Lower Production Costs Part 1:
Maximize Energy Efficiency

Smart heating decisions can make a big difference to your bottom line. In this first of three articles, we explore ways to keep production costs down, starting with energy efficiency.

by Michael Kovalycsik, National Sales & Marketing Director, Delta T Solutions

 

And updated heating system, including a high-efficiency boiler such as Delta T Solutions’ Futera Fusion condensing boiler, can help growers reduce production costs long-term
An updated heating system, including a high-efficiency boiler such as Delta T Solutions' Futera Fusion condensing boiler, can help growers reduce production costs long-term.

 

Even though energy prices have fallen, greenhouse heating costs are still one of growers’ biggest expenses. Anytime heating costs can be lowered growers get a boost to the bottom line.

Rutgers University’s Dr. A.J. Both shares his list of the top five things growers should consider at the top of their lists to reduce energy costs:

1. Consider energy conservation measures first. That means checking greenhouses for air leaks (pay close attention to weather stripping around doors). You’ll also want to patch any holes in coverings and check lap seals in glass houses. Make sure thermal blanket systems are working and close completely.

2. Install an energy curtain. Heat retention curtains can provide heat savings of up to 40 percent in the winter, and, as an added bonus can keep greenhouses cooler in the summer.

3. Improve or upgrade your heating system. Heating systems have become much more efficient in recent years, and upgrading can shave a significant amount of money off your energy bills. Condensing boilers such as the Futura Fusion and the Infinite Energy 2 can increase heating efficiency by as much as 12 percent, offering up to 99 percent thermal efficiency while using less fuel.

4. Consider alternative heating strategies. Lowering air temperatures can help save on heating costs. Researchers from Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida have developed a tool to quantify how temperature impacts crop timing. There’s even a spreadsheet growers can use to determine the impact of temperature changes on their crops, which can be accessed here.

5. For new projects, consider combined heat and power systems. According to an energy conservation strategies Extension bulletin from Rutgers and Michigan State, combined heat and power systems “generate electricity to run greenhouse equipment and to export to the local grid when there is excess and capture (often by using heat exchangers) the heat contained in the combustion gasses for heating purposes.” By using the original fuel for both purposes (producing electricity and heat), efficiency is significantly improved.

Dr. Both adds that growers should periodically review which fuel type is the best option for their operation. “Of course, fuel type is only one side of the coin – the other being the heating system itself,” he says. “But significant price changes may result in significant savings over time, even if the heating system has to be replaced.”

Save Money With Group Purchasing

Growers in California and Colorado may be able to share their heating expenses with other operations. A nonprofit called Greenhouse Services Foundation Inc. offers group wholesale natural gas purchasing for ag businesses, reducing costs by combining gas volume requirements from numerous operations, according to Greenhouse Grower magazine. For more information, visit http://gsfi.net/.

 

Replacing a Heating System
When replacing heating, a hydronic system is one option to consider for reducing energy costs. Hydronic heating is the use of water as a heat transfer medium in heating systems, using a boiler to heat water and a pump to circulate the hot water in rubber tubes that are either buried in the greenhouse floor or installed in greenhouse bench systems. Separate radiant heat zones can be controlled by one thermostat and served by a manifold, which distributes the flow of hot water to the individual circuits of tubing within each zone.

The root zone heating hydronic systems provide for faster crop production and healthier plants. Both says root zone heating is ideal when uniform heating is important – for example, when growing young plants.

While hydronic heating systems do cost more up front than traditional, forced-air units, the long-term energy savings from more efficient heating will pay back the added expense in the long-run.

 

Delta T Solutions has designed and manufactured customized heating solutions for greenhouse growers using hydronic (hot water radiant) heat for 30 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 mkovalycsik@deltatsolutions.com.

 

Lower Production Costs Part 2: Maximize Irrigation Efficiency

Part 2 of this series explains how wise water use saves money and improves plant health.
Read Part 2 here.

 

 

 
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