Tool of the Month: Smoke Emitter

Name: Smoke emitter 

Cost: $15 to $130

Available at Hardware stores, Amazon, and manufacturers’ websites

Intended use

A smoke emitter such as a smoke pen, smoke grenade, or any other smoke source is used to evaluate ventilation system operation in poultry houses, determining air flow into, within, and out of the house.

How does it work?

Smoke emitters are varied in terms of color, how long they burn and the amount of smoke they emit (Table 1).

Table 1. Smoke emitters with different capacity

Burning timeCovered test area
45 seconds150 ft3
90 seconds600 ft3
4 minutes2500 ft3
8 minutes18000 ft3

Low-volume smoke emitters (45 seconds) can be used to detect the air flow of entering air from air inlets or wall cracks in houses where contain large birds. If the house contains small birds and movement from the smoke would not create crowding problems, then 90-seconds smoke emitters can be used to detect air flow into, within, and out of the house. The high-volume smoke emitters (4 and 8 minutes) are used in empty barns (without birds) to identify air movement and air leakage from the house. 

Smoke emitters are also classified as firework and non-firework grenades. Try to use non-firework smoke emitters as they are safer and they produce relatively cooler smoke (150°C), which detect air flow patterns more accurately; whereas firework smoke emitters usually produce hot smoke (above 500°C) that reduces the accuracy of air flow detection.

Using the device

Smoke tests can be done in a poultry house for different purposes including the following tests:

  1. Testing the house tightness

With the fans off, ignite a smoke emitter and hold it in the center of the brooding area. In a tight house where there is no wind movement, the smoke should rise and build a cloud of smoke on top of the emitter. If the smoke moves away from the brooding area to the other end, this can be an indicator of wind present in the house. It means that the house is not tight enough and wind comes through the cracks.  

  1. Testing minimum ventilation performance

With the fans off, light a smoke emitter and let the smoke accumulate close to the ceiling on the top of the emitter vicinity. Then turn on the timer fans (minimum ventilation fans) and observe the smoke flow pattern after about one minute. The smoke should be well distributed from floor to ceiling if the minimum ventilation system works properly. If the accumulated smoke close to the ceiling does not move well towards the floor, try to adjust the air inlets opening and the house static pressure. As discussed in our previous article, an optimum static pressure should be between 0.04 and 0.15 inches of water.  

  1. Testing entered air flow pattern

Stand outside of the barn and try to hold a smoke emitter one foot away from a side wall inlet. Have someone inside the house turn on the minimum ventilation fans and let the smoke enter the house through the inlet. Observe the smoke flow from the air inlet all the way to the middle of the barn. Ideally air/smoke should travel along the ceiling and land gently in the middle of the house. If the air flow pattern is not ideal, try to adjust the air inlet openings and static pressure accordingly.

You can also watch this Smoke Test Video

About the author(s)

Research Associate at Poultry Innovation Partnership | + posts