Anyone who has spent any time on a farm probably has some experience with propane. The liquefied petroleum (lp) gas has an important place on most farms, such as powering engines, heating homes and shop buildings and, of course, drying grain.
When I built my home on the farm 14 years ago, I decided to avoid propane after seeing my parents having to deal with the price spikes in the market over the years. So I went with an electric furnace. My decision, however, looked less than wise as my family grew and we used more ever-increasingly expensive electricity while propane prices were fairly stable and low thanks to steady a supply of propane produced in Bakken oil fields.
This past spring, we had to replace our aging furnace, and after some research, we put in a propane-powered furnace. With our electricity bill half of what it used to be and propane prices fairly low, this seems to be a wise investment.
If propane prices climb to multi-year highs anytime soon, feel free to blame me.
Other than a heating source, the other main use for propane on the farm is to dry stored grain. The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) has partnered with three agricultural companies to develop new fuel-efficient grain drying technologies that could help farmers save money, according to a PERC press release I came across as my radar of propane-related news is now fully operational.
PERC invested in the research and development of GSI's heat reclamation system, Mathews Company's redesigned Legacy Series grain dryers and Sukup Manufacturing has a new burner design. PERC provided industry expertise and financial support for the research, development and testing process for the new technologies.
"PERC prioritizes the development of new technology that advances energy efficiency," said Cinch Munson, director of agriculture business development at PERC. "By working with leading agricultural manufacturers to advance efficient grain drying technologies, we can help ensure that farmers operate as cost-effectively as possible."
PERC and GSI teamed up in the development of new heat reclamation systems for tower dryers, and their main focus was energy savings. The system was engineered to capture air from the lower part of the drying portion, above the cooling section. This design separates hot, dry air from wet air and carries very little chaff or other debris back into the dryer.
The result of the teaming between PREC and GSI was an energy savings up to 30% of propane at 32 degrees Fahrenheit during the drying season. The system is available now and can be installed on any tower dryer or retrofitted to any Zimmerman-style dryer that has been built since 2001.
PERC also worked with Mathews Company to achieve energy savings. Mathews Company completely redesigned the fan, burner and control system found in its profile-style Legacy Series product line.
The newly redesigned profile-style dryer offers many of the same technological advantages and operational efficiencies associated with a tower dryer. By introducing tower dryer elements to a profile-style dryer, Mathews Company has created a more efficient dry with lower operating costs.
Sukup and PERC partnered to increase energy savings by redesigning a grain dryer burner. The highly efficient Octagon Burner uses less propane to achieve the temperature rise needed to dry grain. The result is increased fuel savings and lower CO2 emissions.
An added benefit to the redesigned burner is its aluminum manifold, which increases the durability and longevity of the burner. All Sukup 2017 axial-fan dryers will utilize the new Octagon Burner, and they are also available as replacement burners for older dryers.
"These new technologies result in a highly efficient, cost-effective grain drying process," Munson said. "Drying your own grain is more viable than ever. With propane prices remaining low, now is an excellent time to take more control of your harvest with a new grain dryer."
For more information about propane use on the farm and the 2017 Propane Farm Incentive Program, visit www.propane.com/farmincentive.
Russ Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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