As we are getting ready for the Cultivate ’19 show, one of the things we love about going is talking to people and helping them get the answers they need to make their greenhouse function just they way they want it to. We thought it would be helpful to share some of the right questions to ask when setting up your greenhouse.
Q: What is the best orientation for a greenhouse to get the most out of natural ventilation?
A: We recommend a north/south orientation in most situations. The idea is to allow prevailing breezes to blow through your greenhouse.
Q: What are the basic considerations I should take into account when locating my greenhouse?
A: The basic items are water and electricity; make sure those two items are available. Without electricity solar ventilation is possible but your overall control of the climate will be limited and/or expensive.
Q: Is there a way to evaluate the efficiency of my current greenhouse in terms of energy usage?
A: Track your current energy consumption before converting to natural ventilation. Our best estimates are that during hot, spring and summer days, shutters and fans will run 12-24 hours a day, attempting to maintain a cool environment. A normal hoop-house may run 2 fans using 16 to 18 amps of power continuously for cooling.
Q: What are some of the advantages of natural ventilation?
A: Energy savings is the obvious one (see above). Many growers want the controlled environment that a greenhouse provides without limiting natural air movement. Root development through leaf movement, plant hardening, and dehumidification are just a few benefits.
Q: Can a hoop house or older greenhouse be converted to take advantage of natural ventilation with automated controls?
A: In most situations, yes. Some operations may experience a good ROI (return on investment) due to the cost of the conversion versus the revenue generated. With an automation upgrade ROI should be calculated using labor savings.
Q: I only have two 30 X 90’ greenhouses. Is natural ventilation with automated controls still a good investment for me in terms of ROI?
A: In short, yes, it is a good investment. As a farmer and grower your time is valuable. Automating your operations allows you to put your time and energy into growing the best crop possible. Remember, automation will control and often improve crop quality.
Q: Can gutter connected greenhouses be converted to natural ventilation? If so, how is this done?
A: Gutter connected greenhouses are best managed by both natural ventilation and mechanical cooling. You will often find roof vents and side walls vents as standard equipment for a gutter connect. In warmer climates, evaporative pad systems, fans and louvers are a necessity. Coordinate all of those assets with one of our touchscreen controllers and you get the optimal environment to keep your plants happy and healthy.
Q: Is natural ventilation possible with a greenhouse equipped with an evaporative pad system?
A: In this case we recommend using our Roll Lock as a bottom seal to your side walls to make sure that no air is pulled from your side walls into the greenhouse. This ensures that the air is pulled through the pads when engaged.
Q: What is the advantage of using the sealed curtains that Advancing Alternatives is recommending?
A: Using our Roll Lock to thermally seal your ventilation curtains benefits you in two important ways: 1.) With a layer of air between two layers of poly your sidewalls provide an R-value just like your roof. 2.) With our roll lock extrusion and air jumped to the end panels, your curtains no longer leak heat or allow cold air to infiltrate the greenhouse. It’s a solution for 4-season operations.
Q: What variables do your climate controls monitor in a greenhouse?
A: Humidity and temperature are the two most common variables our environmental controllers monitor. Some models can override vent openings based on weather inputs.
Q: Would it be better to start out with manual gear cranks and then invest later in automated controls when I’m starting to turn a profit?
A: Gear cranks are a great way to ventilate naturally if you are just getting into the greenhouse business. It is very easy to upgrade at a later time and makes sense if you are restrained by a budget.
Q: I want to implement this in phases so it is more affordable. What is the best way to go about this?
A: First thing is to purchase the necessary components to convert your side walls to manual natural ventilation. Then, if possible, add a roof vent. Once those items are installed, then you can easily add automation to coordinate the vents for maximum efficiency.
Q: Will I be able to install the automated controls myself or will I need to hire a contractor?
A: We always recommend using qualified electricians for any electrical work.
Q: Do you charge for programming updates to your automated controls?
A: We do not charge for standard updates; they are a service to our customers. We do reserve the right to charge for custom programming when a customer has special needs or unique applications that they are requesting.
Q: Will my line staff be able to operate your automated controls?
A: Our controllers have been created with the end-user in mind. We pride ourselves in creating controls that are easy to use and understand.
Q: Will I be able to program this system myself?
A: We provide detailed instructions for configuring your controller. However, it helps if you understand electronics to some degree. The parameters are easy to change and very intuitive, allowing your staff to make changes as needed.
Q: Does Advancing Alternatives do consultations with growers interested in new greenhouse construction or updating an older greenhouse?
A: Yes, we do. We can easily consult from our office by understanding the details and desired outcomes. Concepts are easily communicated through drawings, video and photography.
Q: Do you charge for a consultation?
A: We do not charge for initial consultation from our offices. We are always happy to provide a quote for onsite visits that require travel and time out of the office.
Q: Does the future favor natural ventilation over traditional mechanical cooling?
A: We don’t think it favors one over the other. Any effective cooling solution will consider every factor (i.e. growing operation, location, energy costs, etc.) and may be accomplished by combining natural ventilation and mechanical cooling.
Call now and talk to Advancing Alternative’s knowledgeable staff for more information on their greenhouse products and/or for a free consultation: 877-546-2257, or visit their website at www.advancingalternatives.com.