A well-designed greenhouse can help you grow a wide range of plants during unfavorable conditions. Unfortunately, setting up and operating a greenhouse can be a costly endeavor. If you have thought about having a greenhouse, there are ways to keep your expenses to a minimum.
A solid foundation will make your greenhouse more secure and stable. However, though it is desirable in some circumstances, a greenhouse foundation is actually not a necessity. Many greenhouses are installed as a free-standing unit and sit on compacted soil. Just be sure the ground is flat and level, and the frame is well anchored down to prevent weather damage. A solid concrete pad can be quite expensive. Unless you are planning to build a large unit, there is no need to spend money on unnecessary materials.
When it comes to framing greenhouses, there are a wide variety of materials to choose from. Each have their own benefits and drawbacks. Aluminum does not offer good insulation value. However, it is relatively inexpensive. Unlike steel, it will not rust or erode. A good option for you looking for a very low-maintenance material. PVC is a cheaper option to alumunium. As with aluminium, it is lightweight and easy to work with. UV-treated PVC is long-lasting. Many hobby greenhouses sold in kits come with PVC frames. Unless you garden in a very windy location, building a greenhouse out of PVC pipes can be a great route to take.
Greenhouse coverings are made of many different materials, including glass, polycarbonate, polyethylene, and acrylic. They are available in various thicknesses. Polyethylene is the least expensive option. Polyethylene film and PVC pipe are often used for constructing hobby-type backyard greenhouses. Glass and acrylic, though are best for multi-year applications, are very expensive. In houses with double glazing, the difference in up-front cost can be very large. Co-poly film is available in thicknesses of 3 mm, 4 mm, and 6 mm. The low-cost material is only good for one or two seasons. That said, greenhouse grade, UV protected polyethylene can last several years. For cold climates and heavy snow areas, you will definitely need more than thin polyethene plastic covering for your greenhouse. But for many of us, it is a good, cheap option to get started.
One primary purpose of a greenhouse is to extend the growing season. That said, heating a greenhouse can be expensive. To lower energy expenses, passive heating methods can be implemented. Thermal mass materials like water or stone can be used to store solar energy during the day and release that energy at night when the greenhouse drops in temperature. This natural heating method is very popular due to its low upfront cost. Compost pile heater is another common greenhouse heating system. This method takes advantage of the biological activity of aerobic bacteria that breaks down organic material and give off waste heat. These methods alone may not be sufficient for four-season operation. Some people who operate four-season greenhouses combine active and passive heating. However, the above mentioned heating systems can help provide increased warmth during the colder parts of the year.
There are ways to cool down a greenhouse without spending a lot of money. Depending on where you live, exhaust fans and passive ventilation may be all you need to extract the warm air out of the house. Shade cloth or materials that reflect radiation can be added to protect the house from the sun’s burning rays. When better cooling performance is needed, evaporative pad cooling system is one of the options available. As the name indicates, lowering temperature is accomplished through the use of fans and wet pads. The fans pull the air through the pads. When particles of water evaporate, the level of humidity will increase. This leads to a drop in temperature. This method provides the most benefits in dry climates.
Building a greenhouse, even a hobby-type unit, requires careful planning. To keep costs down, careful selection of materials needs to be made. Weather conditions, plants grown, and greenhouse location are important factors to consider. A well-designed greenhouse will prevent you from having to spend your hard-earned capital on expensive supplemental devices and reduce your energy requirements to a minimum.
If you can find an ideal southern location for your greenhouse and your greenhouse covering diffuses sunlight well, additional grow lights may not be needed. Proper roofing materials that create an evenly diffused light will also help keep your greenhouse moderately cool during hot days. This, along with strategically placed vents, can eliminate the need of an electric cooling system or at least help lower your electric bill.