Poultry House Heater Comparison: Pancake vs. Tube Heaters

Winter is coming! Here's a comparison between two main types of radiant heaters for poultry farms: pancake and tube heaters.
Winter is coming! What are the best heaters for your poultry house?

Types of Poultry House Heaters

There are three basic types of heaters that can be found in poultry houses: furnace heaters (A.K.A. forced air heaters), radiant heaters that use a pancake fixture and radiant heaters that use a tube fixture.

Furnace heaters have mostly been phased out and replaced by more efficient heating methods. Furnace heaters push heat into the air as opposed to focusing the heat on the floor or the birds, creating heat that does not make it to the birds and is therefore wasted. Unless you have an older house, you probably won't see this type of heater anymore. 

Radiant heaters have established popularity for being more efficient than furnace heaters. They have heating units that come in pancake or tube shapes. Recently, tube heaters have gained popularity over pancake heaters and are being seen in more and more houses. Let's compare these two common heating options.

Pancake Heaters vs. Tube Heaters

From our research and what we've heard from farmers, it seems like tube heaters are beginning to overtake pancake heaters and become the favored option among poultry farmers. Why is this? Let's look at a few different factors. 

Maintenance Level

Since tube heaters have fewer parts than pancake heaters, fewer things can go wrong, and they typically require less maintenance. Since they're simpler, you can often fix tube heaters on your own.

Tube heaters pull clean air from outside and keep their blower in a sealed box, reducing the hardware's exposure to contaminants and preventing chemical-based issues. 

Furthermore, pancake heaters require more equipment per house. An average 40 foot by 500 foot poultry house could have about 20 pancakes in it, while the same house would only need six tube heaters. Fewer units leads to a decreased chance of needing maintenance!

Another maintenance consideration is that, should your house get struck by lightning, you have fewer control boards to deal with if you have tube heaters. It's just six control boards compared to the 20 or so you would have with pancake heaters!

Bird Care

Tube heaters have also been shown to heat birds better than pancake heaters. Tube heaters provide a larger, more even distribution of heat, preventing the heat pockets that occur with pancake heaters. This means birds don't have to huddle together in order to get enough heat. Overall, this creates an improved heat zone.

Energy Efficiency

It has yet to be decided whether pancake heaters or tube heaters are more energy efficient. However, we've had farmers tell us that they think tube heaters are more energy efficient because they're heating clean air and are more enclosed.

Upfront Cost

Pancake heaters have a slightly lower cost when you consider price per BTU. Each pancake puts out 40,000 BTUs and costs around $300, meaning it costs $0.0075 per BTU. Meanwhile, each tube heater puts out 150,000 BTUs and costs around $1200, making it $0.008 per BTU. Not a huge difference, but it could add up and is worth noting!

Contact Us

Winter is coming, so we hope this sheds some light on heating options for your poultry house. 

Have any questions or ideas for future Poultry Biosecurity videos? Contact Allen Reynolds at allen@southlandorganics.com or 800-608-3755.

About the Author

Allen Reynolds

Allen Reynolds

Poultry Sales Manager

This was written by Allen Reynolds, Southland Organics’ Poultry Sales Manager. Allen spent years working on poultry farms, from installing equipment to dumping chicks. He has been helping poultry farmers overcome obstacles since 2014, focusing on poultry farm strength in the antibiotic-free environment since 2017. He has traveled thousands of miles and worked closely with hundreds of farmers during his time with Southland Organics. Allen is known by even more farmers from the YouTube channel Poultry Biosecurity, where he regularly appears in videos that educate farmers on topics like bird health and farm business.

Learn more about Allen Reynolds

Isabella (Izy) Dobbins

Marketing Manager

This was edited by Isabella (Izy) Dobbins, Southland Organics' Marketing Manager. Izy has devoted her education and career to communicating science-related topics. With an enthusiasm for sharing accurate and honest content relating to science and agriculture, she ensures Southland Organics' publications are as informative as they are interesting. Izy graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor's degree in advertising, minors in both Spanish and environmental health science and a Certificate in Sustainability. She has been working at Southland Organics since 2021.

Learn more about Izy Dobbins

Izy Dobbins
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