Did you know that the concept of growing plants in artificial rather than natural spaces has been around since the time of the ancient Romans? Of course, the greenhouses back then can’t compare to the advanced greenhouse design we have now. Today, many plants are grown in greenhouses so that we can have whatever kind of produce we want regardless of the season.
However, there is a problem; most greenhouses are not efficient in terms of water and light usage. If you don’t have an efficient greenhouse, you will be spending a lot of money watering your plants, regulating the temperature, and keeping the greenhouse’s lights on, among other things. So, what’s the trick behind setting up a highly efficient greenhouse and managing it optimally?
Basics of Efficient Greenhouse Design
Designing an efficient greenhouse can be tricky to figure out at first, but once you understand it, you can maximize your greenhouse’s production and save plenty of money. You will need to consider a few things such as insulating the ground, keeping the light and heat inside during the winter, and protecting your plants during the summer. You will also need to choose the best lighting option for your greenhouse. After you cover all of these aspects, your greenhouse should be more efficient than ever.
You might think you have the perfect greenhouse. The walls and roof are completely insulated and there’s no way that the heat inside is ever going to escape. As long as the heat stays inside the greenhouse, you can save money and your plants will have the perfect temperature to grow, even if it’s the middle of winter outside.
But sooner or later, you might find that you are spending quite a lot of money on heating that greenhouse, and the temperature inside keeps fluctuating. That’s because you forgot to insulate the ground inside the greenhouse. Many people overlook this step because they think that the ground doesn’t need insulating.
Think about it: when it’s cold, the air will lose heat, so why wouldn’t the earth lose heat as well? While the air inside your greenhouse might be warm, it won’t be warm enough to combat the chill of the earth your plants are growing in. This is especially true during the winter since there is a good chance that the topsoil is going to freeze.
But how should you go about insulating the ground? While it won’t be as easy as setting up some insulated walls and ceilings, but it will leave you with a high-efficiency greenhouse. You will need to insulate the greenhouse exteriors, specifically around its perimeter. To do this, you will need to dig out some of the earth surrounding your greenhouse and put some foam boards in the ground and bury them. That way, there will be no chance that any chill will seep into your greenhouse from the surrounding earth.
Optimizing Heat and Light during Winter
During the winter, the days get shorter and darker while the temperatures plummet. If you live in a climate that doesn’t get very cold during the winter, you won’t have to worry much about fine-tuning your greenhouse. But if you live in a climate that gets very dark and snowy, you need to take advantage of all the heat and light you can get so your plants will stay healthy.
Many people use solar panels to power their greenhouses, but using solar power will be much less effective in the winter. Because the days have fewer hours of sunlight, your solar panels will only be able to generate so much energy. Further, if any snow covers your solar panels, you will need to keep cleaning them off, otherwise, they won’t be able to generate any energy.
Even if you don’t have solar panels, you will still need to figure out a way to keep your greenhouse as warm and bright as possible during the dark months of winter without spending a fortune on your efficient greenhouse. You can make this a reality by making sure that your greenhouse has plenty of glass (or another high light-transmittance material) rather than plastic to let in natural light. Keep in mind that if your greenhouse does have glass, this will compromise its insulation somewhat.
However, having glass in your greenhouse is a worthy tradeoff between insulation and light. You will also want to make sure the glass is at the right angle to let in as much light as possible. If you are worried about your greenhouse losing heat at night, you can always cover the windows with insulating material. If you have proper heat and humidity measuring equipment, then your greenhouse can easily become energy efficient.
Keep Out the Summer Heat
You will have to face the opposite problem during summers. Instead of keeping the hot air in, you will need to keep it out. Plants will easily die if they get too hot. This is especially true if you are growing northern plants. During the summer, the greenhouse’s glass can end up being a pain. It might let in too much light. This is especially true since summer days are much longer than winter days. While you will have more hours to charge your solar panels, there are also more hours of heat that might wilt your plants. To fix this problem, you will need to use materials that reflect light.
There are certain plastic wraps that are great for this purpose. If your greenhouse has windows, you will have to cover them. That way, any light that hits the windows will reflect away from the greenhouse.
As a result, your efficient greenhouse will stay cool. Since the lightbulbs inside your greenhouse shouldn’t generate heat, they will be able to provide plenty of light without causing your plants to overheat. A shade cloth is ideal if you want to cover a large swath of your greenhouse and protect it both from heat and light. It will also help to regulate the temperature inside your greenhouse, regardless of how hot it is outside. While you can apply the shade cloth manually, many people prefer to attach it to a machine that lifts and lowers the cloth as desired.
Utilize the Right Lights
Lighting is the most expensive aspect of a greenhouse. Of course, during the sunny months, you won’t need to rely much on lightbulbs, but if you plan on growing plants throughout the winter, you are going to need to invest in lightbulbs that won’t break the bank after a few weeks of keeping them lit.
Traditional lightbulbs are terrible for greenhouses. Not only do they produce a lot of heat which can harm your plants but they also waste a lot of electricity. This is not ideal, especially in the long run.
LED lights are the best lighting options for greenhouses since they don’t produce heat like ordinary lightbulbs. More than that, LED lights are highly energy-efficient and can save you tons of money since they last for a very long time.
Although LED lights are more expensive at first, you will end up saving plenty of money in the long run. But what about HID lamps? While HID lamps are somewhat cheaper than LED lights, they still might not be best for your greenhouse. HID lamps burn out much faster than LED lights. They are also not as efficient.