Greenhouses. Planning A Home Greenhouse

Structural costs are very low because the frame can

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Unformatted text preview: y than other covers. Structural costs are very low because the frame can be lighter and plastic film is inexpensive. Light transmission of these film-plastic coverings is comparable to glass. The films are made of polyethylene (PE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), copolymers, and other materials. A utility grade of PE that will last about a year is available at local hardware stores. Commercial greenhouse grade PE has ultraviolet inhibitors in it to protect against ultraviolet rays; it lasts 12 to 18 months. Copolymers last 2 to 3 years. New additives have allowed the manufacture of film plastics that block and reflect radiated heat back into the greenhouse, as does glass, which helps reduce heating costs. PVC or vinyl film costs two to five times as much as PE but lasts as long as 5 years. However, it is available only in sheets 4 to 6 feet wide. It attracts dust from the air, so it must be washed occasionally. Environmental Systems Greenhouses provide a shelter in which a suitable environment is maintained for plants. Solar energy from the sun provides sunlight and some heat, but you must provide a system to regulate the environment in your greenhouse. This is done by using heaters, fans, thermostats, and other equipment. Heating The heating requirements of a greenhouse depend on the desired temperature for the plants grown, the location and construction of the greenhouse, and the total outside exposed area of the structure. As much as 25 percent of the daily heat requirement may come from the sun, but a lightly insulated greenhouse structure will need a great deal of heat on a cold winter night. The heating system must be adequate to maintain the desired day or night temperature. Usually the home heating system is not adequate to heat an adjacent greenhouse. A 220-volt circuit electric heater, however, is clean, efficient, and works well. Small gas or oil heaters designed to be installed through a masonry wall also work well. Solar-heated greenhouses were popular briefly during the energy crisis, but they did not prove to be economical to use. Separate solar collection and storage systems are large and require much space. However, greenhouse owners can experiment with heat-collecting methods to reduce fossil-fuel consumption. One method is to paint containers black to attract heat, and fill them with water to retain it. However, because the greenhouse air temperature must be kept at plant-growing temperatures, the greenhouse itself is not a good solar-heat collector. Heating systems can be fueled by electricity, gas, oil, or wood. The heat can be distributed by forced hot air, radiant heat, hot water, or steam. The choice of a heating system and fuel depends on what is locally available, the production requirements of the plants, cost, and individual choice. For safety purposes, and to prevent harmful gases from contacting plants, all gas, oil, and woodburning systems must be properly vented to the outside. Use fresh-air vents to supply oxygen for burners for complete combustion. Safety controls, such as safety pilots and a gas shutoff switch, should be used as required. Portable kerosene heaters used in homes are risky because some plants are sensitive to gases formed when the fuel is burned. Calculating heating system capacity. Heating systems are rated in British thermal units (Btu) per hour (h). The Btu capacity of the heating system, Q, can be estimated easily using three factors: Foundations and Floors Permanent foundations should be provided for glass, fiberglass, or the double-layer rigid-plastic sheet materials. The manufacturer should provide plans for the foundation construction. Most home greenhouses require a poured concrete foundation similar to those in residential houses. Quonset greenhouses with pipe frames and a plastic cover use posts driven into the ground. Permanent flooring is not recommended because it may stay wet and slippery from soil mix media. A concrete, gravel, or stone walkway 24 to 36 inches wide can be built for easy access to the plants. The rest of the floor should be covered by several inches of gravel for drainage of excess water. Water also can be sprayed on the gravel to produce humidity in the greenhouse. 5 6 ' D This is an example of a curved-eave lean-to built on a two-story house. 8' 16' Figure 4. Use the greenhouse’s dimensions to determine the necessary heating system capacity. This discussion is a bit technical, but these factors must be considered when choosing a greenhouse. Note the effect of each value on the outcome. When different materials are used in the construction of the walls or roof, heat loss must be calculated for each. For electrical heating, convert Btu/h to kilowatts by dividing Btu/h by 3,413. If a wood, gas, or oil burner is located in the greenhouse, a fresh-air inlet is recommended to maintain an oxygen supply to the burner. Place a piece of plastic pipe through the outside cover to ensure that oxygen gets to the burner combustion air intake. The inlet pipe should be the diameter of t...
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