Upgrades Can Pay You Back
Part Two in our series on greenhouse upgrades focuses on projects that improve energy efficiency to provide a quick return on investment.
The DELTA FIN TF system provides energy savings by creating an envelope of warmth around the crops rather than heating the air.
by Michael Kovalycsik, National Sales & Marketing Director, Delta T Solutions
Upgrading your greenhouses can be expensive, but there's a good chance it's worth the money when you consider your return on investment. Thanks to their energy efficiency, new heating systems are one of the wisest investments you can make. And while heating upgrades can be costly, the older, inefficient heating units often cost growers a fortune in the form of wasted energy.
EFFICIENT HEATING OPTIONS
One heating option to consider is an energy-efficient hydronic radiant system. Unlike forced-air heating systems, which lose a large amount of heat in the air that never reaches the plants, hydronic radiant floor or bench heat warms plants at the soil level. These systems (see Delta T’s high-efficiency boiler options here) work with the greenhouse boiler, which heats water that is pumped through tubes running throughout the greenhouse. Hydronic radiant heating systems operate with a closed-loop system, which means very little heat is wasted as the water circulates through the tubes. Because radiant heat creates a moist environment, water usage also is reduced.
4 Ways to Finance Your Upgrade
If you're ready to invest in greenhouse energy-efficient upgrades but aren't sure how to finance them, a number of resources exist that can help:
1. Utility Company Rebates: Rebates on new equipment or upgrades that increase energy efficiency are available through many utilities companies. A database of incentives by state for renewables and efficiency can be found here: www.dsireusa.org.
2. REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) Energy Audits and Renewables Development: This program provides grants for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance. These grants are competitive, but recipients can be awarded up to $100,000. Energy audit recipients must pay a minimum of 25% of the audit costs, which vary depending on the complexity of the audit and time spent conducting it.
3. REAP Renewable Energy Systems/Energy Efficiency Improvement Program: This program, also competitive, provides up to $500,000 for installation of renewable energy systems and other energy efficiency improvements.
4. REAP Guaranteed Loan Program: This program encourages commercial financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. It teams project developers with local lenders, who then can apply for a loan guarantee up to 85% of the loan amount from USDA Rural Development.
More information on the REAP programs is available at www.rurdev.usda.gov.
Source: University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Energy Audits
In addition to energy savings, hydronic radiant heat also helps plants germinate faster, resulting in quicker turns. Because the soil is heated evenly, plants grow more uniformly, so growers can feel confident charging a premium for their high-quality product. Crops grown with radiant heat also benefit from reduced disease incidences. More consistent and healthier crops are another return on investment factor to consider.
OTHER WISE INVESTMENTS
If you decide to invest in a new heating system, it's important to consider the condition of your greenhouse before the new system is installed. To get the fastest return on your investment, you'll want to make sure your structure is free of air leaks and that you have measures in place to keep the heat you're paying for inside the greenhouse. This means inspecting glazings, walls, doors and vents for cracks or leaks.
Here's a list of some other investments to consider to keep your greenhouse operating efficiently, courtesy of Rutgers University Extension Specialist A.J. Both:
- Energy Curtains. Installing energy curtains can save energy, helping to lower your utility bills. As an added benefit, they can double as shade devices.
- Perimeter Insulation. Installed vertically around the greenhouse perimeter, insulation will help reduce heat loss through the floor to the ground that surrounds the greenhouse.
- Double Layer Glazing. Double poly or double glass glazing can reduce heat loss by as much as 50% over the course of a season compared to a single layer of glazing.
- Windbreaks. If your operation is in an area that experiences high winds during the heating season, planting trees around the greenhouse can help maintain inside temperature. Be sure the trees do not obstruct sunlight entering the greenhouse.
COMING IN OUR NEXT EDITION
Part 3 in our series on upgrades looks at planning your system update and getting it done right. Read part 1 of the series here.
Delta T Solutions has designed and manufactured customized heating solutions for greenhouse growers using on hydronic (hot water radiant) heat for more than 20 years. To learn more about cost-effective in-ground, bench and perimeter heating systems; high-efficiency boiler systems; and other systems that improve crop health, contact Delta T at 800.552.5058 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.