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Thread: Apartment Balcony Greenhouse - Nepenthes (build thread)

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    mksmith's Avatar
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    Apartment Balcony Greenhouse - Nepenthes (build thread)

    I am building a simple greenhouse on our apartment balcony that will likely be used to house highland Nepenthes (possibly year-around). I have been wanting to build a greenhouse for a while, and with the limits of living in an apartment in the city with no land I have been growing plants in closets. Our apartment has a south facing balcony that is 21' x 7' and is only used to house a few patio chairs at the moment.

    Spring is quickly approaching, making it an ideal time to begin this project.

    I have completed the first phase of the project and constructed the frame of the greenhouse using pressure treated 2x2s. This greenhouse is more of a large box... 7 ft wide 5 ft long and almost 4 ft high. If you look to the back you can see that the back-side is up against a 4ft high concrete wall, the left side is against our apartment and the right side is up against a metal railing. I believe that having the greenhouse nestled like this will provide protection from weather, which is important on the 8th floor of this apartment building.

    In the photo you can see the intake vent on the lower front side which is where I will place a foundation intake vent, the exhaust vent is a hinged panel that will be hooked to a autovent opener. There is also a makeshift door to the left to enter and tend to the plants.

    I am wrapping the greenhouse in 6 mil poly plastic and then do another layer on the inside of bubble wrap. I do have concerns about light. The balcony receives filter light most of the day and my readings are showing about 300-400 fc of light through the 6 mil poly plastic, this is too low to grow highland Nepenthes, so I might have to run some additional lighting, I will troubleshoot as I go. In the afternoon the balcony begins to receive some direct lighting only for a few hours, this may be enough to grow some good plants.

    I will update this thread as I go for those interested in doing something similar.

    Obviously there is a lot to think about in the upcoming phases, heating, cooling, lighting, humidity, water, etc. I have most of these ironed out but am taking this one step at a time. Right now I am working to get the structure up and wrapped.

    Let me know if you guys have questions, observation, inputs, suggestions...

    Thanks for looking.

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    zlookup's Avatar
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    looks cool. I would be interested to see how it handles the winter temps.. will you be looking to supplement heating/cooling as well during the winter/summer months respectively?
    --------
    z

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    scottychaos's Avatar
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    I think you will find Washington DC is WAY too cold in the winter to heat an outdoor greenhouse to the level needed to keep nepenthes..unless you dont mind spending several hundred dollars a month for heat..its hard to say how much without trying it, but $200 to $800 a month is probably plausable.
    basically you will have to run heat 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 3 or 4 months..

    IMO, its probably not doable..

    Scot

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    UnstuckinTime's Avatar
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    Why four feet tall?
    "The plants you grow, end up growing you."


    My Grow List:
    http://www.terraforums.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=123995

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    BANNED
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    Yeah, not sure that you're in the best climate for that, Mike. Maybe just in the non-winter months?

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    mksmith's Avatar
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    @zlookup Both Heating and Cooling. Heatiny by way of a oil filled radiator in the 1000w - 1500w range along with a backup propane heater. Cooling using a window air conditioning unit as I do inside to cool my plants.

    @scotty Winter is going to be a challenge.

    This greenhouse is 111 sq/ft of exposed surface area maybe a little less. looking at the pic in the initial post the left side is up again the apartment wall and the backside is against a concrete wall. The minimum temperature in my area is usually about 24F in January, and lets say I have to heat up to 60F, thought temp at night will be allowed to go in the high 40s.

    Looking at the Greenhouse Monthly Heating Calculator (http://www.littlegreenhouse.com/heat-calc.shtml) I will go with

    Area: 111 sq/ft
    Inside Temp: 60F
    Outside Temp: 25F
    Heat Loss Value: 1.15 (This is the R-value of 6 mil poly)

    I get 509 Kilowatts of electricity. I believe it is about 0.12 a kilowatt in VA (Our apartment divides the utilities by the 1000 residents so I am not in the know about electricity costs at the moment), so that would be about $60 a month assuming every day and every hour of the month is 25F and I am constantly heating to 60F.

    This could be completely off, and heating this thing during the winter could be a waste of electricity. There are probably better options, like bringing in the plants for winter.

    @UnstuckinTime The structure is 4ft tall for a few reasons. This is the height of the railing and the concrete walls that encompass the balcony. I wanted to keep this structure inconspicuous to neighbors and building management. I don't think they will care, but I still wanted to keep this project low key. Also I wanted the windows looking out our apartment to not be covered by the greenhouse.

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    Kyle's Avatar
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    Heating stuffs aside, I think you might benefit from putting the top on hinges. Unless you're a hobbit (and likely even then...), it's not going to be easy reaching into the back corners through that little door you built. I'm not going to do the geometry to figure it out exactly, but reaching in from that door to the opposite corner is over 7 feet away. Unless you're planning on literally crawling around in there with the ceiling not even being 4 feet high, you're going to want another way to access the plants.

    My $0.02. XP

    EDIT: Also, if you end up having extra space in there, I'd load it full of either 5g buckets or 1g jugs full of water during the winter. The water will take a while to warm up initially, but the specific heat of water combined with its accessibility makes it an unbeatable option for sort of "internal insulation." Depending on the amount of water you load into the space, it could cut your heating costs quite substantially.

    EDITEDIT: D'oh. A couple more things to note about heating. First of all, do you have a thermostat for the heater? Heating might be quite dangerous otherwise. Also, because of the fact that a radiator does, in fact, rely on radiation to heat its surroundings, it's got got to have something to actually heat - something physical, something that consumes space. Putting a radiator in there with the plants will cause the radiator to directly heat the plants' tissues and pots themselves, not the surrounding air. Air isn't dense enough to absorb the heat radiated by a radiator. I don't know anything about heating greenhouses and I don't have intimate knowledge of the physics and thermodynamics behind radiators, but I think my logic is sound. Might want to look into it and/or be careful with the radiator.

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    Not Growing Up! GrowinOld's Avatar
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    If you use supplemental lighting,
    everyone is going to think you are growing pot!
    Personally, growing some Sarrs, VFT's & dews might be a better course of action for the patio.
    If you put tubs inside the "chamber" to hold a few inches of water, the 4' height is ideal for them.
    Neps are not going to like winter out there at all.

    I would reserve the Neps for indoors where you can control things better.

    I think even without lights, people are going to think there is pot inside it however,
    both police AND thieves!

    But good luck.
    Experience is the best teacher. At least it used to be.
    But then, common sense isn't so common anymore, is it.


    http://www.terraforums.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=113866

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