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Thread: Greenhouse Update

  1. #1
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    Default Greenhouse Update

    Posted some pics of the frame and outside last fall. Here's an update on my big-boy science project:



    The floor has a bubble/foil thermal barrier topped with foambaord and a drainage system. Over which I laid gravel, sand, and radiant heat tubing:



    It runs through an insulated heatsink under the floor, that will eventually have two DC pumps powered by a solar panel and deep-cycle battery. The other loop will go to a solar hot-water collector.

    This shows the big tank and one set of coils:



    I'll get it operating next fall. Insulated it like mad and covered it with floor panels. Then mounted four passive heatsink tanks on the south-facing wall:



    Anchor-bolted a sill to the foundation of the garage, so the tanks don't rest on the floor panels, which raise up to expose the underfloor stuff.

    Our last storm, windy and wet, coated the outside in rime-ice, with a nighttime low of about 20°F.



    But the excellent insulation (for a greenhouse) with R 3.8 in the roof, and passive solar heat from the tanks, kept it well above freezing:



    Just before sunrise. The upper value is the air temp next to the west wall. The lower one is the temp of the water in the black tanks, which on cold nights lose 5-8°.

    (continued)
    Last edited by Chip-skiff; 04-27-2010 at 12:03 AM.

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    (part 2)

    Shelves mounted close to the tanks are for seedlings and frost-sensitive plants:



    The beds around the walls will hold tomatoes, peppers, etc. in containers. The center bed is for beans and peas (on vertical twine), salad greens, radishes, baby carrots, and such.



    We've started seedlings and planted the bed, which is exciting.

    It's also a nice, bright, warm reading room on chilly spring days:



    I've not yet run electricity in— it's completely passive solar, in a 12' x 12' structure.

    Greenhouse buffs (huisjen, et al.) let's compare notes.

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    That's a lot higher tech than me. I'm more focused on cool weather crops and shoulder season extension.

    I've seen some really positive results around here with the triple wall polycarbonate like that. One method used is to capture hot air at the top of the greenhouse on sunny days and blow it down into crushed rock beds under the growing beds. I'm not sure what their low temperature for the winter was, but I think it may be similar. They also use covers over the beds at night.

    Dan
    Last edited by huisjen; 04-27-2010 at 05:40 AM.
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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Thank you for this thread. A greenhouse is on our wish list big time. Yours looks really nice. I want to question the placement of the tanks on the south facing wall. How do the tanks being there affect the amount of low horizon winter sun reaching the plants?
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Paul, I think he means they're on the north wall of the greenhouse room. That surface faces south. Sun gets to the plants, and any that gets by is absorbed by the black tanks.

    Dan
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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Thank you Dan, that makes sense.
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    very nice, and well thought out. Can you tell us a bit about the ventilation?
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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Good planning and nice work!

    Someday I'll tell you about the attached greenhouse I built in Upstate New York. It turned out to be an asset for heating the house, on sunny winter days a third or more of out heat was solar.

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    Quote Originally Posted by switters View Post
    very nice, and well thought out. Can you tell us a bit about the ventilation?
    Right— The nice thing about radiant heat is that you can have lots of air moving without decreasing the amount you collect. The big black tanks are pretty amazing.

    There are two low vents at the south corners (I'm adding two more) powered by heat-driven pistons (Sesam Liberty, from Charley's Greenhouse Supply).



    The louvers are from Tek Supply and don't close as tight as I'd like. The pistons are filled with wax that expands at about 70°F.

    There's an exhaust fan to push warm air into the garage/shop, so I can use it for gluing and painting without having to crank electric heaters all day.

    Our wild wind has repeatedly ripped off the roof vents on a neighbor's greenhouse, so I built a clerestory roof with peak vents that open inward. The roofbeam had to be larger than I first thought, so the vents are smaller.



    But the heat inside creates a decent airflow and the prevailing wind draws air out. The Liberty openers only have 4" travel, not enough, so I built levers to couple each one to two vents. The holes are to adjust the pull.



    The aluminum frames are lightly built and the leverage can bend them (I had to move the upper post down a hole and decrease the pull).

