Shedding Some Light

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“Plan for all the lighting you will need, then add some more,” is the rule of thumb if you are building or remodeling a horse barn. Plan for both present needs and future expansion while considering costs, codes, environment and barn design.

National and state codes must be considered first. Electrical installations for stables and barns housing horses must comply with NFPA 70 of the National Electrical Code.

Horses require additional safety precautions. Panel boxes must be in a dry and dust-free area. Even when they are inside a building they must be made of weather-resistant and non-corrosive material. Install light fixtures out of reach of the horses, and cage the fixtures to prevent shattering if a horse rears or a worker gets a little wild with a pitchfork. Lights should also be placed where they are not in contact with any flammable materials, including hay and bedding.

Run electrical wiring through metal conduit pipe to prevent horses and rodents from chewing on the wires. And when considering electrical needs, provide enough power to the barn to handle fans, clippers, and the radio in addition to the lights.

If the existing barn was built without ground fault circuits, correct this immediately. Buy a portable GFCI power block to use until the necessary upgrade can be made. This “shock blocker,” as it is also called, is plugged into an outlet. Then clippers, fans, lights or other appliances plug into the blocker to prevent electrocution should a horse bite into the wires.

Costs depend on the types of lighting you use and the size of the barn. Most barns will require a combination of fixture types, including natural, fluorescent, incandescent, mercury vapor and halogen.

Natural Light

Sunlight is not only free, it is healthy. According to Andrew F. Clark in his article, “Housing the Horse” (www.equineworld.net/), the ultraviolet light from the sun destroys bacteria and viruses, as well as parasite eggs and larvae. Windows at each stall also improve ventilation and provide mental activity for the horse, since it can watch what is going on outside. Windows may add to the cost of construction, but in the long run the advantages outweigh the initial costs. Windows should be a minimum of 2 feet by 2 feet positioned 6 feet above the floor and covered with steel grating or bars to prevent horses chewing on the window frames, according to “The Horse Handbook, Housing and Equipment,” available from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

Skylights made of plastic or translucent UV glass are another way to let in the sunlight. Units with a gasket or seal around the edges help prevent leaking.

Exterior lighting

Outside barn lighting provides security, safety and convenience. In addition to doorways and yards, a separate security light that is on a different power source rounds out the exterior lighting recommendations.

A simple weatherproof incandescent fixture over doorways is inexpensive and easily allows you and your clients to find your way inside. A switch for the interior lights should be placed immediately inside the doorway.

A floodlight at the main aisle entrance should illuminate the surrounding yard for safe horse handling after dark. A mercury vapor fixture with 175-watt light mounted on an extending arm will provide up to 300 percent more efficient light than an incandescent light. The cost starts at around $30. Weather-resistant, non-corrosive housings and light sensors are desirable features. The light sensor adds about $40 to the cost.

A low cost-energy source for exterior lighting is solar power. A light fixture like the Solar Sensorlight ($100) stores the sun’s energy and provides light after the sun goes down. This model has two parts, the sensor being separated from the light by a 14-foot cord. This allows placement of the sensor in a sunny location and the fixture wherever it is needed. The solar cell runs a 20-watt halogen lamp and can operate up to ten days without sunshine. A solar light is ideal as an auxiliary light, as it functions even when the electricity is out.

Halogen lights are less expensive and are about 40 percent more efficient than incandescent fixtures. A quartz halogen floodlight costs about $10 per unit and is another option for lighting smaller areas, such as the doorway to the office or tack room.

Stall lighting

Good choices for stall lighting include the standard incandescent fixture with a 100-watt bulb, a two-foot fluorescent fixture, or fluorescent bulb fixture. The fixture must be mounted out of the reach of the horse and have a cover to protect the bulb from breaking. Metal jelly jar cages for incandescent and fluorescent bulbs are inexpensive and work well. Plastic or metal covers are available for fluorescent tube fixtures. CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, are an energy-saving alternative. Most states offer these long-lasting bulbs through the electric company at economical costs. Look for outdoor bulbs that come with plastic capsules (Phillips has a model) already in place.

Aisle lighting

Fluorescent tube lights in four-foot lengths are the best choice for the aisleway and for grooming or wash stalls. Eight-foot-long fixtures are often recommended, but many barn managers find the longer strips are awkward to handle when changing tubes. Two four-foot fixtures installed end-to-end will produce the same light with greater ease of handling. Space the light units at eight- to ten-foot intervals down the center of the aisle for even light.

In below freezing temperatures, standard fluorescent lights are slow to warm up to full brightness. In these climates use cold-proof fixtures, such as high output fluorescent fixtures or T8 1-inch tubes with electronic ballast that are rated to work in 0 to -20 degrees.

The fixture over the wash stall must be waterproof. Prolighting, Inc., makes a fixture with a fiberglass housing that is impact-resistant. The fixture has a rust- and corrosive-free gasket that also protects against dust, dirt and moisture. This fixture costs about $100. Other comparable fixtures are available from Orion, which specializes in barn lighting. Orion makes a three-lamp barn light fixture that is instantly on at -20 degrees. It is also sealed to be watertight for power washing.

Simple incandescent or fluorescent ceiling fixtures are sufficient for lighting the tack and feed room, lounge area and restrooms.

Good planning is the key to safe, efficient, least-cost lighting. Research the codes in your state, think beyond your present needs, look at other barns. Decide what lighting type will work best in different areas of the barn and compare prices. Following these steps will help insure that your barn environment is healthy, safe and pleasurable for you and your horses.