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It’s time to take control of costs

21 July 2011

It’s time to take control of costs

 

Spiralling energy costs mean you could be spending double what you were last year to keep your crop cool, notes FEC Services’ Andrew Kneeshaw.  There are tips this month to keep equipment working at its best, and he calls for more stores to get involved with the store energy-monitoring project.

Those who have finished loading their stores will be happily cooling their crop now.  So the focus now should be on daily monitoring of temperatures and condition and to make sure the store is operating correctly.

The Potato Council-funded energy-monitoring project has been extended to over 30 stores this year, and there could not be a better time for this work to be taking place.  For most sites on new electricity contracts we’ve seen a massive hike in energy price recently.  Unit costs of more than 14p are not uncommon now and for many farms, this will represent a doubling of costs compared with recent years.  The average store may be seeing cooling costs of at least £7 per tonne.

And of course our monitoring will reveal great differences between the performances of systems.  Take last year for example, when we saw one store running at twice the cost of its neighbour.  So great was the difference that it was decided to curtail the storage period and close the store down.  This highlights the value of putting in meters and taking regular readings.

If you have fitted your store with a meter you can compare the performance by following the progress of the PCL monitored stores on this web site.  Let us know how you are getting on and if you match up.  For case studies, information on the kit you need and how to get the best results, visit Potato Council’s Energy Hub at   www.potato.org.uk/energy.

One tip at this time of year is to keep a close eye on the defrost settings of your refrigeration equipment.  With fridges working for extended hours and with high humidity air passing over the coils, frost will build up quickly.  If you have automatic defrost (the best system), your frost sensing system should optimise the defrost cycle – although it’s worth checking that it’s doing the job.

For timed defrost, check the coils regularly over a period of a few hours.  If ice builds up significantly and is restricting airflow, you need to shorten the time interval between defrosts.  If there is no evidence of frost and the defrost system is coming on, then extend the times.  Also look at the time defrost is being applied.  If frost clears well before the cycle finishes then shorten the defrost time.

It’s worth noting that some basic time switches, that are based on setting mechanical ‘cams’, don’t provide the resolution required to give accurate defrost times.  In this case switch to an accurate electronic interval timer system.  You’ll get your money back very quickly.

What’s your experience? Do you have any tips on ensuring refrigeration equipment is running at its best? Have you started monitoring energy usage?

If you have any questions, comments or tips for Andrew or one of the Sutton Bridge team, please email the Potato Council Energy Hub now at sbeu@potato.org.uk – we’ll make sure all queries are answered within three working days.

For more storage advice, see the latest Storage Bulletin via www.potato.org.uk/sbeu.