7 Tips For Getting Your Barn Ready for Winter
1. Fill the Tank up: If you use propane, late summer and early fall are a good time to have your tanks filled. The price for fuel will only increase during winter months.
2. Check Heater Function: It has been at least six months since heaters were last turned on, so now is an ideal time to make sure all barn heaters are operational. First, ensure all pilot lights are lit. Then on a cool morning, change your set point to a temperature to 10°F or more degrees higher than the current barn temp. Wait and listen for your heaters to fire, it may take a few minutes. Final Step: make sure that you do not smell uncombusted gas and the heater is not making unusual (sounds like popping).
3. Turn Back Variable Output Heaters: Often temperatures in barns make large swings when the heaters turn on and off quickly. This occurs because many barns have larger heaters than are needed. The price difference between heaters is minimal, so often extra heating capacity is provided. Many heaters come with variable output; if your heater is not running continuously, you can turn down the output. Variable output heaters have a blue valve between the control module and the flame. If you turn the valve perpendicular to the gas line, you will not close off flow, just reduce it. Restricting flow will lower the heating output. This should reduce swings in temperature, and therefore lower fuel needed to heat the barn.
4: Check Inlets: Inlets control how well fresh air is distributed throughout the barn. Things to look for before winter:
5. Clean Your Fans: The minimum ventilation fans are going to do the majority of the ventilation work for the next few months; now is a good time to ensure they are operating efficiently. If you are not sure which fans are currently designed as minimum ventilation, the heater test above will indicate them (they will be the ones running when the heater is on). Make sure the fans and shutters are clean (including pit fans). Dirty fans and shutters can create up to a 40% reduction in air flow. This is important because reduced air flow will result in high humidity and poor indoor air quality during the winter.
6. Check Variable Speed Settings: Controllers will allow you to adjust variable speed fans by percent. Keep your minimum ventilation setting on the controller set at a minimum of 60%, if you have variable speed fans. Please note, the percent shown is not the air flow, it reflects power sent to the motor. Often people assume they can reduce the controller down to 10% and get similar performance. This is NOT true, as you reduce the power to the motor, the fans are much less efficient. Often the variable speed fans at low percent move essentially no air or they choke and air will flow backwards through the fan.
7. Insulation: Fall if a good time to check insulation and winterize openings in your barn. If you have blown-in insulation in the attic, it is a good time to make sure the insulation hasn’t migrated. If you can see the ceiling, insulation should be moved or more should be added to low areas. Also, it is a good time to make sure all doors shut completely, but are still tight enough to not show light. Also larger (higher stage) fans can be sealed to reduce drafts.
If curtains are used for warmer weather ventilation, it is good to ensure the curtains completely cover and ideally overlap openings (unless they act as your inlet). Check for any tears in the curtain. As well, curtains can be insulated. If you add an additional plastic layer or foam board to seal the inlet openings, it is better to leave air space between the two layers (operational curtain and winterization layer). This air space acts like air in the middle of a double pane window. It makes the added insulation much more effective.
Some great reads that further discusses many of these concepts are:
Dr. Morgan Hayes