Urban Farming Has Special Heating Requirements

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Bright Farms in Yardley, Pa., uses TrueLeaf technologies, including aluminum fin pipe for heating.

There is a growing movement to consume food produced close to where it is grown — urban farming. This can be done in an empty lot, but to get the best production per square foot, growing in a controlled environment like a greenhouse is the best route. When growing year-round, fuel for heating is a large part of the budget. The following are some ways to minimize your heating costs.

The most efficient way to get heat to a crop is to deliver the heat as close to the plant as possible. For tall vegetable crops, aluminum fin pipe is a great option. The fin pipe is easy to install (no welding), low maintenance (no painting) and has low water volume compared to traditional heat pipe (so it is very responsive to heating demands).

For leafy green production, using similar aluminum fin pipe brings heat directly below the plants. This creates a microclimate to gently warm the plants to their optimum temperature while allowing the air in the greenhouse to be much cooler, saving fuel.
The heat source is a critical component in a heating system. With growing crops year around, choosing an efficient heat source can have a quick return on investment. Condensing boilers are up to 99 percent efficient in fuel consumption and larger sizes are now available (4 MBTU). With their smart onboard controls, the boilers always run as efficiently as possible.

A consistent growing environment is important for suppressing disease and maintaining uniform plant growth. For both cooling and heating events, Horizontal Air Flow (HAF) fans can do the trick. With variable speed control, the air is circulated to eliminate stratification in the structure.

Combining the use of these systems will help in creating the perfect growing environment for your local urban farmer, while keeping their monthly utility bill down.

Morris Brink (mbrink@trueleaf.net) manages the West Coast accounts at TrueLeaf Technologies, TrueLeaf.net.
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