Last Updated on December 28, 2022 by Cristina
Can you make a simple solar power heater for a greenhouse? Yes. Read more to find out how to do this! It is simple and fun to make a solar power heater for a greenhouse.
If we look at the sun, it is a reliable fusion reactor that comes up every morning and gives us a few hours of light in winter, and a lot of light in summer. Harnessing this energy and using it to help warm a greenhouse will allow you to keep your plants growing in a healthier state.
A reason why we may wish to keep a greenhouse warm is to grow tomatoes year-round (tomatoes that do not die after they produce a crop) in a greenhouse.
What Are The Types Of Solar Power That We Can Harness?
There are two main means by which we can store solar energy in a greenhouse.
Photovoltaic Panels (Solar Panels)
Unless you are exceptionally wealthy, this is just not currently viable. Photovoltaic panels are not an economical way of running a solar power heater for a greenhouse because they store energy in batteries, and if you need to have a 2kw heater running for 10 minutes every hour for 14 hours of darkness you will require a large solar array and a lot of batteries. This is very expensive. Luckily, there are far more efficient ways to arrange a solar power heater for a greenhouse and we will look at these now.
Thermal Storage And Transfer – Solar Power Heater For A Greenhouse
This refers to a method whereby we harvest solar energy and use this to heat up something like water that can store heat. This is far more efficient than solar voltaic energy, as you can store heat in a very cheap storage system – water – rather than very expensive batteries. Let’s look at how to use this method by making a solar power heater for a greenhouse.
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How To Make Solar Heat – The Simple Way
The easiest way to make a solar power heater for a greenhouse is actually just to put a few black drums in the greenhouse. These will absorb heat during the day, and radiate it out at night. This will depend on the design of your greenhouse, but if you are able to place the drums at the back wall of the greenhouse, so that they do not block out the sun to your plants, but do receive sun during the day you will be able to use them as thermal buffers.
You can use the barrels to place plants on top of. I have done this once on a small greenhouse and it worked very well in summer and winter in terms of evening out the greenhouse temperature to a certain extent. This allowed me to keep the greenhouse cooler during the day, and warmer at night in both summer and winter. It was not perfect, but it was functional. It however took up space.
A Slightly More Complex Solar Heating System For Greenhouses
If you are more of a handyperson, then you can try out this system. I have a friend who has a small fish farm where he grows tropical fish. In winter, he has a larger version of these panels. He has encased the panels in a wooden box that is painted black and he has a circulation pump connected to a day-night switch that turns a small pump on and off. Off at night, on by day.
Inside his greenhouses, he has, much as I had in my greenhouse, a series of drums filled with water that act as thermal stores of heat. These drums become very warm by the end of the day, and as the sun goes down, the pump turns off and the heat in the drums keeps his greenhouse in the warmer end of the spectrum right through the night. I am unsure how this will work in an area that gets snow, as we have only had this happen twice in the past two decades, but I suspect including an antifreeze may be pertinent in a snowy environment.
This method is however a very simple, elegant method for building a low-cost solar power heater for a greenhouse.
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Solar Power Heater For A Greenhouse DIY Systems
One of the great things about being a DIY person is you can McGuyver something together and optimize it with time. I have a friend who grows herbs in the mountains high above sea level. He has problems with cold snaps in winter, but generally, his winters are warm by day and cold by night (freezing or below). He is a proper old farmer and he took a long piece of pipe like this and zig-zagged it back and forth on a piece of his land. He half buried these in black gravel so that the sides of the pipes were covered in black gravel and the top was open to the sun. Inside his greenhouse, he ran lengths of 1/2-inch PVC pipe under his seed trays and circulated the water under the trays.
His system was quite big and he used a pool pump to cycle the water. It worked really well for the whole winter and he was really excited. He, however, ran the system into spring and they had a warm spell and he cooked his entire crop of very expensive essential oil seedlings.
Hence, as with any home-rigged system, do not expect it to work perfectly instantly – the more heat your harvest, the more things can go wrong. In this regard, I don’t have time to play around with systems like this, so I just use drums of water if I need to.
In conclusion – Solar Power Heater For A Greenhouse
I hope this article has helped you understand how to make a solar power heater for a greenhouse. As you can see, an electric heater is not viable, but you can use heat storage and water heating to move and concentrate heat in your greenhouse. Making a solar power heater for a greenhouse can be quite a fun project, and depending on your level of technical expertise, you could probably look at putting Arduino or Raspberry pi controllers in with real-time temperature monitoring and pump controllers, etc. These are fun new areas where technology allows us to have a lot more fun.
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.