    There are eyebolts outside to anchor the springs that close the vent-windows. To get a straight pull on the vents, I had to bore through a roofbeam and mount a wee pully to change the direction of the cable (1/16" steel).



    We have intense sun and very cold nights, so regulating the temperature is a challenge. The automatic openers respond quickly and dependably, so I don't have to dash out twenty times a day to open or shut vents. I'd like to avoid using a second exhaust fan to shed heat.

    Except for the fan to heat the garage, the whole setup is passive. With the active systems going (solar panels, DC pumps, two loops of tubing with glycol, and a solar hot water collector outside) it'll store much more heat.

    The walls are triple (two layers of dead air) with excellent light transmission, which will admit more sunlight when the sun is low. The roof is six-wall polycarbonate, 1" thick, with lower light transmission (preferable in high summer) but an R-value of 3.8. (The sheathing came from Sundance Supply).

    The idea is to be able to grow something in winter (on the shelves by the tanks and maybe in the center bed, with a row cover). Hope it works.

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Quote Originally Posted by huisjen View Post
    That's a lot higher tech than me. I'm more focused on cool weather crops and shoulder season extension.

    I've seen some really positive results around here with the triple wall polycarbonate like that. One method used is to capture hot air at the top of the greenhouse on sunny days and blow it down into crushed rock beds under the growing beds. I'm not sure what their low temperature for the winter was, but I think it may be similar. They also use covers over the beds at night.

    Dan
    Saw that system (rock heatsink) on an English website, but when I calculated how much rock it would take, it put me off. The entire foundation (12' x 12') would have to be filled with rock about 4-5 feet deep. We do have plenty of rocks (our soil is colluvial with lots of buried slopewash) but transferring heat to rocks via airflow is not very efficient. And I imagine the bugs and mice would find it a lovely refuge.

    Our lowest sustained temps here are about -40°F. A hot summer day might touch 90°F.

    I talked to a couple specialists and they suggested water. Water is much better for storing heat and also for moving it. With 300 gallons in the wall tanks and 400 under the floor, there's enough capacity to make it through an extended cloudy spell. For every degree C that 700 gallons of water cools, 2,650,000 calories are released, or about 10,500 BTU. At night you can really feel the heat radiating from the wall tanks.

    The underfloor loop (pictured above) will be pushed by a DC pump on a 1000ah battery, probably pulsing on and off every 10 minutes or so. Diffusing heat through the radiant tubing under the floor should keep the soil temps up (when the sun heats the beds and pavers and the floor is warmer, heat will be transferred to the tank). The air inside might dip a bit below freezing but with row covers, the plants should be fine.

    A DC pump hooked to a solar panel will push a water/glycol mix through another loop when the sun's shining. I'm deciding whether to buy a solar hot water collector or build one.

    I'll post another report when the tomatoes are ripe.
    Last edited by Chip-skiff; 04-27-2010 at 03:14 PM.

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    can you tell me the name of the big black water containers and where they may be purchased?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meems View Post
    can you tell me the name of the big black water containers and where they may be purchased?
    Didn't see this when you posted- sorry. The company is Aquadra Systems. Here's a link:

    http://www.tank-depot.com/product.aspx?id=1176

    Here's a recent photo:



    Took this a few days ago and the tomatoes are now twice this size. It's really worked out well.


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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    The jungle-under-glass is a stunning success.



    Hungarian hot wax peppers backed by Siberian tomatoes, with miscellaneous tomatoes suspended above: in a small greenhouse, vertical space is precious.



    The Wall of Beans. The Wolf Goddess suggested pole beans and I was skeptical. But they only take up 5 sq. ft. of floorspace and are up to the roof. Very productive hothouse crop. Steamed and buttered one night, Salade Niçoise the next. Note the cucumber vines with yellow blossoms cohabiting with the beans.



    The Siberian tomato is an heirloom I grew ten years ago and saved seeds. See the red one lurking down under?

    All the passive solar stuff and heat-activated vents are working perfectly. Virtually everyone who sees it asks me to build one for them. I'm thinking seriously about that.

