Volume 6 Issue 3: Maximizing Your Energy Efficiency

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Increases in energy costs, including propane, gasoline and natural gas have caused many of us to look for ways to reduce our consumption.

There are many tips that we can apply that can result in lower consumption. The challenge, like always, is disciplining ourselves to adhere to the tips. We have a number of ideas related to your vehicle operation as well as some for gas forges.

Most farriers end up racking up significant numbers of miles while carrying a load that is well beyond that of most commuters. It may be useful to start with some idea of what your fuel costs are. Then when you consider some of the tips that are known to conserve fuel you can get a better sense of how much money you could save.

We’ll make some assumptions to give you a formula to work with. You can use the same formula and plug your figures in to come up with your annual costs of vehicle fuel.

Annual mileage ........................25,000
÷ miles per gallon ..........................15
= gallons of fuel ....................1,666.67

x Cost of fuel (per gallon) ..........$1.50
= Total annual cost of fuel ...$2,500.00

It adds up to be a significant cost, one that is important to know in order to understand one of the costs of shoeing horses. Divide the annual cost of fuel by the number of horses you work on in a year and you will begin to see how critical it is to break down your shoeing costs considering all the variables. And remember that fuel costs are only one of your vehicle costs.

Now that you know your cost you are faced with the challenge of reducing it, raising prices to cover it or both. You may be able to find a less expensive source for fuel but this is too often out of your control. Think about some of the following tips that may help you reduce consumption. Many are likely to be something you’ve heard before but there is no doubt that these are proven methods to reduce consumption. So the challenge for you may be just to force yourself to follow them.

Driving Habits

  • Avoid lengthy warm-up time, but drive away gently until the engine has reached its normal operating temperature.
  • Don’t start and stop engine more than necessary- idling for one minute reportedly consumes the gas amount equivalent to when you start your engine.
  • Use heat and air conditioning sparingly - the load this creates can reduce fuel economy by 10-20%.
  • Drive smoothly- quick acceleration cuts down on fuel economy. A lot of slowing down and speeding up also consumes more fuel. Build speed before you get to hills rather than waiting to accelerate.
  • Use of your cruise control can be a fuel saver on long trips.
  • This one’s tough, but traveling at 55mph gives you more than 20% better mileage than running at 65-70.
  • Rough roads, particularly gravel or dirt can decrease efficiency by 30%.

Vehicle Issues

  • A manual transmission will perform more efficiently than an automatic provided you don’t run in lower gears at high speeds.
  • Make sure vehicle is tuned regularly - with both gas and diesel engines make sure fuel and air filters are changed on a regular basis.
  • Tire pressure is critical. Always run at maximum pressure. Off road or snow tread will decrease efficiency- the deeper the tread the less efficient the tire - and radials typically get the best mileage. A tire with a larger radius can be an asset. Tire balance and front end alignment should be checked regularly.
  • Make sure you have a proper fit on your fuel cap - gas can evaporate quickly in hot temperatures, sometimes as much as 5 gallons a month!
  • Buy gasoline at the coolest time of day- this is when it is densest.
Inflate tires to maximum pressure.
Under inflated tires cause more fuel consumption.

Your Rig

  • Very tall caps or bodies will increase wind resistance - try to factor this in your decision when buying either. Of course you need to control the weight of the rig so fiberglass or aluminum will generally be better than steel.
  • Develop a good inventory system so you are not carrying unnecessary supplies. Putting up some shelving in your shop or garage, to stock from, can keep you from trying to put it all in the truck. The organization will also help you when you are doing your ordering.
  • Get in the habit of cleaning out your rig from time to time to avoid the accumulation of old shoes, unnecessary stock, etc.
  • Design your shelving and work area to be as light as possible while still getting the strength you need.
Steel cap is heavier than aluminum or fiberglass but
note this one is not extending high above cab.
This cap is above cab but has special design to help eliminate wind resistance.

Saving Propane

Bob Shantz of Spanish Lake Blacksmith shop offers some helpful hints on propane use and safety.

Propane costs can climb along with gas, diesel and other energy sources. Even in times of lower cost, energy conservation always makes good business sense.

  • Check every connection and eliminate leaks.
  • Keep your hoses and tanks in good condition.
  • After your forge has been burning for about 5 minutes you can reduce consumption by slightly closing the valve at the forge. Maintain the manufacturers recommended operating pressure, just restrict the volume that enters the burners by adjusting the on-off valve. As you close the valve you will find a “sweet spot” where the forging heat is maintained with less fuel consumption.
  • Adjust the fuel regulator to the size of steel and the heat you need. When working on smaller sizes of steel lower the pressure, when welding or working on heavy steel increase the pressure just enough to get the job done.
  • When working a pair of shoes and you are near completion, shut the burners completely off with one shoe remaining in the heating chamber. The residual heat will keep the shoe ready to forge for several minutes. If you have a door keep it closed when not taking a shoe in or out. Just be sure your pressure is balanced to allow for less air coming in.
  • Never leave the forging area while the forge is running. Many times you get distracted and the forge continues to burn - wasting fuel and possibly becoming a safety threat.
  • When buying propane look for a source that charges by volume - not by the tank. If you are paying for fuel on a flat fee tank basis you should always have a second tank and make sure you run each tank empty before filling. Don’t overfill!
Make sure your valves and hoses are not leaking
- the valve at forge can also be used to control flow.
Run at recommended pressures and always use a regulator.
A door can be helpful to hold heat in chamber


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