Increasing Your Energy Efficiency

Posted: November 4, 2005

Energy prices are going through the roof again this fall and winter! The best way to guard against high prices for energy is to make your farm and home more energy efficient. Energy-efficiency improvements will not only help reduce your utility expenses this winter, but these improvements can lead to long-term financial rewards as well. There are numerous energy efficiency improvements that can be made; some of these improvements require only a modest amount of money while others may involve a considerable sum. Whenever considering an improvement, make sure that the improvements will not only save energy but save dollars in the long run as well.

Lighting consumes 20-25 percent of all the energy used in buildings in the U. S. The incandescent lamp is rather inefficient in providing light. Eighty percent of the energy consumed by an incandescent lamp is used to provide heat and only 20 percent is used for providing light. A fluorescent lamp uses about 80 percent of the energy to provide light with the other 20 percent producing heat. Therefore, the wattage requirement of fluorescent lamps is much less than an incandescent lamp to get the same amount of light.

New compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) can be used in many of the light fixtures that previously required incandescent lamps. A CFL looks like a thin fluorescent tube wrapped around itself with a shape not much larger than an incandescent lamp. A CFL uses about 20 to 25 percent of the amount of energy to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent lamp. The life of a CFL is about 10 times longer than a typical incandescent. The life for a CFL used for 3-4 hours per day is about 7 years. A major disadvantage is that the CFL does cost considerably more than incandescent lamps, although the extra cost can be justified economically if the lamp is used at least 3 hours a day.

Insulation levels recommended today for walls and ceilings are much higher than the recommendations from several decades ago simply because the cost of energy is much higher. Today’s recommended levels of insulation for most areas of

Pennsylvania are R=19 in the walls and R=49 for the ceiling. Insulation levels in existing heated buildings should be examined by a heating contractor to evaluate the quality of the insulation and to assess the feasibility of adding more insulation. In some older buildings, adding more insulation may be quite difficult, thereby requiring professional services.

Energy-efficient appliances must always be considered when making a purchase. While it is true that many high efficiency products such as motors, fans, and pumps cost more initially than the products with standard efficiency, the value of the energy saved over the life of the product far outweighs the extra initial cost. Realistically, farmers and homeowners can reduce their energy expenditures for appliances and equipment by 20 to 30 percent by insisting on the energy-efficient products at the time of purchase. Look for the Energy Star logo as an indicator of high efficiency.

Tractors and other power units require considerably less fuel if properly operated and maintained. I am cutting and pasting the strategies to improve engine performance for this section from my colleague and friend Dick Nicolai at South Dakota State University.


Check injectors.
Dirty fuel injectors can cause inefficient combustion of fuel and some loss of power. Clean injectors if you see black smoke coming from the exhaust. Use a fuel injector additive in the fuel for minor cleaning.
Service air cleaners.
Dirty air cleaners restrict the flow of air needed for the combustion process. The result is excess fuel in the fuel-air mixture, which leads to increased fuel consumption with less available power and higher fuel costs. Look for black exhaust smoke or check the airflow indicator found on most air cleaners.
Use the proper viscosity of oil in the engine to maximize engine efficiency.
Oils that are too thick decrease power and lubrication and increase fuel consumption.
Use proper ballast.
Farm tractors are designed to be operated with additional weight or ballast when pulling heavy loads to prevent wheel slip. Insufficient ballast can cause excessive wheel slip and increased fuel consumption. Drive wheel slip should be no more than about 10 percent for optimum efficiency. Some slip is desirable to reduce the wear and tear on the drive train of the tractor.
Replace drive tires that have excessive wear.
Worn tires can cause wheel slip from poor traction, increased fuel consumption. Radial ply drive tires have more flex in the sidewall of the tire, which can increase traction when compared to same size bias-ply tires.
Shut off diesel engines rather than idling for long periods.
New studies show that significant fuel savings can be realized by not idling diesel engines for more than ten minutes.
Operate tractors in higher speed gears and lower throttle settings to conserve fuel and drive train wear.
Operating tractors in lower gears at high engine speeds increases fuel consumption and wear on the drive train.

Whenever we are able to reduce energy consumption, then at the same time we are able to improve the quality of our environment since less electricity needs to be generated and less petroleum needs to be refined.



Dennis Buffington
Agricultural and Biological Engineering