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Nice looking tomaters.
    Steve Martinsen

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    I was unable to say anything when you originally posted this, but that is a fantastic project and I'm, quite frankly, jealous. I have this huge stump just outside my side door that no stump grinder is able to get to, being on the hill like it is. I really want to put in a 6' x 6' greenhouse on top of forms that I would build out around the stump and fill with rocks. Your project is inspiring me to start thinking about actually doing this, so thanks for posting and the updates, which I hope will continue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Milo Christensen View Post
    I really want to put in a 6' x 6' greenhouse on top of forms that I would build out around the stump and fill with rocks. Your project is inspiring me to start thinking about actually doing this, so thanks for posting and the updates, which I hope will continue.
    Good on ya! The onliest problem with really small floorspace is that you need room for yourself, too. But if you want more incentives, take a look at them beans:


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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    I planted an 8' row of pole beans the first year in the house, that is, before I discovered that the deer, being fed corn by my neighbor two houses down, also desired some considerable quantities of green beans, roses, purple coneflowers, wild geraniums, etc., etc., on their way to and from the corn.

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    I'm jealous, too. Now we're trying to figure out how we can fit something like that on our 50 x 100 foot city lot. How do you think 5' deep by 12' or 14' long would work out?


    Steven

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    An excellent project , very impressive ! How would a long narrow one go as a passive solar house heater ,perhaps in places without room for a garden green house ?
    '' You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know. ''
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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Chip I built a green house about 10 years ago , I wished I'd used your type of water heating for the green house and tied it to our 2 tortoise houses . We depended on fans where more vents would have worked better . Adding the pet houses and the green house just about doubled our electric bill .

    The other big mistake was to epoxy all the wood , now I need to replace , next time I'll use pressure treated .



    I should have used the heat from the green house .



    Blue enjoying the heat .



    The small house could have been heated by 4 feet of tubing , not 800 watts .



    We don't get snow , so my wife grows tropical and carnivorous plants .

    Last edited by ramillett; 07-11-2010 at 06:48 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by StevenBauer View Post
    I'm jealous, too. Now we're trying to figure out how we can fit something like that on our 50 x 100 foot city lot. How do you think 5' deep by 12' or 14' long would work out? -Steven
    In Portland, Maine, you've got pretty different conditions, i.e. not as brutally cold at night and in winter, but with longer cloudy/stormy periods. Here (Wyoming) it's rare to have more than 2-3 days without sun.

    There are two related considerations: thermal mass and usable space.

    For thermal mass, the most efficient shape is the sphere, or for building purposes, the cube. So I built on a 12' x 12' floorplan, with a double-insulated foundation 4' deep. A 5' x 12' floorplan will lose lots of heat because the surface area is much greater in proportion to the internal volume. Unless it's attached to a structure: house, shed, barn, garage.

    My first greenhouse, 6' x 12', was scabbed onto the east (sunrise) side of a cinderblock garage. Along the wall were two 2' x 5' stock tanks, painted black on the east side, left galvanized against the wall. The water (about 350 gallons) provided thermal mass. They were covered with plywood with plastic stapled underneath, to provide benchtops for plants and keep the moisture at bay.

    The aspect depends on your local climate. In most places, sunrise is better for clear skies, and more crucial for dispelling nighttime chill, and south exposure is important for energy input, so if you're attaching a greenhouse to a structure, south and/or east light is preferable.

    For growing space, a row of fully-grown tomatoes in containers is about 18" wide. For access, you need a 24" lane. The stock-tank heatsinks are 24" wide. So 5 ft. is a bit too narrow: too much space given to access and not enough for plants. 6 ft. wide would be a bare minimum for an efficient set-up.

    I highly recommend wood framing, painted white, and polycarbonate cover. My material came from this outfit: http://www.sundancesupply.com/

    The ordering process helps you out with proper sort of moldings and fasteners for the roof and wall sheathing you select. With your climate, you'd probably find the 16mm three-wall best for the roof and walls, since it balances solar input and nighttime heat loss. I used 25 mm six-wall stuff, with about 60% light transmission, for my roof, since we have an excess of summer sun and it's R 3.8 which helps minimize nighttime heat loss.

