Introduction to Greenhouse Efficiency and Energy Conservation


Greenhouses do their job most successfully using designs and siting for energy efficiency and maximum light transmission. Greenhouses must optimize crop growth and energy use by allowing sunlight in during the day, retaining as much heat as possible during cold weather, and providing sufficient ventilation to avoid excessive interior temperature and humidity.

Where possible, greenhouse construction materials with the highest insulation values should be used. Proper glazing material decreases energy loss while still allowing the natural spectrum of light inside to facilitate the healthy growth of the plants within. When heating greenhouses, some fuels have a higher heat value than others and some heating units have a greater efficiency.

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This greenhouse has a double layer covering, horizontal air flow fans, perimeter insulation, an electronic environmental controller, and a high efficiency furnace that all contribute to energy efficiency and conservation. Photo: Vern Grubinger

A Greenhouse Energy Conservation Checklist has been developed to help you review a greenhouse operation and identify areas where energy consumption can be reduced.There are many aspects of a greenhouse operation that should be considered in order to optimize the efficiency of a greenhouse. Resources from eXtension Farm Energy include:

Strategies and Checklists

  • Greenhouse Energy Conservation Checklist by John Bartok, Univ. of Connecticut agricultural engineer emeritus. A brief but comprehensive summary of steps growers can take to reduce greenhouse energy use.

Construction and Comprehensive Greenhouse Guides

  • Virtual Grower, from USDA, is a decision support tool for greenhouse growers. Using this downloaded software, you can “virtually” build a greenhouse with a variety of materials for roofs and sidewalls, design the greenhouse style, schedule temperature set points throughout the year, and predict heating costs for over 230 sites within the US. Different heating and scheduling scenarios can be predicted with few inputs.
  • Greenhouse Engineering. Available from NRAES: Natural Resource, Agricultural and Engineering Service for $30. This 212 page printed manual, NRAES-33, contains current information needed to plan, construct, and control the commercial greenhouse. Describes various structures, methods of materials handling, the greenhouse environment, and energy conservation. Includes conversion tables, worksheets for performing calculations, and sources of greenhouse construction materials and contractors. (1994)
  • Solar Greenhouses by Barbara Bellows, updated by K. Adam, NCAT Agriculture Specialists. ATTRA Publication #IP142, 2008. Discussion of basic principles of solar greenhouse design, and construction options. Books, articles and Web sites, and computer software relevant to solar greenhouse design are all provided in a resource list.

High Tunnels

  • – USDA-sponsored project that is testing and promoting high tunnel systems in the Central Great Plains. For growers and educators; a one-stop source of information on all aspects of high tunnel construction and use.

Geothermal Heating


Greenhouse Efficiency and Conservation Case Studies

Miscellaneous Resources related to Greenhouse Energy

Contributors to this Article


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