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Thread: Pricing Greenhouses

  1. #1
    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    Pricing Greenhouses

    So, I may be in the market for a greenhouse very soon. (Hooray!) But there are so many choices... I'm not sure where to begin looking. I know that I want it to be expandable, because I'll probably get one that's just big enough for my current collection if I get it any time in the near future. (It would be nice to be able to section off part as a hothouse, or add on a smaller unit as a hothouse, as well.) I'd also like to be able to attach it to a shed or outbuilding, so that I can have some built-in storage without using up space where plants could be growing. I probably won't need to worry about a heater until next year, as I doubt I'll have the foundation ready and frame up before it starts warming up for Spring, but I was thinking it would be nice to have a wood or pellet stove in the shed part and use some sort of heat exchanger to warm the greenhouse area. A thermostat-controlled propane heater would probably serve as the normal heat source, with the stove for back-up. But vents, humidifiers and maybe an A/C will definitely need to be in by May/June.
    Here's a little list of the things I'd like to include (mostly inspired by the greenhouses I've seen here on TF) -
    - 12 x 8 feet or so
    - Sunken foundation
    - Wiring for lights/greenhouse appliances
    - Shelving (freestanding or built-in? I'm torn.)
    - Vents/fans with automatic and manual controls (since the thermostat comes later)
    - Heat/air conditioning with the same
    - Backup generator (this would be out in the boonies, so needs to be able to weather a power outage)
    - Outside composter with a heat exchanger (did you know a healthy compost pile can get up to 170F at its core?)
    Did I miss anything? Just trying to sketch out some dollar figures here. This will be an ongoing project, so like I was saying, not everything needs to happen at once. I'm just trying to get a sense of the various costs and what brands are the best (in terms of durability, light availability, and affordability.) Any ideas/help/links would be excellent.
    Thanks,
    ~Joe
    o//~ Livin' like a bug ain't easy / My old clothes don't seem to fit me /
    I got little tiny bug feet / I don't really know what bugs eat /
    Don't want no one steppin' on me / Now I'm sympathizin' with fleas /
    Livin' like a bug ain't easy / Livin' like a bug ain't easy... o//~

  2. #2
    Tony Paroubek's Avatar
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    Well you got your work cut out for you!

    First if you have the room, make it bigger than you think you need.. alot bigger! It is easier to setup bigger than it is to go back and expand. The majority of the cost isn't in the greenhouse structure but in all the equipment to make it run. It won't add a whole lot more cost to get equipment designed for a larger greenhouse so go direct for the larger structure now! hehe

    This is a good place to start http://www.igcusa.com/ They have a seperate division for supplies http://www.greenhousemegastore.com/

    First thing you need to figure out is what temperature range will you be running or multiple ranges if you split up the inside. Then you need to compare with your outside temperatures during the hottest time and coldest time of the year and decide if it's feasible to replicate the temperatures inside that you want to achieve. Generally speaking it is easier to raise the inside temperature above ambient than it is to lower it below ambient. Alot will also depend on how much you are willing to spend on utility costs to maintain said temperature zones! There are various methods to raise and lower temperatures. Their effectiveness and utility costs vary depending on just how much cooling or heating you need.
    Is that a Nepenthes in your pocket or you just happy to see me?

  3. #3
    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    That's kind of what I thought, re: going for more space than I need. But, I could get a small used greenhouse for super cheap from craigslist, which is tempting. Perhaps once I grow out of it, I can get a second, larger one, put them back-to-back, and use the smaller one for a hothouse. My N. bicalcurata should be sprawling out by then. Fortunately, I already have a decent indoor setup for my tropicals, so this can be an incremental project. Right now I'd just like to have the greenhouse to overwinter my temperate plants and get them started early. As I have time to improve it, I'll add fans, a swamp cooler, a heater, etc. But yes, from what I gather so far, the overall price can get pretty steep. What size would you recommend for someone with about 180 species, with about a dozen ten-gallon pots of Sarrs and 20 large Neps in 10" square pots? My outdoor collection presently takes up at least 40 square feet, maybe a little less if I could find a tray big enough to pack them all in next to one another.
    ~Joe
    o//~ Livin' like a bug ain't easy / My old clothes don't seem to fit me /
    I got little tiny bug feet / I don't really know what bugs eat /
    Don't want no one steppin' on me / Now I'm sympathizin' with fleas /
    Livin' like a bug ain't easy / Livin' like a bug ain't easy... o//~

  4. #4
    Tony Paroubek's Avatar
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    You can always add to an existing greenhouse by extending it or adding a whole new structure to one end.