    I hope I'm not avalanching you with details. But when it comes to building a greenhouse, that's where the devil lurks.

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Since this thread was posted, I've been thinking about a similar project, too....

    Also on a small lot,. and the best south-facing location I have is the front of a shed, possibly to make a 3 season, passive room.

    Triple wall polycarbonate seems expensive (but lightweight).....it appears that I could make a small addition to the shed using cast-off insulated glass panels with an R value of about 2 for the wall, and save the triple wall lexan stuff for the roof.

    I've noticed a fair number of ads on craigs list for used insulated glass such as this:



    http://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/tls/1836845711.html

    Probably comparable in price as lexan dbl. wall materials per sq. ft., but much more readily available, both in small quantities and local availability. Anyone think I'm making a serious mistake considering insulated glass for the side walls (above a 30" knee wall)?
    Last edited by JBreeze; 07-11-2010 at 06:56 PM. Reason: add link

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    I find it fascinating to read about greenhouses in climates ranging from Wyoming and Maine, all the way to SoCal.

    I have one in the plans for a future upgrade to the house. It'll be 40' long by 12' wide, and as tall as I decide to build it, but probably 1 story/1.5 story. It'll have an E/SE exposure, so it won't be optimal, but good enough. It's going to have two entries to the house; one from the master suite and one from what is now a sunroom, as well as two exterior entries.

    I can't wait, but I have to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Donn View Post
    I find it fascinating to read about greenhouses in climates ranging from Wyoming and Maine
    Me too; never needed or wanted one before moving to yankeeland. Now, a greenhouse hovers near the top of my wish list. . .

    Katherine and I are constantly looking for free or cheap windows and have been collecting them towards the end of building a greenhouse out of recycled/reclaimed materials.
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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    Paul: Check out the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in your area or come over to Lansing and we'll go to the local one. More windows just sitting outside than will ever get reused. I'm not sure what the prices are, but I'll bet they're dirt cheap.

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    Nice to stir up some serious thought.

    Two observations:

    1. The problem with recycling large glass windows is a) how to frame them in an energy-efficient way and b) how to deal with the pressure and moisture variations in the trapped air. Commercial energy-efficient windows tend to have plastic frames and some sort of inert gas sealed between the panes. Weep holes are a partial solution, but moisture build-up is a serious problem.

    2. The connection of house to greenhouse needs to be controlled for humidity and for bugs. Quite a few people who've built undivided sunrooms have found this out. If you want to use heat collected in a greenhouse to heat your living space, you should plan some way of screening or filtering the air, or storing the warmth in a heatsink/heat exchanger so there's no direct air movement between the two spaces.

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    ...........The problem with recycling large glass windows is a) how to frame them in an energy-efficient way and b) how to deal with the pressure and moisture variations in the trapped air. Commercial energy-efficient windows tend to have plastic frames and some sort of inert gas sealed between the panes. Weep holes are a partial solution, but moisture build-up is a serious problem.......

    That's a good point....this summer I'm growing "full size" tomato plants in homemade "earth-box" type planters (one 5 gal bucket inside another). I've been adding over a gal of water per day per plant now that the plants are over 4' tall and the temps are ion the 80's. Some of that water stays with the plants, but most is probably lost through transpiration. I can see moisture build-up being a problem!

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    PS - Here's a dumb question for Chip-Skiff:

    If the veggies are totally grown in the hot-house, do the 'maters and beans self-pollinate? Do you have to help with an artist's brush or something?

    (Serious lack of bees in my garden this summer, but the tomatoes seem to be doing OK - I see some other types of small insects going from flower to flower).

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    Not sure about the beans, but they do.

    The tomatoes want a bit of shaking, and they get the job done. For the peppers, I touch all the blossoms of each variety with a fingertip (the pollen is visible). Different fingers for different sorts. Not sure it's necessary, but why not have a bit of fun?

    The cucumbers are parthenogenic (self-fertilizing). The seed catalogues have this sort of information.

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    I promised to post an update when the tomatoes were ripe. They have been, spectacularly so, for a couple weeks, but I was off on a science trip to the Snake River in Teton Park, for GPS channel mapping.

