• Energy solutions Energy efficiency on the farm
    April 23,2013
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    I run a small diversified farm in the Kingdom, and it seems like every year at about this time our electric bills go up. Money is tight, so if you have any ideas of what it could be and how we can fix it, I’d appreciate it.

    — H.A., Caledonia County

    Paul: It’s hard to say without speaking with you about your specific set-up, but I could hazard a guess. Any chance you have an incubator or heat lamps going for some baby chicks? It’s pretty common to see an energy-usage spike from that this time of year, and we often field a number of calls about it.

    Dan: Yes, that’s just what I was going to mention. Heat lamps draw 100-200 watts of electricity per bulb. Multiply that by six heat lamps or more running all night and sometimes all day as well, and you’re going to see a big jump in electric usage. Unfortunately, if that is the culprit, then there’s not a whole lot we can offer in terms of efficiency solutions. A heat lamp’s sole purpose is to emit heat, and that’s an energy-intensive process.

    Paul: The good news, though, is that there are many other ways to improve your energy efficiency, and they can all save you energy and money. Coolers, for example, are a great place to find hidden savings. A lot of farms use older-model refrigerators, but these use far more electricity than newer ENERGY STAR-qualified models. So, I’d definitely take a look at that.

    Dan: Do you use an engine-block heater in the winter? (For our non-farming readers, these are devices used to help keep a tractor’s engine warm enough so it will start in the morning). If you do use one, and it’s not on a timer, there’s a huge potential for savings right there. Or, how about a water heater (to keep the water bucket or trough from freezing)? These can also be put on timers or thermostats to keep energy usage down.

    Paul: And, as with any business, it’s worth taking a look at your lighting. Have you switched out all your incandescent bulbs for CFLs or LEDs? Energy-efficient lighting can help you save as much as 75 percent on lighting costs, and because efficient bulbs last far longer, you’ll spend less valuable time switching out burnt bulbs.

    Dan: Of course, these are all general ideas. Call our customer support team for customized assistance; they can help you identify opportunities for savings on your particular farm, and they’ll also let you know about any rebates available for equipment you consider upgrading. If questions arise about how much electricity a specific piece of equipment uses, they can even send you a portable electric meter that allows you to measure its individual electric draw.

    Paul: Call us at 888.921.5990 to get started, or take a look at some of our agricultural offerings online at www.efficiencyvermont.com/farms. Thanks for a great question, and best wishes for a successful growing season.

    Learn more: For more Energy Solutions Q&A or to ask a question of your own, visit us online or e-mail info@efficiencyvermont.com.

    About Efficiency Vermont: Efficiency Vermont was created by the Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board to help all Vermonters reduce energy costs, strengthen the economy, and protect Vermont’s environment. For more information, call 888.921.5990 or visit www.efficiencyvermont.com.

    The columnists are business energy experts Paul Lambert and Dan Mellinger. v
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