8 Reasons To Install LED Lighting in Your Horse Barn

A well-lit horse barn.
A well-lit horse barn. Shutterstock

Flipping a switch and having the lights come on is a modern conveniences we all take for granted and for many years,little thought was given to better lighting for horse barn interiors. Overhead florescent or incandescent lights were installed, and little consideration was given to the need for better and more practical lighting in stalls, tack and feed-storage rooms, grooming and bathing areas.

Barn lighting considerations are now becoming a priority for many horse owners. For horse breeders, longer hours of "daylight" are beneficial and necessary for controlling the mare's estrous cycle and are also considered beneficial for stallions. For other horse owners, safety, cost savings and convenience are motivators for upgrading barn lighting.

Poor barn lighting can be frustrating on dark nights, when a flashlight is needed to examine a bloody injury on the back of a horse’s leg, or when it's necessary to read the fine print on medication labels. Walkways and the main doors of barns need to be illuminated for use at night, and all this uses energy. Add too many lights, and brighten them up too much, and electric bills soar.

Now, advances in lighting technology are catching on with horse owners who are moving away from old incandescent or florescent lighting and are upgrading and/or retrofitting barns with more effective and cost-saving LED lights and fixtures because of the positive qualities of these light-emitting diodes or LEDs

LED lighting is becoming a preferred choice for equine lighting. The color rendering index or CRI is the most natural looking and best for horses rather than low quality light. LEDs performance better in the outdoors or in agricultural settings because of the fixture options available, and they operate at much lower temperatures avoiding the risk of fire. When light bulbs heat up in contact with dust or cob webs their heat creates a serious risk of fire. Modern updated LED lighting creates peace of mind that not only reduces stress, but LEDs save energy costs as well.

For horse owners who want more control over their mares' estrous cycle, the most reliable method used to induce the ovulatory season is the use of artificial lights to alter the mare’s perception of day length.

According to Martha M. Vogelsang, PhD, of Texas A&M University, "Currently, the simplest and most effective management protocol for bringing mares into heat prior to the natural breeding season is the use of extended day length. By imposing an artificially long day on mares beginning in late November or early December, the hormonal mechanisms that control estrous cyclicity are stimulated such that mares will begin to ovulate in mid- to late February (rather than March or April).”

Although different lighting schedules have been studied, a lighting program that supplies 16 hours of light to eight hours of dark seems to provide a consistent response. The additional light can be provided by placing mares in stalls or paddocks where there is sufficient light in the afternoon, and maintaining the light artificially until approximately 11 p.m.

Mare in well-lit stall.

Mare in well-lit stall

The most reliable method used to induce the ovulatory season is the use of artificial lights to alter the mare’s perception of day length.
© 2017 by Smerikal

Most veterinarians and equine breeding specialists agree that the easiest light management program is to use lights at the end of the day to extend the perceived day length (or photoperiod) to 16 hours. This practice entails turning on an artificial light source 30 minutes before sundown. The light source should be turned on to supply enough additional light to produce a total 16 hours of daylight (natural and artificial).

A lag period of 60 to 90 days between the onset of daylight extension and first ovulation needs to be taken into consideration. Therefore, if February-March ovulations are desired, mares should be started on the lighting program before December 15.( 1)

The mare's perception of day length must be constant from day to day; the use of automatic timers is of benefit. Also, using too much light can cause adverse effects. Mares that are exposed to continuous light will not cycle properly.

Light intensity should be a minimum of two foot-candles, which is comparable to one 200-watt bulb for a 12 x 12-foot stall or the equivalent lumens when using LEDs. A general rule is that lighting should be sufficient to read a newspaper easily in any corner of the stall or pen. One side note is that mares in light inducement programs will also shed hair, so those housed outside will need protection from bad weather.

Artificially advancing the ovulatory season in open and bred mares helps maintain a yearly foaling interval, produce older foals at the breed association’s January 1st universal birth date, and make better use of available semen across the entire breeding season.

LED lighting for horse barns and arenas

Fortunately, retrofitting a barn’s lighting is actually easier than most people think. It can be as simple as swapping some brighter, more efficient bulbs into existing fixtures or finding long-lasting special light fixtures that meet special needs.

