University of Minnesota Extension Agricultural Engineer Larry D. Jacobson recommends that farmers follow these four steps to lower their energy use and costs:
1. Replace old equipment with energy-efficient models. Consider replacing old livestock ventilation fans with more energy-efficient fans. The USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has seen great success in Minnesota by replacing old grain dryers with new, more energy-efficient models. Higher-efficiency equipment is often more expensive to purchase than the less-efficient model, but the lower operating costs of these more efficient units can often provide a payback of those extra costs during the first year.
2. Clean and maintain your equipment.For the average mechanically ventilated livestock barn, cleaning and maintenance of the shutters on the exhaust fans can produce an energy savings of 40%.
3. Contact your energy supplier or utility company about energy-saving programs. There are a number of available programs for which you may qualify, through the utility or through the federal rural energy efficiency programs such as REAP and USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Some utilities also offer “off-peak” electric rates that can be half the cost of standard rates.
4. Get an energy audit.An energy audit or assessment will provide information on the amount of energy you are using and what part of your operation should be targeted for energy use reduction. A list of farm energy auditors is available through the REAP offices by contacting Ron Omann at (651) 602-7796 or [email protected]  or through the Minnesota project by contacting Jake Fischer at (651) 789-3330 or [email protected] . Local utilities can also refer farmers to energy auditors.
For more information on energy efficiency, visit www.extension.umn.edu/energy .