A hidden propane expense

I’ve written earlier blogs on the cost of propane this winter and the estimated impact on production costs, especially for contract growers with fixed payment contracts. This weekend I had a question from a veterinarian and finishing manager for a production system regarding how much propane pilot lights use on furnaces.


This morning I had heard back from one of the equipment suppliers to the livestock industry. Their estimate is that a pilot light on propane fired brooders used in poultry housing is 0.41 gal/light/day. Another supplier suggests that pilot lights consume 1200 BTU of propane per hour or 28,800 BTU/day. Propane contains 92,000 BTU/gal so this estimate is 0.31 gal/light/day.


Either way we look at it, pilot lights add to the fuel expense in pork production. If I take an average of the estimates at 0.35 gal/light/day, and a producer leaves the pilot lights lit all year in furnaces installed in production facilities, this amounts to 128 gal of propane per year per furnace. At $2 per gallon, this is $256 per year in propane just to keep the pilot light going. Most wean-finish facilities have 2-3 furnaces per 1000-1200 pig spaces. At 3 furnaces per 1200 pig spaces, this becomes $0.64/pig space just to keep pilot lights going.


Wow – an real eye opener for hidden costs in pork production. Once again, attention to the little details can return big dividends.

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