Cut your energy costs on the farm

Are you spending too much on energy to power your farm? Do you know the major energy users on your farm?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions you have some work to do, says Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs engineer James Dyck. Energy prices have soared in recent years and are expected to continue to rise in the future Thankfully, there are energy-saving opportunities for farming operations that offer rapid payback.

At the recent Southwest Agricultural Conference in Ridgetown, Ont., Dyck outlined a simple strategy to tackle these growing energy bills, whether it be electricity, propane or natural gas, and offers tips on how farmers can cut costs.

“Energy efficiency isn’t a destination, it’s a journey,” says Dyck who recommends that farmers start their quest for efficiency with a strong understanding of their energy bills. Most energy providers explain how their bills are formulated on their websites. It’s critical to understand your bill or you will be wasting money. Dyck adds that it’s also important to know key terminology such as Power Factor and the difference between a kilowat hour and a kilowat.

The second step to energy efficiency requires farmers to identify main energy users on the farm and typical operating patterns. The biggest electricity consumers are grain dryer fan motors and extruders, followed by elevator augers, aeration fans, pumps, and lighting. The biggest natural gas or propane users are grain dryers and boilers or heaters.

Listen to OMAFRA engineer James Dyck and RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin discuss how to make your farm more energy efficient.


Once you’ve identified the big energy consumers, Dyck recommends and energy audit. Unless you have an engineering degree and some spare time, it’s best to hire a consultant. It’s important that the consultant has a good understanding of agricultural business. An audit will cost anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000, but it will deliver savings much higher than the cost of the audit itself, says Dyck. The audit will provide a list of improvement opportunities and identify costs, savings, payback and available incentives to deliver the best bang for your buck.

Dyck says every farm is different and an audit will give you a personalized plan for your farm operation. You can then make changes. Common upgrades typically recommended range from insulating and air sealing to awareness and training as well as lighting efficiency, better equipment controls, heat recovery and demand management.

Dyck also reminds farm operators that funding support is available for energy audits and often covers up to 50 percent of the total cost. He recommends farmers contact their local utility provider or check out some of the following links.

Energy Audit Funding:

Save On Energy – Audit

Save On Energy – Retrofit

Hydro One

Union Gas

Enbridge Gas

 

Bernard Tobin

Bernard Tobin is Real Agriculture's Ontario Field Editor. AgBern was raised on a dairy farm near St. John's, Newfoundland. For the past two decades, he has specialized in agricultural communications. A Ryerson University journalism grad, he kicked off his career with a seven-year stint as Managing Editor and Field Editor for Farm and Country magazine. He has received six Canadian Farm Writers' Federation awards for journalism excellence. He's also worked for two of Canada's leading agricultural communications firms, providing public relations, branding and strategic marketing. Bern also works for Guelph-based Synthesis Agri-Food Network and talks the Real Dirt on Farming.

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