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Optimize Dryer Operation to Quickly Move Grain to Storage

Drying gear is some of the simpliest equipment to maintain on a farm . . .but it does need maintenance. “Like any other piece of equipment, if you don't take the time to clean it and keep it in operating mode, you are probably going to reduce your efficiency,” says Gary Woodruff of GSI.

Minimum annual maintenance and adjustments include:

• Removing all grain and debris left on drying surfaces.

• Inspecting bearings making sure the mounting bolts are tight and collars are secured.

• Having a trained gas company personnel check gas pressure regulators and LP gas vaporizers for proper operating pressure and leaks.

• Scrutinizing electrical controls and switches testing the, to assure thermostats are controlling air temperatures accurately. 

• Starting the burned and inspect operation. Flame color offers a quick performance guide in that:

- A blue flame illustrates complete gas combustion,

- A blue flame that pops when the gas is shut off indicates that either foreign material is partially plugging burner orifices or that inlet air requires adjustment.

- A long yellow flame is indicative of poor combustion. The culprit here could be a dirty burner, a faulty or misadjusted pressure regulator, or poor inlet air adjustment.

Finally, when it come to in-bin dryers be sure to check drying temperature at several location around the plenum. Do this by drilling several small holes into the bin's sidewall and inserting a metal thermometer below the drying floor. If that temperature is uneven, the flame around the burner ring may be uneven. Inspect the burn to see if its holes are plugged or worn and make sure the burner ring is centered in the housing. Finally, remove any obstructions in the fan housing or in front of the transition.

North Dakota State University engineer Ken Hellevang urges farmers to conduct a dryer energy audit prior to harvest. “An audit allows you to compare energy use to what is typically expected and in comparison to newer dryers with energy-efficiency features,” he says.

Contact your Extension agent or state agricultural engineer to learn how to conduct an audit sponsored by the USDA's REAP program.

Another advantage of an audit is that it can reveal the need for maintenance (such as burner adjustment) or support the decision to replace existing equipment (upgrading to a higher-speed more energy-efficient model). “Depending on how old your dryer is, the cost savings of upgrading to a more efficient dryer can be as much as 1¢ per bushel per point of moisture removed,” Hellevang provides as an example. “And you'll boost drying speed, too.”

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