5 Considerations for Year-Round Greenhouse Growing & 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Switching to Solar Energy
A greenhouse can offer a lot to your household. You can get a head start on the growing season, have out of season flowers and vegetables, and it’s a great hobby to help spend long days.
But, can you plant year round in a greenhouse? Many people believe they can grow anything anytime when they just got their own greenhouse. You can, but that’s not always the case. Sure, it depends on what you’re planting in the first place. But, it also depends on the greenhouse itself and how you plant it.
Here are 5 things you need to consider if you want to plant year round in a greenhouse.
1. Greenhouse Building Materials
Growing year round is a different beast than just using a small greenhouse for starting seeds. When growing year round, the building needs to be made of sturdier stuff. Glass or treated thick plastic are both good investments for this type of adventure. Cheaper materials will age in the weather and will need to be replaced up to a few times a year.
Use treated wood or metal benches inside the greenhouse to avoid rot. Moisture in the air will eat away at untreated wood.
This could be bad news if you already built your greenhouse with cheap materials. But, if you haven’t yet, make sure to consider the material. Here’s a collection of 84 greenhouse plans to get you started.
2. Add Axtra Heating
Heating the structure is a must for year round growing. Depending on the style of your greenhouse you can heat in a few different ways. Some have electrical heaters that can ensure a steady temperature, but these can increase a power bill.
To add an extra measure of heat to your greenhouse, you can compost inside. As organic matter, such as leaves, eggs shells, and shredded newspaper decays, it gives off heat. By having a compost box under raised planting tables, you’ll be providing extra heat to take some of the work off the heaters.
Jugs can also help heat up the building. Milk jugs or empty cat litter jugs painted black and filled with water will heat up considerably when left in the sunlight. Over the course of the day, the jugs will absorb the heat and radiate heat once the sun has gone down.
3. Get Rid of Excess Heat
Controlling the heat in the structure can be hard, but that’s why we have vents. Whether they’re hatches on the roof or just small push open vents on the side walls, air vents provide a breath of fresh air and a cool breeze for stifling heat.
To improve ventilation don’t over crowd your greenhouse. If the leaves on the plants are touching, you should move them slightly apart to provide both room to grow and room for air to get through. If you’re not home during the day, you may want to invest in an automatic ventilation system. These systems will turn on either by a timer or by sensing the humidity and heat in the greenhouse. They will shut off in the same way.
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Shade clothes can be used on hot days to help cool off the temperature in the greenhouse. Simply spread it out on top of the building to create artificial shade. These net like blankets can be stored on a shelf in a corner and brought out when needed. To quicken the cooling effect you can soak them in cool water before draping them over the greenhouse.
4. Pests: The Worst Garden Enemy
Pests are going to be attracted to your plants inside just as they would be if the vegetation was being grown outside. This means you’ll have to keep a watchful eye out for them. Some of the more common greenhouse pests include aphids, mites, and whiteflies.
If you spot them, you can try a number of manual removal options. Vacuuming and squashing are the first attempts at control. If you spot pests on one or more plants, immediately move that plant away from the others. Quarantining isn’t an end all to pests, but it will help reduce the chance of non-flying pests spreading too quickly. Wash the plant with soapy water to remove pests.
Make sure to rinse off the soap once the wash is complete. Depending on what type of pest has arrived you may need to transplant the affected plant into new soil. Put out sticky traps around the affected plants or area. Fly strips work well for flying pests, and sticky pads th
at lay flat on the ground or bench can also be used for crawling pests.
A neat trick I learned was a mixture of pepper powder and vinegar. Mix several tablespoons of pepper powder, the stronger smell, the better, and three cups of vinegar together to create a very foul smelling pest repellant. Circle the greenhouse with a single line of the mix and it’ll detour insects, small mammals, and other creepy crawlers.
Be sure not to get any vinegar on your growing soil as vinegar will kill soil. Replace the circle after a rain shower or once a week.
5. Plant Diseases: The 2nd-Worst Garden Enemy
Like pests, diseases must be controlled quickly. Diseases can spread very fast in a greenhouse and before you know it you’ve lost half of your plants to root rot or another fungal disease. While checking for pests, it’s a good idea to check on the health of the plants themselves. Wilting or discolored leaves are often the first signs of a problem.
Quarantine any sick plants from the healthy ones. If possible set up a small area in your greenhouse just for sick plants. This will make it easier for you to act quickly in caring for the plants. Never reuse soil. Even soil left over from the transplant of a healthy plant can be dangerous. Fresh soil is always going to be the best option. Wash out containers and planters with soapy water after they’ve been emptied. If the plant that came out of them was sick, you can use bleach. Make sure to rinse away any chemical residue that may be left behind.
Maintain the health of your plants inside the greenhouse by being careful what outside plants you bring in. Inspect any new plant for disease or pest before adding it to your greenhouse. If you do spot problems treat them and if not put the plant in a corner by itself for a week or so to keep an eye out for any problems that may develop.
Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Switching to Solar Energy
More and more homeowners are making the switch to solar energy for their home. As electricity prices rise and solar panel prices fall, installing a residential solar PV system is becoming a sound economic decision for many homeowners across the country, translating into considerable savings over the 25 year lifetime of the panels.
Installing a solar energy system for your home is a big decision, the value of which is similar to a car, so you want to do your homework and make the best decision for your situation. Here are a few of the mistakes to avoid when switching to solar energy.
1. Having Unreasonable Expectations
While solar panels for your home can be a great investment, it’s important to realize that, depending on where you live, it can be one that takes many years to pay off. But remember, most solar panels have a lifetime of about 25 years, sometimes even longer, so time is on your side when it comes to recouping your money. Having a reasonable expectation of the payback period will help you in your discussions with installers and in deciding how to finance your system, as different financing options will affect the profitability of your investment.
Liberty Generator can help you figure out how much solar energy you can produce with different size systems, how that compares to your electricity consumption, and what that translates into in terms of savings. All of this information, along with the expected payback period, can also be found in our Solar Report for homeowners.
When it comes to unreasonable expectations, another factor that homeowners often overlook is the variability of the sun. The output of your solar system will vary from day to day and from season to season, as it is affected by cloud cover as well as the number of daylight hours. Understanding this variability and knowing what to expect for your location will help you in managing your expectations with regard to the profitability of your system.
Just like with investments on the stock market, day to day variation is normal, but what is important is the long term outlook for your investment – in the case of solar, if you’ve done your homework, it is a decision that can offer consistent returns.
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2. Not Researching Your Financing Options
As mentioned, installing solar panels for your home is expensive, on the order of $15,000 to $25,000, depending on the size of your system and where you live (more on incentives in the next section). Most homeowners don’t have that kind of cash lying around for an outright purchase.
When solar PV systems started to become popular, solar leases were developed as a means for people to afford solar panels for their home: With zero-down payment and low monthly payments, it seemed like an obvious choice for many homeowners keen to reap the benefits of solar energy. But there are a number of important drawbacks when it comes to solar leases.
With a lease you don’t own the system and as a result, you miss out on some of the key benefits of having a solar PV system, namely the federal investment tax credit of 30% (along with other local incentives) and your home’s increase in value (in fact a solar lease can undermine the sale of your home, as many would-be buyers do not want to take over a lease).
Today, you have another option, one that is increasingly popular: a solar loan. Solar loans often come with no down-payment, flexible loan terms, and reasonable monthly payments, that allow you the homeowner to enjoy all the benefits of your solar PV system. The Sunmetrix Buy or Lease Calculator allows you to compare your numbers, adjusting the terms of the loan or lease to really see what makes the most financial sense for you.
3. Missing Out on Financial Incentives
A reputable solar installer will be aware of the solar tax credits, solar rebates and other financial incentives available to you where you live, and might even help you with the paperwork, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also know about these programs. Ultimately, you will be the one who pays for your system and benefits from these programs – it’s in your best interest to make sure you don’t overpay.
In your initial research phase, you want to understand what programs are available to you to bring down the cost of your system and you want to know the fine-print (for example, do you have to wait until tax filing time to receive your benefit?). All of this information will help you make the best financing decision and arm you with the information you need when you start speaking with installers.
It will also help you manage your expectations as you navigate the process. You can refer to our regularly updated pages of incentives by state, listing the available programs in your state with links to the details. Some programs are state-wide but others are specific to certain municipalities. If you want to focus on the programs available for your address or zip code, you can refer to our Solar Report. To be sure that you don’t miss out on financial incentives that can make your solar panels more affordable, it pays to do your research.
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4. Not Getting More Than One Quote
As with most big purchases, it’s worth your time and effort to get a second (and third) opinion. Not only will you learn more with each site visit from installers, but you will have a chance to interact with the companies and determine which one is best suited to handle your installation.
Installers will evaluate the condition of your roof, consider its orientation, take shade estimates and go over your electricity bills with you. This is an important process that is required for the installers to propose the best design for your system and make a proper estimate of the cost.
In an ideal world, the installers will make estimates for the same size system, using similar equipment, so that you can make direct comparisons. While this is not always possible, you do want to understand how they determine the best system size for you (one that will meet your needs).
5. Waiting Too Long
It is a big decision, but waiting until prices come down is not always the best strategy because you could be missing out on savings today, in the form of lower electricity bills and/or financial incentives that are time sensitive. As more and more homeowners chose solar energy for their home, solar rebates and tax credits will be phased out. Electricity prices continue to rise, on average by 3% every year across the U.S. since 2005, known as the escalation rate (in some states this annual increase is more than 5%).
It’s important to realize that solar leases also come with their own escalation rate, whereby monthly payments increase over time, something that generally makes leases less desirable. With an outright purchase or a solar loan, however, your solar PV system can help you reduce your electricity bill and mitigate the risk of rising costs, as you will know exactly what you’re paying for your system with no unpleasant surprises.
Why not Discover today what solar energy can do for you where you live?
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