Greenhouse agriculture is a big energy consumer, especially when it comes to growing in harsher climates. Heating, lighting and ventilating will always be needed, but there are ways to reduce their footprint and increase energy efficiency.
Greenhouse air is constantly modified, meaning energy is poured into it, to keep conditions optimal. So, it’s only logical that when this air leaves the perimeter, energy is lost.
Finding and blocking leaks is an essential first step, whether it be a vent that isn’t completely sealed or a gap between panes. If the air finds a way out, energy is wasted and money is spent unnecessarily.
Another step towards a tighter greenhouse environment is the use of insulation. This further decreases the air’s potential to escape with the all the energy invested into it. Though it may sound funny to a first-timer, a common form of insulation is specially designed bubble wrap.
Thermal, Shading & Blackout Screens
Screens are essentially an extension of insulation, designed specifically for greenhouse ceilings. Whether you suffer from overheating during the day time, or heat runoff during the night, there is a screen for your needs.
Thermal screens specialize in retaining heat, which is great if you find yourself constantly heating to maintain optimal temperatures. But they also act as barriers, allowing growers to reduce the vertical space of a greenhouse. Less space means less heating is necessary, further minimizing the heating footprint.
If your greenhouse is in warmer climates, you may experience overheating during summer days. In this case, shading or even blackout screens may help reduce the need for cooling.
For more about screens, check out “3 Reasons Why You Need a Thermal Screen“.
Humidity is unseen and less felt than temperatures (by us humans), but it plays a large role in the greenhouse environment, as high levels may cause diseases and overall diminished yield and quality.
The traditional method of dealing with humidity build-up is through ventilation- trading internal humid air, with drier external air. This becomes quite a waste of energy when taking into consideration the fact that the air inside has already been invested in, usually in the form of heat. Once exchanged, this heat is lost and the “new” air needs to be heated. Needless to say, this is a waste.
Using a dehumidifier allows growers to deal with high relative humidity levels in-house, retaining the heat already created. Furthermore, a well-designed, efficient dehumidifier may give off heat, providing a slight temperature boost, reducing the heating bill even more.
Not all greenhouses utilize artificial lighting, this depends greatly on region and the type of crop being grown.
In a setting where lighting is used, they can make a big difference in energy consumption. Modern LED lights can save as much as 40% of the energy consumed by CFL lightbulbs and up to 90% compared to incandescent bulbs. This makes lighting a major energy factor in operations where they are needed.
Technology and agriculture have long gone hand in hand. With modern advancements in real time measuring and monitoring, the need to overcompensate when it comes to heating, dehumidifying or irrigating diminishes.
Utilizing these technologies allows growers to invest exactly the amount of resources actually needed, instead of over investing in order to assure optimal conditions under uncertain terms.
This is a growing, yet promising field when it comes to accuracy and precision based agriculture.
Frequent Upkeep & Upgrade
These tips may help increase energy efficiency and decrease waste. But greenhouses, like the plants residing in them, are dynamic, and require constant attention.
The greenhouse business is ever changing, with new technologies constantly popping up. Staying updated with the latest research and products can lead to a constant increase of energy efficiency, so growers should make a point of being on the forefront of technology.