• Heidi Konesko

Energy Efficiency is Still a Thing

With all of the very hot and humid weather the past couple of weeks, I’ve been wondering how much of an increase in our electric bill we will see due to running electric fans and our inefficient window AC units. With both my husband and I working from home more due to COVID-19, we are trying to keep ourselves comfortable during the work day, and that means sometimes we need the AC!

Energy Efficiency has been a hot topic forever, it seems, and today is no exception. Recently I’ve been fortunate to work with a couple of farms on energy efficiency improvement programs that will both save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The newer equipment can also be nice to work with. Energy efficient lighting can be installed with more options that light a barn area better than might have been achieved with older fixtures, and precision controls can run greenhouse heating and ventilation systems automatically so that crops are given an optimum growing environment, while saving energy in the form of fuels for heating.

Dairy farms have a unique situation in that they are harvesting quantities of milk from the cows at about 100 degrees, and cooling it to below 40 degrees for storage until the milk truck picks it up. All of that heat needs to be removed from the milk, and there are several technologies available commercially to take advantage of that heat. In some cases waste heat is used to heat clean water for washing milking equipment. Waste heat can also be used to heat the milking parlor and milkroom in the wintertime. There is another device that uses clean water to remove heat from the milk, and then the warm water can be fed into the drinking water supply for the cattle, giving them warm water to drink, which farmers say is appreciated by the cows in the wintertime.

The way to get started on an energy efficiency program is to have an energy management plan developed. There is cost sharing available for these plans for farms, and then some of the items in the plan may also be eligible for cost sharing. If you’re in Cheshire or Sullivan County and this program interests you, please reach out to your local USDA Service Center in Walpole, NH – 603-756-2988.

In the meantime, I will continue to dream about having an efficient and quiet ductless mini split AC system installed at my house.

For more information and examples of energy saving technologies, see these resources:

  • https://massfarmenergy.com/get-started/technical-resources/

  • https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs143_023625.pdf

Written by: Heidi Konesko

USDA NRCS Soil Conservationist