Can Your Farm’s Electric Grid Weather the Storm?

June kicks off the summer storm season in Wisconsin. Electrical storms, high winds and heat can wreak havoc on your electric grid if your system isn’t up-to-date or up-to-code. If the power does go out, are you prepared to continue running the farm?

Whether it’s a generator, new wiring, or an electrical grid expansion, there’s action you can take today to keep your farm running smoothly even during electrical storms this summer, according to Aaron Robarge, a Master Electrician with All Comfort Services.

“Most of the farms are undersized as far as their electrical systems go,” Robarge says. “We see it all the time where ‘we’re constantly tripping breakers’ or ‘my well was down, and I didn’t even know it’. We run into a lot of old systems, too, that haven’t been updated. These are all things that farmers should definitely be aware of. How much power do I have, and is it enough?”

Prevent Power Outages

If you’re looking to add animal housing, update fans, make upgrades to existing facilities, or even do a simple examination, keep your eye out for sure signs of a problem.

  1. Is your electrical system old? When was the last time it was looked at?
  2. If you look inside your boxes and switches, is it caked with dust and debris? Clean it out.
  3. Do the lights flicker?
  4. Is there a humming sound?
  5. Are you noticing an electrical smell? This smell is often when electronics get too hot.

If you’re noticing these signs, call your electrician to take a look at all the components and make sure things are working alright. It’s recommended to have an electrician come out every other year.

Note that a run down system and summer heat can reduce efficiency and lead to failure or a fire.

“Anytime that you’re using power, you’re generating heat to some degree,” Robarge says. “Inside certain disconnects and switches, if you do get dust and debris in there, fire is possible.”

The Power Goes Out – Now What?

This is where your backup generator comes in. But during a storm is the wrong time to find out you have issues with your power backup.

  • Take your generator in for a load test. Some generators are self-diagnostic and can send you a report via email.
  • Ask your electrician to size your farm for what size generator you need.
  • Get on a testing program through your electrician or have your electrician test your generator every other year.
  • Load shedding is the term for using a smaller generator to run different operations on the farm at different times if you don’t have a generator that can do it all. Make a list of priorities (milking equipment, ventilation, feeder, water system, etc.) of what has to be running and what can wait until the larger loads are off. When one power-heavy task is done, go to the next one on the list.

If you’re in the market for a new generator, depending on the size or brand, you could be waiting up to a year. But your electrician can likely find you a temporary solution in the meantime.

Bring in your electrician when you’re thinking about making a farm upgrade or addition. Not only can they make sure you have the electrical load to handle updates, but they can start looking for available dollars to save you money, such as the Farm Electrical Rewiring Program, Focus on Energy, and other state grants.

Make sure your farm is protected before disaster strikes. Reach out to a Rural Mutual agent to customize coverage specific to your farm.