Barn Lighting

pamghatten(wny5)March 24, 2008

I am writing my "Wish List" for things I would like to get done in my barn this year. The main item is to replace the floor. It was a wood floor sitting on the ground, over the years the water has rotted the wood, and the floow is now mud.

My mini donks have helped with the deterioration, of course! So my plan is to remove all the muck, dig down at least 8 inches and fill it with stone/gravel and then put stall mats on top.

I also plan on having a freeze-proof faucet installed. The faucet I have in there now freezes at least once a year even though it is wrapped with a heat line and insulation.

Something I may not get to this year, depending on what the above costs, is to replace the lights in the barn. Currently there are old flourescent shop lights in the barn. I want to put in something safer, and that will actually all go on when it's really cold out.

So what kind of lighting do you have in your barn?



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I have used flourescents for years, they dont come on too fast when its real cold, for sure. I do keep some incandescents in use also. I use the gro or sun light tubes; I think it helps in early/off season breeding of the rabbits and fowl.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 5:07PM
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johanna_h(Z5 SW MI)

I have compact fluorescents screwed into the sockets. When my friend pulled electricity into the barn, he recommended using them both for energy savings and because they don't get hot so they reduce fire risk.

They are slow to brighten in the cold, but once they warm up they give off plenty of light. If you know you need it at a certain time in the morning, you could put it on a timer!


    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 5:47PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

I have read about, but not actually seen or used, fluorescent lights that are engineered for use outdoors/in cold areas - they have a more powerful ballast or something - but they are supposed to go on almost immediately, certainly with NO long delays. They might be more money, but for the reliability of lighting in the winter, it should be worth it.

You can get cages or covers to go over both fluorescent and incandescent lights - try for some ideas.

One of the best, and easiest, safety plans is to keep dust, especially hay or sawdust, and cobwebs away from the bulbs - you get better light, and less danger of a fire from overheating. Climbing up on a ladder with a soft broom or clothes every few months is cheap and easy insurance - unless of course you have a fear of ladders/heights, in which case your S-Other might oblige?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 10:23PM
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Florescent is your safest and cheapest option. Look at the lights you have. If they are grounded (3 wire hookup) and insulation is not dry/cracked just replace the tubes if necessary. Starters are a "you get what you pay for" thing. Get a good one and cold weather isn't a problem. If you have normal screw in bulbs, the energy saving (florescent or LED) are a real smart option. for your wet floor, you might do yourself a better service by putting the gravel on top of what you have, pack it good, level it with fine gravel (not pea gravel, but something with edges) and put your mats on top. My .02.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 6:49AM
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Thanks for all your replies ... I find it interesting that everyone says flourescent. These are VERY old fixtures with wires hanging on some of them.

The previous owner salvaged these from somewhere else.

Dave - gavel on top of the mud is not enough. I need to find the source of the water, we think there is an underground stream that now flows through the barn. I need to get the water to flow away from the barn.

Sure would be cheaper to not dig it all out!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 1:29PM
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Fluorescents don't really work at all here in the winter when it gets cold. At -30 or -40 all I get is a dull glow--not enough to work with--but it probably won't be as bad for you. All the compact fluorescents are made in China as well--I would rather not support them if I can help it, but I believe they are the only country that makes them, in part due to lax pollution laws. I understand that the LED lights work well in the cold and use significantly less power than the fluorescents, but the bulbs are terribly expensive, even if they do last 10 years or more. We are hoarding incandescent bulbs up here, so we will have light outside in the winter when they are outlawed. Besides, we use them as heaters in the little brooders--where else can you get a heater for a few cents?
We also had water problems in our barn, so I built a raised floor on the livestock side (we have goats), and I poured a raised concrete floor in the dairy area where my wife spends a good portion of her day. The concrete floor is high enough to keep the water out, and the raised floor keeps the animals out of the water while allowing the natural "moisture to drain. Both seem to work well. We also use pumps in the Spring when the snow melts (the ground is still frozen several feet down so the water has no place to go unless it is pumped out of the low places).

