Winter energy savings for engines

This winter, ISU Farm Energy is on the road (and on the Web) with information for producers who want to improve their farm’s energy efficiency. “One misconception about on-farm energy efficiency is that cost savings are not as important when profits are already good,” says Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension ag engineer. “On the contrary, With energy prices creeping upward, now is a perfect time to fuel up on facts before prices rise dramatically.

You’re already recording farm expenses such as fuel and electricity for tax reasons; why not take it a step further with a farm energy log? Also, tune in to Hanna’s presentations. He’ll be addressing farm energy costs and concerns, machinery maintenance and management techniques to evaluate and improve energy efficiency in crop production.

Engine care is critical, especially during cold weather. “The winter routine often requires a block heater for your motor,” says Hanna. “Assuming 10 cents per kilowatt hour, installing a two-hour timer for that heater can save you a dollar a day with a 1,000-watt block heater versus leaving the heater plugged in overnight.”

Whether you’re looking for an overview of energy issues or detailed information about adjusting tractor maintenance and usage to save fuel, look no further. Visit ISU Farm Energy on the web at for a list of upcoming presentations.

Snow removal suggestions

If winter weather finds you clearing the driveway before you can even get your tires on the road, remember, fuel costs for snow removal add up quickly. Every farmstead has unique terrain, windbreaks and building placement, and winter may bring extra challenges. In the same way, some pieces of machinery are better-suited to particular types of snow removal.

Sleet, ice and slushy, heavy snow can be cleared with a 60- or 72-inch plow blade. If your property can accommodate piles of snow, you may be able to get by with a blade mounted to a ¾-ton truck, but there are drawbacks. Using a truck to push snow can be hard on the engine and transmission. Limited maneuverability results in overlapping and excess fuel consumption. By comparison, a plow blade mounted to a tractor allows you to make tighter turns, capture more horsepower and use less fuel.

Considering fuel efficiency, the slower pace of operating the tractor conserves fuel by harnessing the tractor’s torque and horsepower. It’s both safer and more fuel-efficient to maintain a steady speed when moving snow instead of burning excess fuel with a heavy foot in a farm truck.

Another advantage of moving snow with a tractor is versatility. A front-end loader can be used to dig through deep drifts. Other attachments, such as a blade or a blower, can also be rear-mounted to the same tractor. This allows you to move more snow with fewer passes.

For heavy accumulation, a blower moves snow quickly. If your local snowfall is intermittent, a three-point, rear-mounting blower that attaches to a tractor’s PTO is straightforward.

By comparison, a front-mounted snow blower typically has a more complicated mounting mechanism that uses hydraulics. Snow blowers are helpful for maintaining long driveways prone to drifting snow, but loose gravel may clog the blower with grit.

Clear a path and join ISU Farm Energy on the road to farm energy efficiency!

Petersen is program coordinator for ISU Farm Energy.

This article published in the January, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.