traditional 36-inch wall fans and approximately $57,000 less than traditional 20-foot-diameter ceiling fans to purchase and operate for one year while achieving airflow volume equal to the two other options. This means a lower initial cost and a much quicker return on investment (ROI) than competitive options.

Putting Comfort into Perspective
Like human beings, animals suffer in hot, stagnant air. The environment that this type of air promotes is one of potentially damaging bacteria, germs and insects. The Agrifan circulates and disperses air continuously to assist in the cooling and drying of floors, bedding, walls and ceilings. The resulting drying effect and generated air movement in congested areas of animal holding pens also help reduce seasonal condensation problems. The moving air also helps create a mild wind chill that assists evaporative cooling in desired areas, dispels odors and improves air quality. This leads to healthier, happier and more productive livestock.

Where to find the Agrifan
Northwest Envirofan has an excellent dealer network across the country. Prospective customers can go to the website,, to access a map of the United States to find where their local dealers are located. Prospective customers may also call
(800) 236-7808 or email to reach the experts at their Oshkosh headquarters.
All of Northwest Envirofan’s dealers can assist farmers in determining the number of fans required for their application, the proper location of the ceiling fans in their facility and provide a price quote for the project. All Agrifans come pre-assembled with a three-prong plug and cord. Installation is as simple as installing a J-Hook for hanging the fan, bolting on the three blades, and hooking it up to the required power source. For many, this process can be performed without the use of a contractor as long as a power supply is readily available.

Dairy Towels
In addition to Agrifans, Northwest Environmental Systems continues their service to the agricultural industry by supplying Sani-Sure Cloth Dairy Towels. These towels are manufactured specially for use in the dairy industry with emphasis placed on quality and consistency. These towels are privately labeled for many large dairy equipment manufacturers and represent a significant market share in the dairy towel industry.
The Sani-Sure Cloth Dairy Towels are another contribution by Northwest Environmental Systems to assist farmers in ‘Going Green’ and preserving their environment. The Sani-Sure towels are reusable and washable, eliminating the need for throwaway paper towels and other disposable towels. Saving at a minimum 50 percent over the cost of paper towels for farmers, it is a simple concept that it is well received by all farmers. Northwest and each farmer is interested in the environment and helping wherever they can. This is one avenue they can not only improve the bottom line, but also contribute to the better of the environment — which helps environmentally and also reminds them that they are a large part of the recycle-reuse-reclaim purpose. Every little bit helps.
Several Northwest Environmental Systems customers have shared a similar story told by Swanson Dairy in Emmet, Idaho. “On our small dairy, we have always used paper towels. One day I decided we were going to try cloth towels. There was nothing wrong with paper, just trying to go more ‘Green.’ No one really commented on the switch until one evening my sister and I were milking. I hadn’t gotten the towels washed and thought we could use up the rest of the paper towels. WRONG! ‘Paper? I’m not using paper!’ said my sister. She walked into the house, started the wash, and didn’t come out until they were done.”
Says Clover Hill Dairy in Linneus, Missouri, “There is no comparison between cloth and paper. Disposal of used paper towels is a nuisance and they don’t burn well. We have a used washer and dryer in the parlor, it works fine. Cleaner cows and easier.”

Enhancing the Dairy Industry
Northwest Envirofan offers a ventilation product that is efficient, economical and simple. Easy to install, easy to maintain, easy to calculate the savings. It works well with and is easy to adapt to any existing ventilation system. Move the air; utilize natural ventilation. The large 36" wall fans offer a tremendous amount of airflow. Supplement that with stir fans that work well with existing ventilation systems and provide additional airflow that moves air in a vertical pattern in and among the animals to achieve maximum benefit.
Northwest does not stop there. Providing products that will enhance the dairy industry, and promoting a green environment are keys in their business plan. It is all about the end result and what they can contribute.