As farmers gear up for planting season, now is the best time to ready equipment following a harsh winter. Maintenance early in the season lowers overall upkeep costs and keeps systems operating smoothly and efficiently.
More than 865,000 farms in the United States use propane to run pumps and engines, heat buildings and dry and process crops. Spring equipment maintenance is similar to systems powered by other fuels, but there are key advantages of propane-powered equipment. Together with leading irrigation engine, generator and work truck manufacturers, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) compiled a list of spring preparation tips.
After a long winter, rodents, debris and exposure to the elements are the most common source of engine issues, says Pete Stout, product manager for Origin Engines. Stout encourages farmers to refer to their product manuals for maintenance needs specific to engine models and offers these tips for preparing irrigation engines for spring planting:
- Disconnect the engine battery and check battery voltage.
- Clear away any dirt and debris that have collected on and around the engine. Pay special attention to clutch bellhousings, radiator shrouds and wire harnesses.
- Inspect wire harnesses for cracked or exposed wires and make repairs if necessary.
- Check front drive belts for proper tension and wear.
“I also urge farmers to place engines inside of structures, such as a simple carport style shelter, for the summer growing season,” Stout says. “UV sunlight and general exposure to extreme weather can be tough on engine power units.”
Propane-powered standby and portable generators can keep homes and farming operations protected when the grid goes down. Propane is often easier to access during outages and doesn’t degrade over time, in the same way as diesel, gasoline or ethanol-based fuels.
Art Aiello, public relations manager for Generac Power Systems, recommends the following tips to ready a propane generator for spring:
- Perform regular maintenance tasks, such as oil changes, on both standby and portable generators to ensure long-term reliability.
- Follow the specific instructions outlined in your owner’s manual for maintenance specific to your generator.
- For new generator installations, choose a qualified, experienced propane installer in your area.
“Propane is a safe, environmentally friendly and convenient fuel that many farmers are already using,” Aiello said. “A propane generator can be your best protection against spring weather-related outages.”
Propane-autogas-powered trucks require similar maintenance procedures as gas-powered trucks, and spring is the perfect time to assess needs for oil and filter changes, said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing at Roush CleanTech, a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier. Mouw recommends the following tips for prepping trucks for spring:
- Check all air filter and fluid levels, including oil, antifreeze and washer fluid. Make certain the air conditioner and both windshield wipers are in good condition.
- Examine tires for tread wear and proper inflation. Remove snow tires and install allseason radials or summer tires.
Additionally, farmers already using propane equipment on the farm or in the home can increase overall energy efficiency with the addition of a propane autogas truck, Mouw said. “Producers will be using propane year round, rather than just during peak use seasons, and can leverage better prices from their propane dealer,” he explains. “The total lifecycle costs of fuel and equipment use are in favor of using propane.”
Many farmers are using compact propanepowered forklifts for a wide range of material handling needs. Because propane produces fewer emissions, propane forklifts are safe for both indoor and outdoor operations. Jeremy Wishart, senior programs manager at PERC, offered the following maintenance and safety tips for propane forklifts:
- Perform a lube and filter service at least every 1,000 hours or every four months, whichever comes first. Always follow specific service intervals as recommended by your equipment manufacturer.
- Inspect the fuel system on a regular basis for wear or damage and replace components as needed.
- Do not modify or repair valves, regulators or other cylinder or appliance parts. Call your propane retailer or a qualified technician for repair assistance.
Propane Farm Incentive Program
Purchase incentives of up to $5,000 are available to farmers who upgrade to eligible propane-powered farm equipment, including irrigation engines, grain dryers, generators and other eligible equipment through the PERC Propane Farm Incentive program.
Information provided by the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC).