Any time is a good time to take stock of your energy costs, but as we look ahead to colder weather and less daylight, now is an especially good time to assess things and ensure efficient energy use this winter.
Your energy-saving opportunities will depend on your type of farm, processes and buildings but the more adjustments and improvements you can make, the more you can save. Take a walk around your site at different times of the day and do a physical check of different processes, equipment and buildings. Many ideas on this list need no new investment and can be implemented as part of regular maintenance procedures.
1. Control it
The best way to reduce energy costs is to make sure you are using just enough at the right times – or not using it all when you don’t actually need it.
• Switch off lights and other equipment when not required – use automated controls and timers to turn things on and off or make adjustments at set times or on different days.
• Consider using smart, web-based systems to monitor and control operations remotely. Alternatively, fit sensors that use light levels or the proximity of people to control lighting or adjust the heating.
• Check settings and accuracy of heating and ventilation controls – over-ventilating heated rooms can easily double heating costs.
• Check any water heater temperatures to avoid the expense of overheating.
2. Stop it escaping
How energy efficient are your buildings, sheds, stores and greenhouses? Are they well-built and maintained?
• Check insulation levels and draught proofing to stop energy loss when heating and cooling.
• Ensure efficient lagging of pipework and tanks.
• Fit door curtains or automatic doors to allow good seals or stop doors being left open inadvertently.
• Consider thermal imaging to pinpoint leaks and any problem areas.
3. Consume it efficiently
If you care for equipment that uses or consumes energy and keep it in optimum operating condition, it will reward you by running as efficiently as it can.
• Clean fans and air ducts – dirt can reduce fan efficiency by up to 60%.
• Ensure that air ducts allow the smooth passage of air – battens or obstructions can decrease efficiency by up to 20%.
• Is it time to upgrade? Boilers and refrigeration equipment have all significantly improved in efficiency in recent years while lighting has undergone a revolution. Replacing tungsten (including halogen) and old-style fluorescents with LEDs can save up to 80%.
4. Measure and monitor it
How can you hope to save if you don’t understand how your business uses energy?
• Take regular meter readings and monitor how much energy you are using and when and where you are using it. Look for any unusual patterns or peaks in consumption.
• Monitors that clip onto your meter and report to a simple desk display are a cheap, useful reminder of your use. Plug-in meters or sophisticated web-based reporting systems are also available.
• Check your energy invoices to ensure you are being billed accurately and compare costs with previous years.
5. Buy it wisely
Finally, if your gas or electricity contract is coming up for renewal, take the opportunity to ensure you are getting the best deal you can and avoid a costly automatic renewal. If you are an NFU member you can benefit from lower prices by joining our NFU Energy buying group.
If you want to assess any aspect of your energy use or want help buying, saving or generating energy, call the team on 024 7669 6512.