Choices in LED bulbs.

Choices in LED bulbs

The light-emitting diode is the most energy-efficient lighting technology and offers many choices for horse barn and arena lighting.
© 2018 by Energy.gov

Advances in lighting technology are now making it easier and more cost-effective to get the kind of light that works best for them and their horses. Many horse owners of both small and large barns are finding that LED lighting works well for them. Although relatively new to lighting fixtures for barns, arenas, and stable areas, LEDs have been around for decades---in digital clocks, remote controls, computer boards and myriad other applications.

While barns, stables, and indoor arenas can be difficult to light well, overhead LED fixtures that broadcast light over large areas, combined with smaller, brighter, more direct LED lighting in grooming areas, wash stalls, and storage spaces makes work much easier for everyone involved in horse care.

The available options and features for LEDs have grown significantly in recent years. Modern LED light fixtures are moisture resistant and also resistant to cold. In addition, LEDs far outlast fluorescent or incandescent lamps while providing excellent quality light that can be directed where most needed. Since LEDs emit light in one specific direction; they are ideal for creating the type of fixture that casts light onto work areas or dark corners of stalls.

LEDs have also been adapted into larger fixtures that can be used to broadcast light over a wider area, and many barns and arenas use overhead lights that look like fluorescents but are actually LEDs. However, the two types of bulbs are not inter-changeable: You may need to get new fixtures because LED bulbs usually can’t be swapped into the old fluorescent fixtures.

Well-lit hay storage.

Well-lit hay storage

LED lighting works well in hay areas since they operate at much lower temperatures than other lighting decreasing the risk of fire.
© 2012 by Shutterstock

Primary features of LED fixtures:

1.  The energy savings are huge. LEDs use much less electricity than other types of lights. By some estimates, you can reduce electricity use by up to 90 percent compared to an incandescent screw-in light bulb and up to 70 percent compared to energy used by some fluorescent lighting.

When building an addition onto a barn, switching to LED fixtures may save you from having to upgrade your entire electrical system. “If you are adding to a barn, you can often revamp the old barn with LED lighting to reduce the load on the existing circuits so they can be expanded into new areas of the barn, thereby saving you from having to upgrade the electrical service to handle additional lighting.

As a bonus, when you are not using as much energy, you are not producing as much heat, which reduces the chance for barn fires.

2.  LEDs are long-lived. Old incandescent light bulbs were expected to last for 750 to 2,500 hours, and energy-saving incandescents (halogens) lasted 1,000 to 4,000 hours, according to the Department of Energy. By comparison, CFLs have an expected life-span of 10,000 hours, and up to 24,000 hours for straight-tube fluorescents. In contrast, LED bulbs and fixtures can be expected to last at least 50,000 hours.

In other words, if they were turned on and left on continuously, an incandescent light bulb might be expected to operate for about three and a half months; the CFL might remain on for just under 14 months; and the straight tube fluorescent for just over two and a half years. The LED bulb would remain on for at least five and a half years and maybe up to 10 or more years.

3.  LED lights require little if any maintenance. Because LED bulbs last so long, and because they are so mechanically simple, they require virtually no maintenance. Well designed fixtures have 50,000-hour LED lifespans with some as high as 100,000 hours.

4.  It is important to note that some LED purchases may be eligible for rebates or tax credits. If you install LED fixtures throughout your barn, check with your local electrical utility to see if you quality for a rebate. “Many utilities and electrical companies offer rebates to people who install LED lighting systems because of the energy savings that reduce stress on the electrical grid,according to sources. In addition, you may also qualify for federal or state tax credits, depending on your state and situation.

Costs VS benefits

In general, the greatest difference between contemporary fluorescent lighting and LEDs comes down to this: Fluorescent bulbs and fixtures are cheaper to purchase, but they use more energy and cost more to run. LED bulbs cost significantly more to purchase, but they produce much higher savings over time.

Which options are best for your barn and/or arena depends on how much lighting you need, what type of lights you use and how often you use them.

