A major and often-overlooked overhead cost on the farm is utilities. With simple upgrades, you can dramatically reduce your energy usage and bills, says farm energy auditor Chad Kloberdanz.
An energy audit, which analyzes current facilities, utility bills and usage, can find both low-cost and big-investment items to increase energy efficiency. “The goals of an energy management plan are to strengthen farm businesses by lowering operation costs and reducing environmental impacts by using efficient technology and forward-thinking design,” says Kloberdanz, who owns Kloberdanz Consulting.
Plus, programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provide loan financing and grant funding to farmers looking to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems. Electric cooperatives and equipment manufacturers also offer cost-share programs and rebates.
How big is the payback? Take a tour through this hypothetical farm and its energy conservation recommendations provided by Kloberdanz.
1. Grain Dryer
2. Exterior Light Fixtures
3. Grain Pumps
4. Interior Shop Lighting
5. Shop Insulation
Illustration: Lori Hays, Top Producer
Simple Cost-Cutting Techniques
Not ready to make a big investment in reducing your energy consumption and costs? Chad Kloberdanz, of Kloberdanz Consulting, and Leon Schumacher, University of Missouri agricultural systems management professor, provide these simple and effective tips to reduce energy use on the farm.
- Every month, clean fan blades and maintain belt tension on fans. This can increase existing fan efficiency by 10% or more.
- Install programmable controls and automated systems to monitor grain moisture in your bins.
- Buy fuel in the off-season when supplies are more abundant and prices are typically lower.
- Keep an eye on what’s plugged in. Do you really need six batteries charging at once?
- Avoid doing high-energy tasks, such as drying grain or grinding feed, during peak energy demand.
- Take the heat down a few degrees. Dropping the temperatures from 70°F to 65°F can save up to 21% on a heating bill.
- Air leaks are a major cause of heat loss and high energy bills. Use caulk and weatherstripping on all of your shop’s door openings and windows. This can reduce heat loss up to 37%.
- Hold off on replacing low-use and small motors, such as drills, grinders and welders. Typically, a motor needs to run 2,000 hours annually to justify a replacement.
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