    I guess the first question.. if you are planning to overwinter your current outdoor collection in an unheated coldframe this Winter, and then you make it a tropical house next Summer, what are you planning to do with your outdoor collection the following Winter?

    As for size.. hmm I dunno. Depends how you answer my first question and not sure how much space you have to build on, what your budget looks like, what you will end up paying for utility costs to run the final setup. These would be in my opinion the main factors. It is not really all that bad to put up a pretty good size structure and then get it running. The main concern at that point is heat/cooling costs for operation.. Of the two, heating can get very expensive very fast if you need alot of it for prolonged periods.

    There are calculators to help figure out how much heating you will need to reach certain temperatures and estimate ahead of time what your heating bills might look like. The variable include surface area of the greenhouse, glazing (material) of the greenhouse roof and walls, temperature differential between inside and outside.
    http://www.igcusa.com/greenhouse-btu-calculator.html


    This is another good sight to shop and compare prices on everything from structures to equipment
    http://www.growerssupply.com/farm/supplies/home


    Just a side note. I am glad to see you considering a back up generator. That is a good first step to preventing disasters. I would also encourage you to do the following when designing your heating and cooling systems. A generator is good for when the power is out but it will not help if a motor burns out or a breaker pops.


    1. Oversize your heating and cooling a little.

    2. Make them essentially two systems for each, independent from each other. So for example exhaust fans and heaters use two of each, seperately wired. Combined they can satisfy your criteria in #1 but that way if a motor goes out or a breaker pops your greenhouse isn't dead in the water with no heating or cooling. Will cost more in the short run to buy two smaller units of each rather than one bigger sized unit and extra thermostats, breakers, wiring etc. But worth it in the long run.

    3. Phone alarm system. They have nifty little systems that monitor the temperatures and if they get too hot or cold will call a preset number and let you know something isn't right. Particularly handy if you don't go with the plan in #2 or your greenhouse is somewhat remote and your backup generator is not automatic.

    Contrary to popular belief. The greatest danger is not a heater breaking in Winter.. but it is a vent system breaking in Summer. Greenhouses in full sun can cook and fry your plants in the span of 10 minutes if the exhaust system fails. Freezing in the Winter from a failed heater takes a whole lot longer.. as the greenhouse cools down the rate it cools slows the closer it gets to freezing.
    Is that a Nepenthes in your pocket or you just happy to see me?

  5. #5
    rattler's Avatar
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    that would be pretty much why i havent built one......i can buy a greenhouse for what i have spent on a couple rifles, the support equipment and the cost to run it is what has stopped me......basically my plan is to build a sun room off the back of the house in the future hooked in to our central air, with large windows that i can grow the hardier species in......figure the touchy stuff will never leave my basement.....i only have decent weather for running a green house 4 months out of the year, the rest ill either be heating it or cooling it.....would cost me a fortune to maintain the perfect temps for either the true highlanders or the true lowlanders
    cervid serial killer
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    I didn't get stimulated but he kept his promise on change, that's about all I got left!
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  6. #6
    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    As for alarms, I'm familiar with call systems (for things other than thermostats) and was thinking about putting one together. I actually have a couple of old junker computers and would like to use that as a programmable control unit.
    I'm in zone 8a/b so all of my temperate plants live outside year-round already. I have a few Sarracenia that would enjoy milder winters and higher highs in the summer (S. minor "Okee" comes to mind.) I have indoor space for Neps, with good temperatures and ample light, so my motivation to move them to the greenhouse is merely so I can let them sprawl. I'm not entirely sure how much space I'll have to work with - I'll be taking measurements this weekend - but large vegetable beds are going in now so I believe I'll be able to snag a plot for a bog. I also talked about installing a water feature and the owners sounded pretty excited about that. My tentative plan is to overwinter all of my outdoor plants in a basic coldframe setup to protect them from animals and any unexpected weather. Depending on the order in which things get done, I'll gradually move plants that would prefer outdoor weather to the bog or benches (with ample poultry wire to keep out curious chickens and terriers.)
    Once the greenhouse is no longer home base, I would like to install a couple minibog-type setups in whiskey barrels or the like inside to house my warm-loving Sarrs, and the remaining space would be used for highland Neps and experimenting with other tropical/subtropical plants - last year I had a lot of success with my sundews outdoors, so they're definitely on the agenda, and depending on how my Ceph and Heli come through the Winter I might consider them, too.
    Fans, vent controllers and swamp coolers seem to be the cheapest elements to buy, so I'll focus on that stuff first, along with some sort of autonomous control setup. For heat, I was thinking I would get an electric, preferably one with an independent fan control, and later on a gas backup (hopefully with some sort of automatic controls... they make those, right?) The power will depend on the size of the greenhouse, of course. I definitely hear you on the back-up systems, but I'll probably have to buy them one at a time. If I end up going with this smaller used setup, I'll have some spare cash to start things right, but otherwise it's going to be a work-in-progress for a while.
    Here's the average temperatures in the area:

    Humidity averages high - 90% mornings with 65-80% afternoons. The land is built on a hillside with southern exposure and little natural shade; one of my first projects will be to plant a few fast-growing trees and hedges as windbreaks at the edges of the property. Which is not to say that I'm worries about wind - I understand that it's breezy in the area but not prone to big windstorms. The local almanac says that they get yearly winds up to 60 mph and 80 mph every ten.
    I'll look over the numbers and try that calculator you linked. I like the idea of having a hothouse inside the greenhouse to make heat control simpler, which will skew the numbers a little, so I guess I'll just round up.
    Thanks again,
    ~Joe

    PS - For a 12'x8'x6' glass enclosure, going from 30F to 80F would take 22337 BTUs. I definitely don't need this much heat any time soon. To 65F is 15636. 10'x6'x6' works out to 15455/10818, respectively. But 30F is a rare occurance in the area, so it should normally be much less. 12'x8'x6' from 45F to 80F is 15636, and 8936 for 45F to 65F. 10'x6'x6' is 11486/6563, in this case. Does this seem feasible? How can I estimate the insulating effect and its consequences on the cooling costs in the summer? With average highs in the 70s I'm not anticipating ever going too widely outside of acceptable high temperatures inside - I'll aim to be equipped for such but plan not to use it often regarding my utility expenses.
    o//~ Livin' like a bug ain't easy / My old clothes don't seem to fit me /
    I got little tiny bug feet / I don't really know what bugs eat /
    Don't want no one steppin' on me / Now I'm sympathizin' with fleas /
    Livin' like a bug ain't easy / Livin' like a bug ain't easy... o//~

  7. #7
    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    OK, rereading your post I understand more what you're saying about buying two smaller units each. But if I'm acquiring the expensive parts like heaters before I really need them, would it be better to get two redundant units of the same size? I imagine that a larger heater runs more efficiently than two smaller units that add up to the same output, and the way things are usually priced it would probably be cheaper altogether to get two heaters that can each do adequate heating on their own. I guess my approach will ultimately depend on how soon I'm able to get the money together.
    ~Joe

    PS - Ack, even more questions. Can the heaters be too large? If I have too much heating capacity and I only want to increase the temperatures a little, such as keeping it warm enough for highland Neps, will the change in temperature be sudden enough to upset my plants?
    o//~ Livin' like a bug ain't easy / My old clothes don't seem to fit me /
    I got little tiny bug feet / I don't really know what bugs eat /
    Don't want no one steppin' on me / Now I'm sympathizin' with fleas /
    Livin' like a bug ain't easy / Livin' like a bug ain't easy... o//~

  8. #8
    rattler's Avatar
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    depends on how they run......for example, my parents have a furnace about 30% to large for their house and its constantly burning through parts......why? cause that style of furnace is meant to run for longer periods of time......as is it kicks on....blows air for a short while(few minutes) than kicks off.....ideally it should kick on, run for 15 minutes or longer than kick off but since it pushes so much air in such a small house its constantly kicking on and off which burns out certain parts of the furnace......so they are constantly fixing it......

    so basically the answer is ask the manufacturer how it tolerates kicking off and on more often if your using one bigger than you need.....some can prolly handle it fine, some maybe not so much......
    cervid serial killer
    Know guns, know peace, know safety. No guns, no peace, no safety
    I didn't get stimulated but he kept his promise on change, that's about all I got left!
    http://www.wolfpointherald.com/--http://www.safety-brite.net/

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