In broiler houses, ventilation removes moisture and maintains ambient temperature and air quality. During cold weather conditions, ventilation can result in undesirable heat loss from the house. Extra input of energy for heating the building is needed then, resulting in extra CO2 emissions when fossil fuels are used for this purpose. In such a situation, an air-to-air heat exchanger (HE) might be valuable because it recovers heat by prewarming fresh supply air with warm inside air. The aim of this study was to analyze effects of on-farm use of an HE on broiler performance, energy use, and CO2 emission by comparing production cycles with and without an HE, and to inventory the experiences of farmers using an HE. Data were collected of production cycles finished with (102) or without (149) an HE on 25 farms. Data on mortality, feed intake, water intake, and BW gain were obtained to analyze broiler performance. When available, gas and electricity use were obtained to analyze energy use and to calculate CO2 emission. Farmers were interviewed about their experiences regarding the HE. The use of an HE tended to increase daily weight gain (56 vs. 55, SEM 0.3 g/d; P = 0.07), but did not affect other performance variables. Based on 13 farms, gas use was reduced by 38% (P <0.01) after installing an HE. Based on 3 farms only, an HE did not affect electricity use, total energy use, or calculated CO2 emission. It appeared that farmers were satisfied with the HE because they experienced an increase in job satisfaction, an improvement of climate conditions and litter quality in the broiler house, and a more uniform temperature and broiler distribution in the house. We concluded that the use of an HE reduced gas use and has the ability to improve broiler weight gain but had no effect on other broiler performance variables. Effects on CO2 emission were unclear. Farmers appeared to be positive about using an HE, because it improved broiler house climate and job satisfaction.
- chicken performance
- air velocity