How to Save on Fuel Costs on the Farm
By Megan Wild
One of the highest costs you’ll encounter on the farm is the cost of fuel.
Running a farm is an expensive business. There’s a lot you have to purchase, including seed, fertilizer, herbicides, livestock, feed and fuel. You can budget for most of these expenses, so it’s easy to keep your spending within limits. However, in addition to monitoring your spending, you should also consider saving money by reducing fuel costs.
The cost of fuel fluctuates depending on supply and demand and the time of year. Because your livelihood depends on your ability to plant, grow and harvest your crops or livestock, you need to get as much out of your profit margin as you can. Below are a few ideas to help you reduce the amount of fuel you use and save some money.
1. Reduce Idling Time
One of the largest wasters of fuel is running your equipment when you’re not actively using it. In the past, because of the way diesel engines were built, it was important to keep engines idling to ensure everything had time to heat up and cool down properly. Technology has advanced the diesel engine, so it’s no longer imperative to keep your equipment running when it’s not in use.
To reduce fuel costs, limit machine warm-up to three to five minutes. When it comes to cooling your equipment down, you probably don’t need to let it run for more than 10 minutes, which will further reduce fuel costs. Shutting off the engine when you’re not using the vehicle, instead of letting it run, will also help you save money on fuel.
2. Store Your Equipment Properly
In addition to your engine idling, just starting your equipment can increase the amount of fuel you use. When your equipment is not in use, store it somewhere out of the way so you don’t have to start it and run it to move it. You want it to be easy to access for the times when you need it, but don’t leave it in an area where it can get in the way. Limiting the amount of time you have to run your equipment will reduce the need to purchase fuel.
3. Maintain Your Equipment
Keeping your equipment in proper running order will also help reduce fuel consumption. This will ensure the engines are burning fuel efficiently and effectively, so you aren’t spending more than you have to. Maintaining your equipment can also reduce the likelihood of a major breakdown occurring — which may end up costing you even more money.
4. Upgrade Your Equipment
Technology is advancing, and with those advancements comes equipment that runs more smoothly and economically. Sure, the cost to upgrade to the latest tractor model might be expensive up front, but over time, it could end up saving you a lot of money.
5. Use the Right Equipment for the Job
While a large tractor probably helps you get jobs done faster, is it really necessary when a smaller, more fuel-efficient tractor could do the same job? Like upgrading your equipment to the latest model, downsizing your vehicles for better efficiency could help you save when it comes to fuel costs.
6. Decide If a Machine Is Necessary
One of the best ways to reduce fuel costs is to not use your equipment at all. This idea might not work for every task you have on the farm, but it might help with a few. If human power can accomplish a job effectively and efficiently, that could save you money. You know your farm and budget the best, so you can decide what tasks are worth using human power or machine power to accomplish.
7. Slow Down
You’re probably not drag-racing your equipment across the fields, but reducing your speed limit can reduce the amount of fuel you burn. Slowing down even five to 10 miles per hour could save you a lot. It might increase the amount of time it takes you to complete a job, but more than likely, your labor costs are less than your fuel costs, so you’re saving more in the long run.
Running a farm can be incredibly expensive, and there are a lot of costs you have to worry about — with fuel probably your largest payment. Finding ways to reduce the amount of fuel you use will reduce your cost and increase your bottom line.
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