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finding the most efficient way to heat a greenhouse

Finding the Most Efficient Way to Heat a Greenhouse

Efficiently heating your greenhouse means finding a method that works without breaking the bank. Keeping your plants at the correct temperature is essential, but finding ways to save money is equally vital. Fuel suppliers often have multiple plans to help you find something within your budget while providing quality heating for your greenhouse.

Below, you’ll learn about the different ways to heat greenhouses and methods to boost your cost-efficiency to get the most out of your heating system and greenhouse.

Why It’s Essential to Heat a Greenhouse

Heating your greenhouse in the winter is essential to protect plants from the harsh cold. While some people believe greenhouses can produce adequate heat in the winter since they often feel warmer than outdoor temperatures, many greenhouses cannot produce the heat plants need in a harsh winter.

Instead, you should invest in heating to protect tender plants from the cold. However, it’s crucial to do the job right, especially amid rising energy costs and environmental concerns. Below you’ll learn more about the best way to heat a greenhouse and how you can reduce overall costs.



How to Heat a Greenhouse

When you want to heat your greenhouse, you have numerous options. Some options are more costly than others but do an excellent job heating your greenhouse, while others are affordable and efficient. Consider your options below to help you make an informed decision about ways to heat a greenhouse:

  • Solar: Solar-powered heaters can be an effective way to heat a greenhouse. The heaters harness energy from the sun and convert it into heat. If you want to use solar, keep in mind that getting the system up and running can be lengthy. You’ll have to install enough solar panels to meet the high energy needs of solar heaters, which means a significant upfront cost that will take a bit of time to see a return.
  • Hot water: You can also use a hot water heater to utilize the natural heating powers of the sun. You can do this by using solar water heating cells, which use UV energy to heat coiled water lines that run into a barrel in the greenhouse. The hot water radiates warm air, warming the greenhouse. Alternatively, you can run the hot water straight into the soil.
  • Electric: Electric heaters can be an efficient option if you’re willing to pay for your heating regularly. All you need is an outlet and an extension cord, and you’re set. While this can be an easy heating solution, running an electric heater can run up your electricity bill and could dry the air if you run the heater all day.
  • Oil: Oil and electric heaters share many similarities, the main difference being that oil heaters are often less expensive to run. While you still need electricity to heat the oil reservoirs, the oil does most of the heating work and helps reduce costs. Once the oil is heated, it’s transferred to the air through convection. Since oil heaters are more affordable than electric, they’re ideal for greenhouses that must be warm most of the day without drying the air.
  • Kerosene: Kerosene heaters are excellent alternatives when your greenhouse doesn’t have access to electricity. Many of these heaters run on a refillable kerosene tank, eliminating the need for an outlet. Like electric heaters, kerosene can dry out the air, but the heaters must run consistently to keep your greenhouse at the ideal temperature. Kerosene is also more budget-friendly than electric heaters, making it a budget-friendly option for the same efficiency.
  • Germination mats: Some people need targeted heating in a greenhouse, making germination mats an excellent option. These mats are similar to heating pads you might use at home for sore muscles, producing enough heat for the soil to encourage root growth during germination without heating the entire greenhouse.
  • Livestock: We’re not suggesting you put livestock in your greenhouse at night to generate heat. Instead, create a dual-purpose greenhouse and small animal house if it suits your needs. Livestock produces natural heat that can help keep your greenhouse warm, and the bulb heaters you use to warm the animals can double as an extra heater for your greenhouse. This option isn’t feasible for everyone but is something to consider if you have animals to look after.
  • Hotbeds: Hotbeds can be an effective way to heat your greenhouse. This method uses heat that’s created during decomposition to warm the soil. While this heating method takes some work, it can be an excellent, no-cost way to keep your plants warm through winter.

Ways to Improve Cost-Efficiency

When considering your heating options, you want to find the most efficient way to heat a greenhouse without sacrificing cost. There are ways to improve cost-efficiency so you can get the best heating your budget allows.

1. Look for Ways to Improve Your Heating System

The first step in improving the cost-efficiency of your greenhouse heating system is looking into a new furnace or heating equipment. Older equipment doesn’t often perform at peak efficiency, costing more in the long run. New or nearly new equipment can significantly reduce overall costs while lasting far longer than an outdated machine.

2. Consider Using a Climate Control System

climate control system

A climate control system will initially cost a bit of money, but it can help you save more during the cold season. A climate control system can reassure you that your climate control settings are followed accurately, giving you a smartphone notification if anything is off.

Climate control systems follow your unique settings and adapt to changing weather conditions, including wind, rain, sun or cloud cover. You can continue to work on other things without worrying about running to your greenhouse every 30 minutes or so to make adjustments due to the weather. Climate control systems do more than manage your heating and cooling. They can also control humidity and, in some cases, irrigation.

Another benefit of these climate control systems is that you can monitor informational graphs that measure humidity, temperature and irrigation. Review these measurements at the end of each week and make any necessary adjustments. Once you know what you consume monthly, you can make changes to improve cost efficiency.

3. Manage Air Flow and Insulation

Learning how to manage airflow and insulation is essential to reduce your heating costs. Insulation helps keep warm air trapped inside your greenhouse, while airflow helps circulate the warm air throughout your entire greenhouse, making it easier to have an even temperature and heat your crops.