“In smaller fixtures, like stall lights, the LEDs may provide a savings of 10 to 20 percent. Medium fixtures such as the four-foot fixtures like aisle lights, wash stall fixtures, etc. are probably in the 40 to 50 percent range of savings.

When it comes to arena lights, the replacements for high bay lights, it’s not as significant. The eight-lamp fluorescent high bay fixture consumes 294 watts and the comparable LED fixture consumes 200 watts. It’s not a huge difference for the smaller and larger fixtures, but it can be a considerable savings for the medium-size fixtures.

With the three- to four-foot lamps usually put in aisles and wash racks, the fluorescent lights consume 84 watts and the equivalent LED consumes 40.”

Arena with LED Bay lights.

Arena with LED Bay lights

LEDs Preferred choice for equine lighting.
© 2018 by ProLighting

When all factors are taken into consideration, LED lights offer 8 positive advantages for use in horse barns and arenas:

8 Benefits of LED Lighting:

  1. Energy Efficiency
    On average, a standard 50W halogen lamp turns 90% of electricity used into heat, with only 10% of that energy converted into light. LED Lights use only 15% of the energy a standard halogen uses, providing up to 85% of the light output. And because they put off no heat, they reduce cooling expenses and can be used in many more areas.
  2. Long life span LED Lights have the benefit of a super long life span of up to 80,000 hours which means you can cut maintenance costs. LED lamps last up to 8-10 times longer than standard halogen lamps making them an ideal replacement. If you have hard-to-reach light fixtures, LEDs are ideal because you won't need to go to the trouble to replace them as often.
  3. Improved durability LED's have no filaments, and contain no glass components, so they are not vulnerable to vibration or breakage like conventional bulbs, making them a great solution for horse barns, stables and arenas. And since LEDs emit very little heat in comparison to incandescent bulbs which release 90% of their energy as heat and CFLs which release about 80% of their energy as heat, they can be installed near hay and other combustibles safely because the possibility of a fire from a heated light is minimal.
  4. Compact size and light disbursement LED Light bulbs can be as small as 2mm, making them ideal for fitting into hard to reach and compact areas where light is needed. LED is designed to focus its light and can be directed to a specific location without the use of an external reflector, achieving higher application efficiency than conventional lighting making them ideal for stalls and smaller areas where effective lighting is important. Well-designed LED illumination systems are able to deliver light more efficiently to the desired location. LEDs can also be dimmed, as well as motion sensor resulting in a dynamic control of light, color, flexibility and distribution.
  5. Fast switching LED Lights will start at full brightness, instantly, every time, therefore there is no need for backup lighting. LED Lights are a benefit because they switch on and off instantly making them ideal when compared to standard fluorescent lights which fade in and out or flicker.
  6. Safety Most LED lights operate at low voltage so are cool to touch and much safer to handle during installation and maintenance and can be exposed to rain and snow.
  7. Environmentally friendly The benefit of LED Lights is that they are an eco-friendly form of lighting as they do not contain mercury or other harmful gasses or emit any harmful UV rays. For example, a 13w LED light emits 68% less CO2 than a standard 40w incandescent bulb running 10 hours per day.
  8. Energy savings leading to reduced utility cost You may not think that one light bulb contributes very much to your overall energy costs, but by reducing the overall energy use from your lighting, you can reduce your ongoing utility costs. And this doesn’t take into account the replacement of the bulbs, which you won’t be doing nearly as often as you would with standard incandescents or halogens.

Consider this:

The light-emitting diode (LED) is one of today's most energy-efficient and rapidly-developing lighting technologies. Quality LED light bulbs last longer, are more durable, and offer comparable or better light quality than other types of lighting and can make life better for you and your animals with a well-lit horse barn.

About the Author

Flossie Sellers

As an animal lover since childhood, Flossie was delighted when Mark, the CEO and developer of EquiMed asked her to join his team of contributors.

She enrolled in My Horse University at Michigan State and completed a number of courses in everything related to horse health, nutrition, diseases and conditions, medications, hoof and dental care, barn safety, and first aid.

Staying  up-to-date on the latest developments in horse care and equine health is now a habit, and she enjoys sharing a wealth of information with horse owners everywhere..

Comments

Subscribe