Energy consumption on U.S. dairies is increasing, thanks to around-the-clock operation and an increasing use of automated equipment. Today, dairy farms in our nation use approximately 800-1200 kilowatthours (kWh) of energy per cow, per year – a number that rivals the average American household’s monthly usage.
While the vast majority of this energy is used is essential to milk-production (milk cooling, barn lighting, and ventilation account for nearly ¾ of all electricity usage), it may be possible to reduce on-farm energy consumption – and the associated utility bill – with a few easy and inexpensive fixes.
- Turn off lights and fans when not in use. These systems can be automated, with lights on a time or motion detector, and fans controlled via thermostat, if preferred. but reducing energy consumption can be as easy as reminding employees to turn off switches when not needed.
- A free alternative is as simple as reminding employees to turn off switches and shut down equipment when it is not needed.
- While not all equipment can be shut down entirely, it may be possible to optimize equipment settings to reduce energy usage. Dimming lights and reducing water heater temperatures slightly may cut costs by 5%. Similarly, adjusting refrigeration temperatures and compressor pressures to the minimum requirements can yield a 10% cost savings – or more!
- Equipment that is clean and well-maintained performs more efficiently. This is true of your heat exchanger coils in milking systems, fans and ventilation systems, light fixtures and bulbs, water heaters and pumps, and fan belts.
- While refrigeration equipment typically accounts for 25% of a dairy’s energy usage, the use of high-efficiency refrigeration technologies can yield huge savings. Scroll compressors are energy efficient, and also quieter and less disruptive than their reciprocating compressor counterparts. Heat-recovery systems and milk pre-coolers can also offset energy consumption for refrigeration needs.
- New lighting technology can reduce energy consumption by 75%! Replacing bulbs and fixtures, and using photocell (dusk-to-dawn) lighting and timers, can save money and extend the useable lifespan of your lighting equipment.
- To reduce ventilation costs, install programmable thermostats and humidity sensors. Replacing fans with high-volume, high-efficiency, models can also cut energy usage.