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 3:40PM
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We bought a place (1/2 acre) that has a wetweather (and we don't have much except wet weather)spring on the piece above it. We built a 3 stall shelter with a paddock in front that needed to stay dry. I waited until our piece was presentable, drove a big tractor over it a few times (it had been a plowed field for years) then smoothed the area in question with gravel, layed concrete grass pavers and filled them with sand/gravel. Covered with about aninch of sand, ran a vibrating packer over everything to lock it in nice, another layer of sand for the horses and rain to work in, after the stalls themselves wornice and packed with manure and (mostly)sand, cleaned them and layed rubber stall mats on top. When finished, the "floor" is 4 or so inches above the surrounding area and dry as a bone. The ground has a natural slope that I didn't interupt. If feet can't churn anything up,you can't have mud. You can also dig a trench a couple of feet +/- deep around your barn that trails off on the low side, put in some leechbed pipe and a good layer of gravel before you cover it. Should take care of your barn unless the source is inside.

What's the comment about outlawing incandescent lights? Am I missing something? There are very, very few people, regardless of their good intentions, that don't use something that supports China every day. So why sweat buying a lightbulb? The Dell computer I am using right now is full of made in china components.

Take Care,


    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 8:03AM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

You should check and modify the OUTSIDE of barn, before expecting the change in footing to be of much use. If you don't divert the incoming flow of water, putting stone in, plus mats, won't leave the urine any place to drain sideways or away from the lower standing water or incoming ground water filling the stone layer.

We rent machines like a bobcat to move stone, remove mud, scrape floor layer smooth and flat. Treaded machines are pretty wonderful in mud, don't leave tracks or trenches, don't get stuck easily. Rent is cheaper, does a BUNCH of work fast, more easily than you can hand digging. Save your back from that kind of work. Skidster or Bobcat type machine is VERY EASY to drive and handle, for ladies or gentlemen. My husband LOVES to drive the machines, so I can easily get the help needed on projects. However ladies can drive machines themselves if husband or family are not available to help us. Sometimes a project just can't wait. The rental guys give a quicky lesson and you just need to refine the handling, goes quick. No harder than a car or lawn mower. My rental man likes women drivers, much easier on the equipment than most guys driving it.

I would look at adding a shallow ditch around the barn/shelter. Lay some cloth covered drain tile in ditch, to lead drainage or runoff water away from the barn into a drain field. Totally remove the water from the barn area. Drain tile is not that expensive to buy, sure makes things much easier to work in!! We have put in a BUNCH of tile and things are really improved around the barns, paddock gates.

Personally I would cover the drain tile with a second layer of geotextile fabric. This should be available in narrow widths, much used in constructing brick or paver walkways. Prevents the little pieces of dirt working into holes and clogging the tile. Then put the pea stone fill in the ditch to cover pipe.

Now you can go after the stalls and floor of barn/shelter. Remove all wood and pieces of wood floor. Dig it out, but I would go a foot deep, any place that got muddy. We laid coarse sandy road mix, about 4 inches compacted, then the coarse crushed limestone. We also rented the power tamper, did a super job of compacting the stone. You are wasting time trying to hand tamp that kind of material.

You can lay the mats over this base. If no one has mentioned it, use visegrips to handle the mats, saves your fingers. A utility knife cuts them, be careful with strength used in cutting thick mats. Knives sometimes slip in repeated cuts. You want the mats to fit edge to edge tight, and tight to the walls, so mats stay in place firmly. If they are tight, they are less likely to get corners up and trap dirt underneath. Edges sticking up make you trip, stalls are harder to clean well. Most mats need a little trimming to fit their stalls well.

You may want to save up, lay mats in the aisle too. Easy to clean, don't get muddy or dusty. Does stay fairly level if you have the water problem fixed right.

We bought cold-start florescent fixtures. Ask for them special. They come in short, med or long bulb lights. They cost a tiny bit more than regular florescent fixtures. Box for the last one said good to 0F, but did great all this winter in much colder weather. Very bright and only a short fixture to light up the hay storage. Like a bedroom, bright, clear light. They work pretty well for us, though we are not doing -30F. We do get down to almost -20F now and again.

The curly bulbs DO GET HOT, so don't think you can ignore them in cleaning. They don't get as hot as regular bulbs, but you can burn your finger if light has been on a while. My curly bulbs do start yellow, then warm up quickly even in very cold. We have the glass globes of industrial fixtures over them so dust lands on globe not bulb. We clean the globes a couple times a year, keeps things brighter and safer from spontaneous combustion in the dust layer.

Curly bulbs do last much longer for me, are less expensive to run than incandescent bulbs.

Curly and florescent bulbs should be disposed of correctly, at a recycle center. They have mercury in old long bulbs and other stuff in new florescent bulbs, both long and curly types. Not good dumping them in the trash can.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 6:55PM
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