"Running the simulation provides results for four different drying strategies: Continuous natural air, constant heat, variable heat and self-adapting variable heat," Ileleji said.

Those calculating high-capacity dryer energy use select among seven grain crops and propane or natural gas fuel, and enter fuel cost per gallon, electricity cost, beginning and desired grain moisture, ambient air temperature and relative humidity, and drying air temperature.

Seconds after the user enters the information, the estimator spits out its results: fuel, electric and grain shrinking costs per bushel; drying time in days; average moisture content; MBTUs required for drying; and BTUs per pound of water. Additional data fields appear for high-capacity dryers.

"Keep in mind that these are best estimates," Ileleji said. "While they are research-based and we've done our best to make the tool as accurate as possible, results should not be construed as actual savings."

The estimator is a work in progress, Ileleji said. At this time just one dryer manufacturer's models appear on the Web site, but others will be added as information is available, he said.

Research used to develop the estimator was funded in part through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant titled "Exploring Biofuel Alternatives for Energy-Intensive Seasonal Drying Processes." Most of the background research was conducted by Dirk Maier, former Purdue professor and agricultural engineer.

Dan Ess, a Purdue agricultural engineer, also is a co-principal investigator for the estimator project.