Depending on your greenhouse’s climate, you may need thicker or thinner insulation. Choosing the proper insulation will also assist in airflow, helping keep circulating air trapped inside so it can warm cold-sensitive plants and level your heating costs. You can even place circulating fans at the top of your greenhouse to keep rising warm air from escaping.

4. Choose the Right Plantschoose the right plants

Some plants do better in the cold than others. Plants like peppers and tomatoes require significant heat to grow well. Other plants do just fine in the cold and don’t require as much heating. Consider the following crops for your greenhouse in the winter to reduce how much spend on heating:

  • Green onions
  • Garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Onion
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Radishes

These crops and many others are cold-weather tolerant. You can significantly reduce how much heating you need to invest in by choosing the appropriate plants for the winter season.

5. Consider Thermal Mass

Thermal mass refers to the ability that different materials have to absorb heat. You can add additional materials to your greenhouse to improve heat retention, especially if you use kerosene or electric heaters. Adding thermal mass reduces how often you run your heaters, lowering your monthly heating costs. Some materials you can add to your greenhouse to help retain heat include:

  • Brick
  • Stone
  • Gravel
  • Concrete
  • Clay
  • Logs
  • Cinder blocks
  • Soil
  • Water barrels or jugs

You can increase thermal mass by adding stone, gravel or brick walkways, lining beds with brick, adding extra soil or setting water jugs by your beds.

6. Cover Rows or Use Mulch

Another way to insulate your soil is by adding a top layer of mulch. The mulch will help keep the heat trapped in the soil and can be more effective than just insulating your greenhouse structure. You can purchase mulch with high insulation protection or save money by utilizing evergreens, dead leaves or grass clippings.

You can also retain heat by covering rows. The covers let the heat from the soil radiate to the plant’s foliage. Row covers use thin material to allow sunlight in without letting heat escape. Depending on what type of row covers you choose, you might have to monitor your plants to ensure they don’t oversaturate, leading to fungal growth. You can also prevent oversaturation by removing the covers on warmer days.

cover rows or use mulch

Tips When Purchasing Heating Fuels

Now that you know how to improve your greenhouse heating to reduce costs, it’s time to utilize different tips to help you purchase heating fuels and reduce overall costs. Whether you choose natural gas, propane or oil, there are various ways you can save.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is often one of the most affordable fuels due to companies increasing their pipelines and introducing fracking. Natural gas costs are made up of different factors, including:

  • Customer charge
  • Storage charge
  • Gas charge
  • Demand charge

Some growers have reduced their natural gas costs by switching some of their natural gas heaters to propane. Using a few propane heaters with natural gas heaters can reduce overall costs, especially for demand charges. You can use propane on peak cold nights so you don’t have to pay the high demand charge.

You can also use duel fuel burners that utilize natural gas or oil and easily change from one fuel to the other, reducing high-demand charges. Bundling purchases with a fuel supplier can also help you save.

Propane and Oil

You have different pricing and delivery options when choosing propane and oil. Many fuel suppliers have similar plans for both types of heating fuel, letting you explore different plans to fit your business’s needs and budget. Exploring plans ensures you get the most for your dollar. Plans include:

  • Market price: Choosing a market price plan means you’re charged the supplier’s daily rate the day you make the order or the day it’s delivered. During the winter, you don’t have any protection from price increases, but you won’t be charged any additional fees that often accompany other fueling plans.
  • Pre-buy: The pre-buy plan lets you pay for all or some of the fuel you need during the summer or fall in anticipation of the winter season. Fuel prices are often lower in the summer when they’re in low demand, helping you save on costs. Pre-buying also helps protect you from price increases.
  • Budget plans: Budget plans spread the projected total cost throughout the year so you don’t have to pay for everything all at once. If you end up using more fuel than what you paid for, you’ll pay the remaining total at the end of the year.
  • Price cap and fixed price: These plans guarantee a set price per gallon during the peak heating season. The price will never go above the cap or fixed rate. While these plans can protect you from price increases, they tend to be more expensive to cover the insurance suppliers have to purchase.
  • Tank rental and purchase: Some suppliers will let you rent or purchase propane or oil tanks for your greenhouse if you buy a minimum quantity each year. You’ll also pay for the delivery, maintenance and other surcharges. However, renting or purchasing a tank can be the best option if you need an ample fuel supply or site flexibility.

You can choose the best plan for heating a greenhouse while helping you save money. A qualified and reliable supplier should be able to guide you through their programs to ensure you get the best plan for your fuel needs that fit within your budget.

Choose Shipley Energy as Your Trusted Fuel Supplier

choose shipley energy as your trusted fuel supplier

We know how important it is to find the correct heating method for your greenhouse to ensure the health of your crop. Shipley Energy consistently helps customers find the information they need to find the best price and heating options. We offer electricitynatural gaspropane and heating oil to give you plenty of opportunities for heating your greenhouse.

We also offer various fuel services to ensure you can save time and money on the job. We prioritize our customer’s needs, whether commercial or residential owners. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we help you make a difference!

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