    These are Bellstar, a cooking/salsa variety which produces big fruit on relatively small plants.



    A good type for containers and greenhouses— it doesn't sprawl, and has a robust flavor.

    We've been picking beans, from about fourteen plants, for 5-6 weeks. The vines leapt up to the roofbeam and set an initial bounty, then shut down until I fertilized them. They've been producing steadily since, plenty for fresh eating and some for the freezer as well. We have the same type coming on outdoors, on poles between rows of potatoes.



    Note my antique English folding ruler.

    Here's a green chile. The plants are as tall as I am, with huge leaves.



    These are mild-medium hotness, good for roasting and freezing. The Hungarian wax peppers are savagely hot— good for salsa cruda.

    The hothouse cucumbers are doing well, in the bed opposite the beans, running up the same twine trellis.



    Two varieties, Katrina and Socrates, from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine, are tender-skinned, seedless, and self-pollinating: perfect for hothouses.

    We've also got a jungle of indeterminate tomato vines with yellow, orange, purple, and red grape saladette tomatoes.



    Like a green galaxy with tomato stars.

    The self-regulating aspect has worked out extremely well. Since late April in a harsh, cold, windy climate with scorching summer sun, the greenhouse has maintained excellent growing conditions with no electricity or gas used for either heating or ventilating. I ran a cable in to a box, but haven't even hooked up an outlet so far. The next step is to build the active heating system for the coming winter.

    I'll post an update as that develops.
    Last edited by Chip-skiff; 08-15-2010 at 09:53 PM.

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    Looking great, Chip-skiff. Very cosy with the critters.

    A greenhouse is on my wishlist as well, but so far down it may well never get done. A separate bowshed, perhaps.

    I actually had an idea of adding a largish conservatory to the house, but I had other priorities. A small one on the south side could be doable, but no access from inside the house without going through a bedroom.
    1947 Nordic Folkboat "Nina"

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Very, very nice!

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    Just got the active solar heat system finished and charged, and it works very well. The brass thing on the red tubing is the DC solar pump that circulates a 50% glycol collector loop (if you go back and look at the earlier posts there are photos of the collector, greenhouse, etc.)



    The dark plate with the lightswitch is for the AC circulation pump for the radiant loop in the floor. The silver & black thingies are wireless transmitters for a temperature unit hooked to sensors.

    The incoming line from the collector, covered with black foam insulation, goes through a pressure/temp gauge—



    The collector puts out fluid at 100-120°F, which goes through PEX coils in a 400 gal. stock tank under the floor. The tank has foamboard underneath and on top, with two layers of reflective bubble-wrap around the outside: it loses about 2°F in 24 hours. The uninsulated tubing is the return from the heatsink to the collector.

    Here's the temp readout:



    The upper number is the air temp inside. The lower display cycles among the outdoor temp, the water in the passive heatsinks, and the water in the big tank under the floor. Last time I looked, the floor tank registered 87°. Pumping the floor loop heats the sand floor, which is about 3 ft. deep on top of reflective bubblewrap and foamboard, inside a foam-insulated foundation, making it an effective thermal mass. That and the passive heatsinks keep the interior above 50° even with the outside temp well below freezing.

    I took a parasol heater apart and hung the 500 watt elements from the roof, for dispersed radiant heat on nights that are really cold, like 0°F and below. The radiant heat warms the foliage.



    Lots of work putting it together, but I'm pleased with the result:





    Here at nearly 8000 ft., I can't grow tomatoes or cukes outdoors even in summer. And we've got loads of tomatoes, cukes, hot wax peppers, mini-eggplant, pole beans, strawberries, lettuce, etc. all doing beautifully inside.
    Last edited by Chip-skiff; 10-21-2011 at 05:02 PM.

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Beautiful!
    Here at 100' we didn't get tomatoes or cukes at all this year.
    You don't have slugs in there either I'll bet....
    Your friends in the PUB will thank you all winter long!
    (OMG! Did I just say the "W" word?! I'm so sorry!....I didn't mean it!....)

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    Default Re: Greenhouse Update

    Very cool....er warm.

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