According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. This is what the ministry is telling farmers when it comes to their energy use. In fact, they encourage energy audits so that farm families can become more efficient and put money back in their pockets.
Many farmers will admit that they worry about the time commitment that might be involved in auditing their operations, but any good energy consultant should be able to conduct a thorough audit without shutting a farm down. After all, food production must go on, as we all depend on it.
Today government agencies often offer incentives for energy auditing so it is worth looking into if your farm energy bill is causing you anxiety. A recent study by the Ag Ministry showed that the average potential savings on the farm by just improving lighting efficiency was around $1,500 per farm.
As it turns out, it doesn’t matter what size farm you are operating, small changes can have a huge impact on your energy bill. Lets take a look at some important areas that need to be considered when auditing a farm, starting with the lighting:
• Lighting – lighting controls such as timers and/or dimers can be installed to make sure lights are used only when needed. Switching to LED where possible can
• Motors and Engines – when you have peak performance it can lead to reduced maintenance expenses, improved fuel efficiency, as well as extended machine
life. Using high efficiency electric motors can make a significant difference.
• Passive Heating & Cooling – simple ventilation tends to use little energy to warm and cool your buildings.
• Vehicles – proper maintenance of all vehicles and equipment can lead to energy savings. For example, using vehicles in the right gear, minimizing idling,
keeping fuel storage tanks properly sealed, and making sure air filters are not blocked.
• Insulation – proper insulation of farm building walls and insulating hot water lines can save you money.
• Windows – making sure that windows and doors are well sealed with good caulking and weather stripping can prevent heat loss.
• Natural ventilation – maximizing natural ventilation in livestock barns does lead to energy savings.
• Irrigation – when you avoid irrigating on hot and windy days it can be helpful
These are just a few areas to consider, there are many more that energy experts will be able to uncover on the farm. Each farm is unique and therefore requires careful examination to pinpoint potential inefficiencies.
In recent years, some farmers have become creative by not only reducing inefficiencies through an auditing process, but by producing their own energy. For instance, solar energy has become the most popular renewable energy source on farms for powering things like electrical fencing, heating greenhouses, and pumping water. Farmers are also using wind power, geothermal, and biomass, in an effort to save.