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Energy consumption

Find out more about where energy is typically consumed on-farm and where you may be able to save costs.

On typical farms

The highest energy consumption on typical farms varies by type of enterprise. Machinery supporting milk cooling comprises the greatest element of energy use in dairy farming (25%), followed by milking production and lighting (17%), with crop storage and cultivation the greatest consumers of energy on arable farms. On livestock farms forage production and silage are the most energy intense activities.

On pig farms, heating, followed by ventilation and lighting comprise the largest sources of energy consumption. Poultry farms use the majority of their energy on lighting, feeder machinery and ventilation.

Reducing energy use and increasing energy efficiency

Reducing energy use was once about simply switching lights and equipment off. While that is still vitally important, new technology and other advances mean there are myriad steps every farmer can take to save energy. See below for some measures any farm can take, and read on for more specialised advice by farm type.

Steps any farm can take:

While there are sophisticated steps you can take to use energy more efficiently, the first step should always be to save energy, so consider installing motion sensors in offices and different 'zones' in large spaces like storage sheds, so you're only using lighting when required. You don't need to light a whole space if you're only using one part of it. Depending on the farming sector, reducing lighting can save 15% of typical energy use.

  • Turn off non-critical devices, rather than leaving them on standby – machinery and appliances can use up to 90% of their full energy demand while on standby. 
  • All machinery should be kept regularly maintained and operating on the appropriate settings.
  • Farmhouse and office hot water only needs to be heated once in the morning for about an hour. The hot water cylinder should keep the water hot providing it is well-enough insulated. If you have a separate hot water cylinder, the hot water heating programme does not need to be set to match the central heating programme, a common misconception.
  • Heating programmes should be optimised to switch on only when required - heating an empty building (even at a low temperature to maintain a 'constant heat') is wasted energy, and money.
  • All exposed hot water pipes (pipework you can see coming from or to boilers, machinery and heaters) should be lagged with insulating material available cheaply from most hardware stores - even this simple and easy to install measure will instantly save energy and money.
  • Install modern energy saving and LED lights - although they have a higher up-front cost they use only around 10% of the energy of traditional incandescent light bulbs, saving money in the longer term.
  • Where cooling systems or mechanical ventilation are used, consider whether natural air or ventilation could do the same job.
  • Similarly, close windows and doors when air conditioning or central heating is being used (though leave some source of ventilation open) – this will increase the efficiency and save energy
  • Where machinery requires them, such as in processing units, switch off fans and pumps whenever not in use.
  • You can reduce your energy use by making sure you have enough insulation and that drafts are minimised. The recommended insulation for loft spaces and equivalent office ceilings, is at least 270mm in depth.
  • Many simple to install low cost measures are available for domestic and office environments, such as draught-excluding strips, which can be bought in any hardware or DIY store. For larger on-farm buildings, bespoke solutions exist.
  • Ventilation systems should be regularly cleaned and maintained to avoid inefficient operating conditions.
  • Make sure vehicles are regularly serviced and tyre pressures are correct – check the manual to make sure they are at the right level. Ensure appropriate vehicle loadings and remove unnecessary vehicle racks to reduce drag and save fuel. See the Buildings & Operations section for more on in-field efficiency.

Track your usage using energy monitors and accurate record keeping. Wireless energy monitors are now widely available and easy to install, and provide information on how much energy you are using, and how much it is costing, in real time and over specific periods, for example by week or month. If there are unexplained changes this may be due to machinery malfunctioning and allows for an 'early warning' to take steps to respond. This allows energy use to be tracked and compared, illustrates the effect energy saving measures are having and gives better control over and awareness of, costs.

You can buy monitors and meters online at:http://jdmetering.co.uk/smart-meters.html, and at similar sites.

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Want more info?

Click on the links below to take you to sector specific information for different farm enterprises.