Farm Buildings Require Proper Lighting

Planning the construction of a farm building means considering a lot of variables. But a big part in determining how useful it will be is how well it’s lighted, and windows don’t count.

That means coming up with a detailed lighting plan ahead of time, taking all possible uses into account. And to help come up with that plan, doing a little research on the Internet is a good place to start. There are several websites that offer some useful tips.

Each type of building has its own lighting requirements. Workshops, for example, will need a variety of lighting intensities for each specific area, depending on its use. The North Dakota State University Agriculture Extension department at four basic workshop lighting needs be considered separately.

General lighting requirement. When using fluorescent fixtures, that requires bulbs capable of about one-half watt per square foot of floor space. For the workbench area, that rises to one watt, an office will need 1.5 watts; and any area to be used for fine detail work will need two watts. If incandescent lights are used instead of fluorescent bulbs, multiply those wattages by a factor of four to get an equivalent intensity.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) fact sheet at makes some recommendations on lighting workshops. It recommends a minimum of one 40-watt fluorescent tube for each 35 square feet (3 m2) or one 100-watt incandescent bulb for each 100 square feet (10 m2).

For workbenches, the OMAFRA page suggests hanging lamps four feet (1.2 m) above their surfaces. To eliminate shadows, use either a four-foot (1.2-m) fluorescent fixture with 40-watt tubes, or two 150-watt reflector lamps spaced four ft. (1.2 m) apart.

Safety needs to be considered as well. Environments in some farm buildings, particularly those where grain dust is floating around, create severe fire and explosion risks.

Rob Breshnahan of Larson Electronics, manufacturers of specialty lighting equipment, says there are two basic categories of safety lights: type one and type two. Deciding which is required means evaluating exactly what conditions exist.

“Basically what people need to know is if there is dust or gas always present in fairly high concentrations, you need to look at a division one light,” he says. “If you have a really large facility but it’s fairly well ventilated, that is a division two area. (In that case) you have very low concentrations. There are vapours, but they don’t get a chance to build up.”

Special-duty lights are sold at a variety of industrial and agricultural supply retailers across the country. And they usually come with a considerably higher price tag than ordinary bulbs.

According to Ward Henderson, loss control manager for The Co-operators, an insurance provider, national building and electrical codes only specify some minimum lighting standards for agricultural buildings. “Lighting requirements are very limited in farm buildings as most are categorized as low human occupancy,” he says. “Areas where one would find dusty occupancies, or bale storage such as lofts, are where a dust-tight fixture would be required.”

Henderson adds that each type of farm building has its own special consideration.

Even though producers may not have to erect farm structures in compliance with extensive building regulations, failing to install electrical fixtures properly could result in their insurance company refusing or reducing coverage. Not to mention the increased safety risk to animals and people.



Stories from our other publications