Installing heating and ventilation in a greenhouse is crucial, especially if you are off-grid. Luckily, it is not as difficult as one might think, and there are many ways to do it. In fact, heating and ventilating an off-grid greenhouse can be accomplished with no electricity and only a few cheap materials.
However, while anyone can grow plants during the summer, it becomes a challenge when winter arrives. In this article, we will discuss different heating and ventilation methods and help you find out which methods fit your needs.
How to Heat and Ventilate an Off-Grid Greenhouse
To heat and ventilate a greenhouse, the basic steps are setting up proper ventilation and then adding an element to keep the temperature raised regardless of the weather. In order to adapt this approach to an off-grid greenhouse, the only additional step is using methods that require little to no power use.
With the above in mind, the goals are clear:
- Ventilate the greenhouse
- Set up one or more heating methods
- Keep the temperature in the optimal range of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit
Setting up a greenhouse can be difficult, but the main difficulty lies in keeping the temperature stable. Therefore, ventilation is key, and for off-grid greenhouses, it is quite simple, as there is usually only one choice.
See also: Off Grid Dryers: 10 Best Options
Ventilating an Off-Grid Greenhouse
Proper ventilation is vital when regulating temperature, and while it is often accomplished through mechanical means, there is another way, which is natural ventilation. Natural ventilation, or curtain ventilation, relies on roof and sidewall vents to regulate temperature through a simple process:
- Hot air rises and escapes through the roof vents
- The rising air creates a vacuum
- The vacuum draws in cooler air through the sidewall vents
The concept behind natural ventilation systems is self-regulation, with hot air being released through the use of pressure. This means there is no need to manage the system once it has been set up and adjusted. Additionally, natural ventilation does not require fans, making it more energy-efficient and reducing operating costs.
Of course, mechanical ventilation holds an edge in colder climates, but it requires electricity to operate, and both can do the job. Plus, during the summer months, natural ventilation gains the advantage, making it a particularly attractive choice.
Take Advantage of the Sun
During the warmer months, taking advantage of the sun is crucial. After all, the sun is a source of free energy that can be used throughout the year, with or without the use of solar panels.
For example, you can utilize the sun’s energy by glazing or covering your greenhouse’s southern wall in tin foil and then insulating the other walls. Insulating the other walls allows the solar energy that enters in through the southern wall to be retained by the greenhouse, heating it. Other useful methods involve:
- Double Pane Windows: Double pane windows are energy efficient and allow warmth while preventing freezing temperatures. A cost-efficient method is to add a layer of clear plastic around the windows, which will seal your greenhouse and create the same effect.
- Thermal Mass: Objects such as rocks, bricks, and clay surrounded by black barrels of water can absorb heat when the air is warm and release heat when it is cold. This technique absorbs heat during the day while the sun is out and releases the warmth at night when the temperature gets to its coldest.
Without Electricity in the Winter
During the winter, proper heating becomes even more important, and one way to ensure your greenhouse is properly heated is to make compost. A compost pile enables your greenhouse to reach a high temperature, even in the winter, and it provides a natural method to produce heat.
Compost piles work by utilizing the heat produced during the breakdown process of compost to raise the temperature. Whether it is heating a certain area using compost bins or using trenches of compost between rows of plants, it is an excellent source of heat for your greenhouse that requires no electricity and few resources.
However, with compost piles, it is important to keep a close eye on the temperature since they are known to give off an incredible amount of heat at times. Consider keeping a thermometer close by and experimenting to find the right amount of compost to meet your needs.
Using a climate battery can also provide a solution for the harsh winter months. Climate batteries, also known as “earth batteries,” are built using geothermal storage devices, which are placed underground to heat a greenhouse. Climate batteries are particularly useful for providing heat to a greenhouse throughout the year.
Use a Heater
While operating an off-grid greenhouse likely means that you are looking for a way to do so without the use of electricity, there are situations where it is possible or necessary. Whether it is through the use of solar energy, which requires no connection to a power grid, or with the help of a fuel source, there are times when using a heater is an option.
If you are thinking about using a heater, consider these two types:
- Electric Heating System: This is the typical, safest way, and while it requires electricity, it does not get too pricey when controlled by a thermostat.
- Paraffin Heaters: These are insulators that are very simple to use and not very expensive. They are the best non-electric alternative for an electric heating system. However, while they do not require electricity, they do require the use of kerosene.
There are many different types of heaters, and if you decide to go this route, it is best to do your research and find out what will suit your needs best. It is also advisable to keep these options in mind as a backup, especially the kerosene-fueled paraffin heaters.
There are also methods that require extra planning or unconventional means. However, they are also effective for heating greenhouses, especially in situations where being off-grid is key.
- Underground Greenhouses: It is warmer underground than it is above ground, making an underground greenhouse much warmer than an above ground greenhouse. Basically, the deeper the greenhouse, the more warmth it will hold, and if placed at the frost line, or frost depth, it is quite consistent.
- Bubble Wrap: Surrounding your greenhouse with bubble wrap or making smaller, plastic greenhouses within your greenhouse creates good insulation that protects your garden from harmful UV rays. Most prefer to only insulate the roof and end glass for optimal temperature.
- Burlap: Place a layer or two of bubble wrap around your plants, and then cover them with burlap in order to keep the soil from freezing due to the heavy insulation.
Tips for Success
The key to a perfect greenhouse is to keep the internal temperature steady. It is possible to do one of these and get your desired temperature, but it may take several of the methods listed above. It is all about your personal situation.
Another factor of a greenhouse’s success in the winter is how well it is cleaned. Cleaning the space for your plants will allow more light to shine through. Follow these steps to ensure your greenhouse is properly cleaned:
- Remove all plants from your greenhouse, keeping them in a sheltered area.
- Sweep away any debris from inside.
- Using disinfectant, clean all structural parts of your greenhouse.
- Use a glass cleaner to clean each glass panel to get rid of dirt.
Now you know how to heat and ventilate an off-grid greenhouse, heating a greenhouse does not have to be difficult.
Not only are there numerous ways to ensure the proper temperature all year round, but in many cases, electricity is not necessary. This makes it not only possible but quite simple to both heat and ventilates a greenhouse while off-grid.