Monday, November 17, 2014

Insulating and Winterizing the Greenhouse

The temperatures are dropping, and it's time to get my new greenhouse ready for winter!  I'd be thrilled to keep my greenhouse above 55°F (13°C) for the plants that I want to keep in there, but I'd be fine with above 45°F (7°C) with our winter temperatures. We're using a space heater right now to heat the greenhouse, but in order to keep energy costs down, we want to insulate it the best we can.

After researching insulation techniques, here are the things that we did:

1. Insulate the inside with bubble wrap.

We're still working on bubble wrapping the entire thing - it takes awhile!  We used the kind with larger bubbles.


2. Place styrofoam insulation around lower half of the interior walls.

We have wooden walls on the bottom of our greenhouse.  We bought some styrofoam insulation, as well as supplemented with all the random pieces of styrofoam (and boxes of styrofoam bits) that we have been saving.


3.  Fill up large containers with water.

The water helps stabilize the temperatures.  During the day they will warm up, and at night they will release heat.  The more containers, the better!


4.  Stop air from leaking through.

We put foam weatherstripping around the door, since that is where a lot of heat escapes.  I also plan to make a weatherproof cushion to place at the base of the door outside, to further insulate the gap at the bottom of the door.  On the inside, we have a blanket pushed up against the door.


We realized that we had a lot of heat escaping from the foundation of the greenhouse, where the greenhouse meets the base that it sits on.  Since we had already put the styrofoam on the interior, we decided not to spray foam insulation into the cracks (and such ventilation is good in summer anyway.)  Instead we put salt marsh hay (this area's equivalent to pine straw) around the exterior.  It immediately made a difference and helped tremendously in keeping the greenhouse warm.


I do realize we've probably just invited all the mice in the area to come stay in our nice hay filled bed.  Mr. Red House says they'll add body heat and be of help.  I have my doubts about that and just hope that they don't do too much damage to my flower bed.  (My next order of business is looking into rodent repellants!)

The other option I've seen is to dig a trench next to the greenhouse and half bury sheets of styrofoam right next to the exterior for insulation.  After just building a wall around my shade garden, we were not keen on doing more digging, and a trench would disrupt my flower beds, so we decided against it.


I have to give a shout out to Mr. Red House for all his help with the sensors in the greenhouse.  As soon as I talked about wanting a greenhouse, he's been excited to integrate as much technology as he could in there.  One day, thanks to my technology-loving husband, I'm sure I will end up locked in my own house by an evil computer, but other than that I have to admit that technology is very useful. (Don't let Mr. Red House know I think that.)

The sensors Mr. Red House has put in the greenhouse have been immensely handy, as they feed information about the greenhouse status wirelessly to my phone and computer.  For all those techies out there, here is what we have:

top: Aeon Labs MultiSensor
bottom: Smart Sense Multi Sensor
The Aeon Labs MultiSensor senses temperature, humidity, motion, and light levels.  I have it placed next to my plants.

The Smart Sense Multi Sensor is placed near the greenhouse roof and detects when it opens or closes, as well as what the temperature is up near the roof.

The awesome Mr. Red House has also made a nice app displaying my greenhouse stats in real time.  Check it out at the bottom of my blog page!

the display of my greenhouse stats around 1:30pm today
Our greenhouse is coming along pretty well, but I know temperatures will be even colder in a couple months.  If anyone has other ideas about how to insulate greenhouses, I'd love to hear them!

22 comments:

  1. Mr. Red House is a genius. Now we all can keep an eye on your greenhouse! And for the mice: I once read that the don't like pepper. I don't know if it is true. But you could sprinkle some peppercorns on the hay to keep mice away.

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    1. Hmm, I happen to have some giant bags of peppercorns! I have a lot of chili powder too that I might sprinkle around. Surely that would be a deterrent, right?

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  2. Fabulous! Isn't Marsh Hay wonderful?! I use it as year-round mulch in my potager garden, but put an extra heavy blanket of it on in late fall. I love the smell of it and the way it decomposes over time, and of course the way it protects the plants. Mr. Red House's system is impressive!

