Energy Efficiency Across Farm Sectors

 

 

 

This page summarizes energy efficiency measures that apply to all farm sectors. As with other sector-specific technologies, some of these measures typically require large capital expenditures. For that reason, these measures are best applied when operating demands make efficiency benefits more significant. In some cases, it is advisable to wait for upgrades until older equipment needs to be replaced.

No-cost energy assessments can help you identify what measures are best suited for your operations considering costs and expected benefits. Click here to request an energy assessment.

Continue reading to learn about reducing energy costs in the following areas:

Technologies

Technology Description
General Operational Requirements  Potential Energy Savings1
Typical Simple Payback2 Possible Barriers
Non-Energy Benefits
LED lighting
LED to replace moderate to high use non-LED lighting. Weekly use more than 5 hours.  5-50%  0.5-5 years
 Cost barrier in areas of low use.
Labor savings from less lightbulb changes.
Controls Lighting controls: occupancy sensors, photoeye, dimming; thermostats; timers and timeclocks; environmental controls; process controls. Utility costs many times the cost of the controls.  5-80%  1-6 years
 Controls can get expensive.
 Improved comfort for humans and livestock.
Motors Purchase premium efficiency motors when obtaining new motors. If possible, purchase EC motors. Weekly use more than 10 hours.  5-67%  5-12 years
 Cost; application limitations.
Increased equipment life, decreased repair costs, decreased downtime.
Tractor block heaters
Timeclocks should be installed to limit block heaters to only operating a couple of hours prior to equipment use. Timers are not intended for power backup equipment.  65-85%  0.5-1.5 years
 None. Decreased fire hazard.
HE space heating
High efficiency space heating such as HE boiler, IR, condensing unit heater, heat pump, and other types of efficient space heating. Annual use more than half the winter.  10-70% 6-15 years
 Cost; application limitations.
Increased equipment life, decreased repair costs, decreased downtime.
HE water heating
High efficiency water heating can include on-demand/instant, heat pump, indirect, and other types of efficient water heating. If nominal use then switch to a small electric tank.  10-70% 5-14 years
 Cost; application limitations.
Increased equipment life, decreased repair costs, decreased downtime.
 Building insulation / air sealing
This applies to farms with heated buildings and includes sealing windows and doors, adding attic and wall insulation, and other measures to seal and insulate building envelopes.
Annual building heating occurs more than half the winter.  1-20% 5-17 years  Cost.  Improved comfort for humans and livestock.

  1. “Potential Energy Savings” represents the potential savings as a percentage of the total energy use for each technology category. E.g., if “refrigeration” as an end-use was 20% of a farmer’s electricity usage, and if the above table showed a Potential Energy Savings of 25%, then the net effect would be a 5% overall electricity energy savings (20% * 25% = 5%). An individual farmer can then predict the Economic Benefit through annual cost savings by taking 5% of their annual bill. So, if a farmer’s annual electricity bill is $10,000 then the potential cost savings for implementing this example best practice would be 5% * $10,000 = $500.

  2. “Simple Payback” is defined as the installation costs divided by the potential energy cost savings. An individual farmer can then predict the Expected Implementation Cost by taking the cost savings from item #1 above and multiplying it by the Simple Payback for the Technology being investigated. So, if the example best practice had a Typical Simple Payback of 3.0 years, then the estimated implementation cost would be $500 * 3.0 = $1,500.

 

Preventative Maintenance

Preventative Maintenance Item Description Potential Energy Savings1 Typical Simple Payback2 Possible Barriers Non-Energy Benefits
Lighting Components need cleaning, checkups, or replacement as needed. n/a n/a Equipment access (which should be corrected). Avoiding premature equipment failure.
Fans and ventilation Clean fan blades, motors, guards, thermostats, and shutters, lubricate shutter hinges, check belts, clean air inlets, clean air ducts, make sure ridge vents are properly sized. 1-3% 1-3 years Equipment access (which should be corrected). Avoiding premature equipment failure.
Water heating Insulate water pipes, repair leaky faucets, flush water heater monthly, annual tune up and combustion test, add a water softener. 1-5% 1-3 years Cost (softener). Avoiding premature equipment failure.
Space heating Insulate pipes, clean air exchangers and thermostats, annual tune up and combustion test. 1-5% 1-3 years Equipment access (which should be corrected). Avoiding premature equipment failure.
Well and Irrigation Check nozzle package, test well and pump annually. 1-5% 1-3 years None. Avoiding premature equipment failure.
Controls – for all systems
Cleaning controls and sensors, verify control settings. 1-5% 1-3 years Time, cost. Avoiding premature equipment failure.
Motors Keep clean (dirt and dust removal), proper ventilation, check for loose connections, remove drain plugs as needed to drain condensation, lubricate bearings, change belts, add or replace the weather protection. 1-5% 1-3 years Equipment access (which should be corrected). Avoiding premature equipment failure.
Compressed air systems Lower setpoint to 90-110 psi, ensure proper staging, purchase and use an air leak detection device (such as ultrasonic), ensure proper air dryer operation and link to compressor operation instead of running 24/7, purchase and use a handheld blower instead of compressed air for cleaning. 1-15% 1-5 years Time, cost (leak detection, blowers). Avoiding premature equipment failure.
All footnotes are described in the prior table.

Industry Information and References

LED lighting and controls:

Design Lights Consortium is a non-profit supporting energy optimization, with resources to help end-users find efficient lighting for commercial and horticultural applications.

U.S. Department of Energy report “Energy Savings Potential of SSL in Agricultural Applications” (June 2020).

Motors: Explanation of electronically-commutated (aka brushless) motors from Cx Associates engineering firm.

HE space and water heating: U.S. Department of Energy page on geothermal heat pumps

Building insulation / air sealing: U.S. Department of Energy page on weatherizing buildings to save money and energy