5 Ways To Lower Heating Costs
Get winter-wise now to save on energy expenses when the mercury drops.
Whether we like it or not, winter is coming. Judging by the weather extremes U.S. growers have endured over the last two winters, it’s hard to tell what the winter of 2012-2013 has in store. So, before the temperature drops, it’s in every grower’s best interest to take measures now to increase your greenhouse operation’s energy efficiency. Even the smallest effort could end up saving you a great deal of money and worry later.
Here are some easy, low-cost steps you can take now to save money when the heat kicks on this winter.
1. Appoint an energy task force. This group of team members are crucial to your operation running at top efficiency. Challenge these efficiency-minded go-getters to check every corner of the greenhouse for gaps, openings, leaks and any potential energy drains that could be harmful to the operation. Consider offering incentives to this team, and any team member who finds areas that can be improved, and takes leadership to boost efficiency. This can do wonders for your team’s morale, while improving your bottom line.
2. Clean it out, tune it up. If you don’t keep boilers, heaters and ducts clean, you might as well burn your money. If you don’t have a maintenance crew, hire a reputable HVAC equipment contractor. Invest in heating system maintenance at least once a year and the costs will be paid back within the first few weeks of the growing season.
Make sure all surfaces and burners are clean and unobstructed, the inlet for combustion air is clean and unclogged, and all filters and cleaned or replaced. Make sure all equipment is working at maximum efficiency and full capacity, and gas pressure is on target.
If you have a hydronic heating system, make sure boilers are clean and efficient, and hooked up correctly to the hot water unit. Ensure that all pipes are in good condition and heating correctly. Add pipe insulation in any area that is not being heated. Don’t wait for cold weather to turn on the system and make sure it’s all working right. You want to know now if there are any red flags and address them before the season starts..
3. Draw the curtains. In addition to weather stripping and sealing leaks, your choice of energy curtains can make a big difference in your heating costs. Curtain systems are inexpensive, pay for themselves quickly and reduce energy consumption by 15 to 25 percent, sometimes more. If you don’t have an energy system, consider investing in one to reduce heat loss.
If your operation has a curtain system, check to make sure it closes all the way and doesn’t have any cracks. If it is damaged, repair or replacement is a must on your to-do list, as a damaged curtain system will not save you anything. We all know that heat rises, so make sure it’s not escaping right out of your greenhouse roof.
4. Save cash with new tools. Ask your greenhouse heating system provider about using flue gas condensers, which can increase boiler efficiency and optimize the amount of heat you can get out of your boiler. Up to 20 percent of all gas energy ends up leaving through the chimney, but a flue gas condenser can recapture 15 percent of that energy.
Replace thermostats with a computerized controller or a simple zone controller with a single sensor. These pay for themselves within one season by improving heating efficiency at the right temperature, and eliminating overlap in control systems.
5. Boost efficiency and consider new options. For growers using unit heaters, make sure to retrofit them with combustion air separators, which will take combustion air from outside the greenhouse and reduce energy by up to 7 percent.
Consider replacing unit heaters with hydronic or hot water heating systems, which will increase your heating efficiency by up to 40 percent. Hydronic heating systems reduce energy costs and improve plant health by heating the greenhouse at the plant level. Hydronic systems are flexible in the type of heat they can use, as well: Growers can use gas-fired boilers or a range of alternative energy systems.
For more energy saving ideas, contact a Delta T Solutions representative by calling 800-552-5058; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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