Here are 12 ideas, both large and small, that you can implement at your facility that will help the environment... and your bottom line, and a photo gallery you won't want to miss.
We all know that taking “green” initiatives around the farm is beneficial to both the environment and our bottom line. Energy-saving, cost-cutting products and services for small commercial spaces have grown exponentially over the last few years, but deciding which of those sustainable products is right for your barn can be the most difficult decision of all. Choices range from a variety of do-it-yourself, small-scale projects to large investments that may take a few years to see the return on investment. The size of your operation and the amount of time and money you can dedicate will ultimately determine which project is right for you. It may be as simple as changing light bulbs or as complex as a solar water heater, but regardless of how much you can invest, every “green” measure you take will save you money in the long run and many of them will save you time. And what horse professional couldn’t use more time and money?
Here, we’ve rounded up over a dozen cost-cutting initiatives that will benefit the environment and your bank account.
If you live in region that sees sunny days the majority of the year, these projects can maximize energy bill savings quickly. Solar energy is one of the leading renewable sources of energy and one of the easiest to utilize.
1. Cool Roofs
Cool roofs are highly reflective and highly emissive materials that reduce the surface temperature to stay 50 to 60 degrees cooler than the average roof under the hot summer sun. By reducing the surface temperature, the heat transferred into the building is considerably reduced. Inherently cool roofs are typically white vinyl that can reflect 80% or more of the sun’s rays and emit at least 70% of the solar radiation that the building absorbs. An asphalt roof only reflects between 6% and 26% of solar radiation. Though most cool roofs are white, there are many “cool color” products emerging that are just as highly reflective.
Installing a cool roof has a number of benefits including increased comfort for horses, lowered roof maintenance costs/extending roof life, and lower electrical costs through not having to rely on fans to cool down the barn. As well, a number of states provide cool-roof loan programs and rebate programs. The cost of cool roofing products is about the same amount as other roofing materials.
Check out the Cool Roof Rating Council for extensive information on determining which cool roof system is right for your barn, qualifying for a loan or rebate program as well as finding contractors in your area and additional resources. http://www.coolroofs.org/links.html.
2. Peel and Stick Solar Panels
Invented a few years ago, thin-film photovoltaic (PV) laminates that can be bonded directly onto metal roofing panels makes installing solar panels easier than ever.
The PV film eliminates the need for heavy racks and expensive glass panels and are designed to integrate seamlessly with a metal roof. The unbreakable film is available in shippable 16-inch-wide rolls with a peel-and-stick laminate. The advantages of the thin-film PV are simple—the lightweight panels can be installed almost twice as fast as regular-mounted panels and cost significantly less. They perform better in high temperatures and partly shaded conditions and do not require precise positioning (like glass panels) in order to achieve maximum efficiency.
Like traditional solar panels, the peel-and-stick panels convert solar radiation or sunlight into DC electricity. The inverter changes the DC electricity into AC electricity so it can be ready to use in your facility. The electric panel distributes the AC electricity throughout the building to and from the utility grid.
Capturing (or dispersing) energy from the sun’s rays produces immediate savings on energy consumption and electrical costs at your barn. The minute a solar panel is plugged in, it starts producing energy for any of your electrical needs and immediately lowers your electrical bill and carbon footprint. Well-known manufacturers of peel-and-stick solar panels, such as Whirlwind (http://www.whirlwindsteel.com/pub/Solar) and Uni-solar (http://www.uni-solar.com/), offer a range of panels from 68 Watts up to 136 Watts. 128-Watt Uni-solar panels can be found on Amazon.com for $199, a small investment for an immediate return.
3. Solar Water Heaters
Solar water heaters, also called solar domestic hot water systems, can be an extremely cost-effective way to generate hot water for your barn. Powered by free solar energy, usable in any climate, and less expensive than conventional water heaters, solar water heaters are an investment worth considering.
The heating system includes a storage tank and solar collectors. There are two types of systems: The first is an active one, which has multiple pumps and controls to circulate the water between the collector and the storage tank. These work well in climates prone to freezing temperatures. Passive systems use natural convection to move water from the collector to the storage tank. Passive systems are typically less expensive than active systems, but usually not as efficient even though they may last longer.
How much money you can save with a solar water heater depends on the amount of hot water you use, your geographic location and solar resource and the cost of conventional fuels. On average, installing a solar water heater should produce a 50% to 80% drop in heating bills for that unit. And because sunlight is free, you’re protected from future fuel shortages and price hikes. It’s suggested that over a 20-year period, replacing an electric system with a solar hot water system will avoid 50 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Solar water heating systems prices start around $4,000. A healthy investment but one that can significantly reduce heating costs, especially if you frequently use hot water in your barn.
The U.S. Department of Energy provides extensive information on different types of solar water heaters, cost-benefit analysis, determining the correct system for your needs, tax credit information and how to evaluate your site’s solar resource. http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=12850.
4. Solar Fans
Solar fans are an easy retro-fit installation for any barn. Like a standard attic fan, solar fans quickly evacuate hot air in the summer and moisture-filled cold air in the winter, but require no electrical wiring. The converted solar energy is sent to a DC motor that is factory-installed in the fan.