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    1. It is very nice. I've never seen it before, since down south they use pine straw for everything. Once the rest of the perennials in my greenhouse beds fade a little more, I'll cut them down and cover them with more marsh hay for mulch :)

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  3. That is SO COOL that you have your own greenhouse -- and that stats app at the bottom of your blog is simply amazing! What an incredible and wondrous time we live in. :-) I greatly look forward to checking the stats here on your blog as winter gets colder. Thanks for sharing this with us -- I had no idea that such things were even possible. Good luck with winter! -Beth

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    1. Thank you! I really have to owe it to Mr. Red House, as he knows all computer-related. It really is an incredible time we live in! It's awesome to be anywhere and still be able to check out what's going on in the greenhouse!

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  4. Hi Indie! I laughed at mice' body heat''!
    Stay warm!

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    1. Ha, though I don't mind too much as long as they aren't staying warm by nibbling on my perennials!

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  5. Your state of the art greenhouse is very impressive, Indie. You give great advice, some of which I will follow for my potting shed/greenhouse combination, including the straw. P. x

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    1. Glad you found some things to use! We're still tweaking things, and still trying to find time to finish putting up all the bubble wrap!

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  6. Wow, now I want a greenhouse too, so I can have such a cool app on my computer!
    I have a weather station thermometer in my kitchen that displays the temperature on two different places in my garden, without me having to even open the door, I thought that was cool when I got it, but yours is so much cooler!
    Best tip to keep the mice away is to get a cat or two, they will keep their own garden in pristine order, and with a bit of careful planning you don’t need to get anything damaged by them, I have never have.
    Did you get any snow this evening? I saw the news over here, some people got up to 7 ft of snow! Hope your garden – and greenhouse is OK :-)

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    1. Thankfully we didn't get as much snow as those poor people! We've only had a couple dustings of snow. It's quite cold, though!
      I have cats, but they are indoor (though we put them to work making sure our basement is mouse free.) I see one outdoor cat occasionally that must belong to a neighbor, but it looks pretty well fed. That would be nice if he patrolled around my greenhouse!

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  7. Well I am learning lots just in case someday I get my own greenhouse...and I love the technology you have installed to monitor it...perfect!

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    1. We've been still tweaking the technology - the greenhouse is right on the edge of the range of the Aeon Labs MultiSensor, so sometimes I have to go out there and adjust it so we keep getting data. It's a work in progress - thankfully I have Mr. Red House to fix my technology for me!

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  8. My pest control team is a cat and a cadre of tiny green frogs and anoles. Kitty does not spend the night in the GH but he loves the days there.

    The more mass you can put in the GH the better heat can be moderated. Not just containers of water but huge stones, concrete blocks, bricks, pots of moist soil even without a plant. I set my plastic pots in ceramic cache pots which insulates the soil a little, I think.

    Not all plants have the same needs for warmth. Some tender tropicals may benefit from wrapping with poly fleece row cover on cold nights, or a mini greenhouse inside the big one.

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    1. Those are good ideas! I have the space heater aimed at my more tender plants, but wrapping might be a good idea as it gets colder.

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  9. I'm quite impressed with all the research you did for insulating your greenhouse. I first ran into the bubble wrap idea this year. The problem in Florida would be the constant putting it up and taking it down. It's bad enough with my "dead body" sheets all over the yard.

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    1. Ha, I've done that before! Even taking down the bubble wrap for summer and putting it back up for winter is a little daunting. My husband is voting that we just leave all the bubble wrap up permanently after so much work!

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  10. Your red greenhouse looks nice and cozy! You gave some great suggestions, and I am sure your plants will do well. I had not considered the idea of water containers. I would think this would also help increase humidity, also a good thing?

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    1. Yes, I think so. I haven't looked into how humid the greenhouse needs to be yet. I know in summer I'm supposed to pour water on the floor to raise the humidity. There's still a lot I need to learn!

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  11. Thats a great looking greenhouse with insulation to match. The larger bubble is definitely superior, not so sure regarding all the hay, perfect hibernation area.

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    1. Ha, yeah I'm rather worried about mice in the hay. It does seem like the perfect spot for them!

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