Outlook: Energy Costs Fall for Now
Gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in years, but who knows how long they will stay that way? Follow these tips to make your energy savings go even further.

by Michael Kovalycsik, National Sales & Marketing Director, Delta T Solutions

 

Properly maintaining your heating equipment will help you save even more money while energy prices are down.

Properly maintaining your heating equipment will help you save even more money while energy prices are down.

 

Gasoline and natural gas prices are down across the board, and that’s good news for just about everyone. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), a robust oil supply, including increased domestic production, has led to the lower prices.

Because of falling crude oil prices, U.S. weekly regular gasoline retail prices averaged $2.14 a gallon on Jan. 12, the lowest since May 4, 2009. And while natural gas prices increased in November, they declined the following month in the largest month-over-month price decrease since July 2008, according to EIA.

But will the falling prices last? EIA seems to think so, at least for a while. Gasoline prices in 2014 averaged $3.36 a gallon for regular unleaded, and the 2015 average is expected to be about $1 less per gallon ($2.33). Natural gas is expected to remain lower, too, thanks to less heating demand and higher natural gas production.  While natural gas averaged $4.39 per MMBtu in 2014, it’s expected to drop to $3.44/MMBtu in 2015.

Lower natural gas prices are welcome news to greenhouse growers, who spend a significant amount of money on energy. According to an Extension Bulletin from Michigan State University and Rutgers, 65 to 85 percent of the total energy that greenhouse operations consume goes toward heating. Even with gas prices on the decline, that’s still a hefty sum. Luckily, there’s plenty growers can do to take advantage of the current lower prices and save even more energy dollars this year.

REDUCE AIR LEAKS

MSU/Rutgers offers some simple steps growers can take to ensure heat and energy dollars aren’t escaping the greenhouse:

  • Patch holes in the plastic covering and side walls, or replace cracked or missing glass panes.

  • Keep the doors closed, and make sure they close completely.

  • Weather-strip doors, vents and fan openings.

  • Ensure louvers are sufficiently lubricated so they close tightly.

  • Shut off some of your exhaust fans from late fall through early spring, and then cover openings with insulation or plastic to reduce air infiltration.

The Infinite Energy 2 (IE2) condensing boiler from Delta T Solutions runs up to 98% ultra-high efficiency, saving even more precious energy dollars.

The Infinite Energy 2 (IE2) condensing boiler from Delta T Solutions runs up to 98% ultra-high efficiency, saving even more precious energy dollars.

 

MAINTAIN HEATING EQUIPMENT

Proper heating equipment maintenance can also ensure you’re getting the most out of your energy dollars:

  • Make sure fuel tanks are enclosed or protected so fuel doesn’t get too cold.

  • Remove soot from inside the boiler or furnace. A soot deposit as small as 1/8-inch can increase fuel usage by 10 percent. Use a wire brush or vacuum to clean surfaces.

  • Change/clean filters. Be sure to replace the oil filter each time the furnace is cleaned.

  • Clean and adjust controls. Check gas valves, thermostats and ignition mechanisms as well as safety valves, low water regulators, limit switches and stack controls.

  • Oil bearings, motors and pumps.

  • Inspect belts. Clean fans and blowers and check belts for wear and correct tension.

  • Check blower timing. In forced-air systems, blowers should operate until the furnace is cooled to 100 to 120 degrees F or operated continuously to provide air circulation.

  • Inspect radiator valves. Repack leaky valves and replace defective ones.

  • Clean radiators and pipes.

  • Insulate pipes in unheated areas and underground to reduce heat loss.

UPGRADE YOUR HEATING SYSTEM

Consider using any money you save from lower energy costs to invest in a more efficient heating system. One option to consider is an energy-efficient hydronic radiant system. Unlike forced-air heating systems, which lose a large amount of heat in the air, hydronic radiant floor and bench heat warms plants at the soil level. These systems work with the greenhouse boiler, which heats water that is pumped through tubes running throughout the greenhouse.

Hydronic radiant heating systems operate with a closed-loop system, which means very little heat is wasted as the water circulates through the tubes. Because radiant heat creates a moist environment, water usage is reduced, too.

Delta T Solutions has designed and manufactured customized heating solutions for greenhouse growers using hydronic (hot water radiant) heat for 30 years. To learn more about cost-effective in-ground bench and perimeter heating systems; high-efficiency boiler systems; and other systems that improve crop health, contact Delta T at 800-552-5058 or email mkovalycsik@deltatsolutions.com.transparent

 

 
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