Solatube is a leading manufacturer of solar fans and may qualify you for a tax credit of 30%, up to $1,500, on federal tax returns. Solatube products may also qualify for local or state incentives. Their solar fan units come fully assembled and can be installed in less than 30 minutes. Check out Solatube for more information on their solar fans and how to receive a tax credit. http://www.solatube.com/commercial/product-catalog/solar-star-attic-fans/index.php.
5. Solar Lighting
Installing outdoor solar lights is another immediate cost-cutting project that requires little time and a small investment ($100). Farmtek offers a Solar Shed and Security light that can be installed in any outdoor setting and features a motion-activated sensor. The unit comes completely assembled and requires no electrical wiring. It’s two adjustable swivel-head spotlights use 1W high power LED lamps each and produces approximately 4,800 lumens. The adjustable motion sensor has a 100-degree view angle and can detect motion up to 50-feet away. http://www.farmtek.com/farm/supplies/prod1;ft1_lighting_fixtures_bulbs-ft1_solar_lighting;pg109727.html.
Increasing the efficiency of your barn’s lighting systems is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to cut energy costs and see immediate savings on your electric bill.
LED lights and Light bulbs 101: The electricity used over the lifetime of a single incandescent bulb costs 5 to 10 times the original purchase price. LED bulbs, on the other hand, last up to 10 times longer than fluorescents and use only 2 to 17 watts of electricity (1/3rd to 1/30th of CFL bulbs) saving you money on electrical costs and on replacement costs.
Consider LED lighting for your barn aisles, indoor arena, tack room, wash stall or feed room. While different disciplines require different lighting needs, LED lighting can produce immediate savings if they suit your operation. LED tube lights can easily replace standard fluorescent tube lights with bright lighting, low heat and no turn-on wait. The cons to consider: LED bulbs produce directional light, meaning they work well when light only needs to point in one direction, but they don’t work as well for general room lighting.
Electric UTVs (Utility Vehicles)
We’re all aware of the electric golf carts we see buzzing around show grounds, but electric UTVs are still relatively new, yet extremely efficient. More manufactures are now offering electric UTVs such as John Deere, X-Treme Scooters, Titan UTV and Polaris.
For more information, visit:
- John Deere (http://www.deere.com/wps/dcom/en_US/products/equipment/gator_utility_vehicles/traditional_utility_vehicles/t_series/te4x2electric/te4x2electric.page?)
- X-Treme Scooters (http://www.x-tremescooters.com/utvs/xu3000/xu3000.html)
- Titan UTV (http://www.titanutv.com/catalog/1/titan-utv-models)
- Polaris (http://www.polaris.com/en-us/ATV-RANGER/Mid-Size-Utility-Vehicles/RANGER-EV/pages/overview.aspx)
The advantages of electric UTVs are clear: Zero emissions are released and no gas is needed, saving up to $5.50 per hour compared to gas powdered UTVs. And they’re easier to maintain than a gas motor. John Deer’s Gator TE can run all day on a single overnight charge and haul up to 500 pounds, about the same as its gas-powdered counterpart, the Gator TX. Overall, the electric UTVs are slightly more expensive that gas-powered models, but when you add up the cost of fuel, the return on investment will continue to pay dividends.
Harvesting Rain Water
StableManagement.com reported on this in 2009 and estimated $5,000 in annual savings from an indoor arena with 20,000 square feet of roof area. Harvesting rain water is easier than you think and can be reused in all areas of your operation—paddock irrigation, fire protection, and for a backup water source in times of drought. See StableManagement.com’s “Seeing Green” article for more information.
While there are plenty of large-scale investments that will produce long-term energy savings, there are numerous small initiatives you can take that will still produce a positive impact on the environment and put a little money in your pocket.
1. Lighting and heater timers are easy DIY installations that only takes a few minutes. Lights and heat will be sure to turn off every day, at the same time, avoiding extra electrical costs from leaving lights on over night. Boarders can set timers manually for however long they think they’ll be there.
2. Turning down the water heater: Lowering the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees can save up to $25 annually (electric heaters) or $18 annually (gas heaters). When going on vacation, turn the water heater down to the lowest setting for optimal savings.
3. Pole barns/run-in sheds: Pole barns are environmentally friendly and reliable shelters that do not require costly excavation, concrete footings, additional material costs or major land disturbance. Pole structures can be built almost anywhere, leaving your best land for grazing, growing hay or preserving the environment.
4. Reuse: Everything from used farm equipment to blankets to fill-dirt. Check www.craigslist.com before you pay top dollar for a brand new item and wasteful packaging material.
5. Get an energy audit. Before you deicide which “green” projects to implement, it’s wise to complete an energy assessment of your facility. DIY assessments are easy enough and will help you spot problems in any type of building. The U.S. Department of Energy has a great guide to follow for self-audits. http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/energy_audits/index.cfm/mytopic=11170.
As well, a quick Google search for energy auditors will provide multiple companies that will come in and perform a diligent inspection of your facility and suggest where you can save on energy consumption and how to go about implementing those incentives.
So, whether you start big or small, these solutions are often easier to accomplish than you think. And it’s hard to beat solutions that save money and the environment at the same time.
Read more about great green ideas from StableManagement.com’s archives: