Controller Savings For The Smaller Grower

Controller Savings For The Smaller Grower

Many affordable controllers add settings
like DIF and night set-back.

A controller does not have to be elaborate or complicated to save you money and improve your crop quality. It does not have to control every operation of the greenhouse to be effective. Replacing thermostats with a simple controller that handles only the heating and cooling will save you energy and improve your crops. Many affordable controllers add settings like DIF, night set-back, humidity control and curtain control and still stay price competitive with thermostats. 

Single Temperature Reading

One of the greatest cost savings that a controller produces versus thermostats is from the coordination of heats and cools from one temperature probe. It is almost universal that growers will tell you that in a greenhouse with thermostats, you will, sooner or later, get heats and cools running at the same time. This can happen when the heat thermostat is located too close to an inlet or when a thermostat loses its calibration, causing overlap between the heating and cooling ranges.

A controller uses one temperature reading and compares this to a set point to decide if heating or cooling is needed. The temperature cannot be in both the heating and cooling zone, so only heating or cooling will be
active–never both.

Accuracy

The accuracy of a controller will also lead to savings. Inaccurate thermostats often cause the temperature to be higher than the dial setting, causing energy waste through higher heat loss. The accuracy of controllers also makes the staging of appliances effective by using only equipment needed to maintain the desired temperature. In fact, Mark Lugibill of Lugibill’s Greenhouses in Columbus Grove, Ohio, says when he originally installed his controllers, it took a little time to get used to the preciseness of the controllers because he was used to “sloppy thermostats.” 

Night Setback & DIF

Heat loss is a function of the temperature difference from the inside to the outside. Night is generally the time of lowest outside temperature, so dropping the night temperature (night set back) can save energy. Most decisions have trade offs. Be careful that your night set back does not affect your 24 hour average temperature so much that you extend your growing time and miss target dates. Raising your day temperature, when it is easier to heat due to warmer outside temperatures and solar gain, can help boost your 24 hour average temperature to compensate for the night set back.

Lowering the night temperature and raising the day temperature can lead to plant stretch so you can take advantage of the DIF feature of many controllers. DIF is the lowering of the temperature during the one to two hours just before sunrise. The early-morning drop of temperature can convince some plants to act as if the entire day is cooler than the night. This reduces stretch plus allows you to drop your temperature just prior to sunrise, which is usually the coldest time of the night. 

Additional Features

Losing a crop to disease is a horrible waste of energy and labor! Humidity control is the first tool in fighting disease by keeping leaves and surfaces dry. Manual humidity control with thermostats can be tedious, time consuming and inconsistent. First, you adjust the cooling thermostats to purge the humid air. Next, you adjust the thermostats to stop the ventilation and start heating to capture more humidity. Then you repeat the first step to exhaust more humidity. Lastly, you adjust your thermostats back to their original settings and hope they control at the same temperature as before. Controllers with a built-in dehumidification cycle make automated humidity control easy and consistent. The cycle is triggered at a consistent humidity level, runs without any manual adjustments and returns to precisely the original set point. Humidity control does use energy, but saving a crop by controlling the humidity can keep you from being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Energy/shade curtains are great energy saving devices but hard to control manually. Matt Mohrfeld, of Matt’s Greenhouse & Flower Cottage in Fort Madison, Iowa, wanted to add an energy curtain and inquired about what additional controls he would have to add. He was pleased to find out the small controller he was using had the capability to extend the curtain at night with the timer and adjust the curtain during the day with an unused proportional output. When you are upgrading from thermostats to an affordable controller, make sure it has a timer function to close a curtain at night and a proportional output to move the shade curtain during the day.

Monitoring your greenhouse remotely with a computer interface is another indirect saving that controllers can provide over thermostats. Checking all your greenhouses from your desk or home will eliminate the cold, night-time walk to each greenhouse to check on the heaters and thermostats. You will know the temperature of each house without opening the door and letting more cold air in. Additionally, controllers generally have alarms to alert you of problems and prevent the awful surprise of opening a greenhouse and finding it frozen due to a heater that failed after your last check of the night.

A small, affordable controller can save you energy. “This is the best thing going for small growers,” Richard Bodfish of Bodfish Farms in South Haven, Mich., says of his controllers. Growers who have indicated that the system paid for itself in one growing season have attributed the greatest saving to not running heats and cools at the same time. The great thing about controllers is they are installed for energy savings, and then quickly become a growing tool that will help produce better crops. Schlegal Greenhouse in Indianapolis purchased a controller for the energy benefits but, Terry Christian, a grower there, also commented that they had the best poinsettia crop in 20 years thanks to tight control and DIF. A controller will not solve all your greenhouse problems, but a small affordable controller can start saving energy dollars, provide growing tools not available with thermostats and free up time that was spent continually adjusting thermostats.

Leave a Reply

More From Equipment...
Monitoring the plant canopy for temperature

December 9, 2017

Infrared Thermometers for Monitoring Plant and Substrate Temperatures

Growers use many tools to monitor the greenhouse environment. Learn about the best practices for using an infrared thermometer to measuring plant temperature.

Read More
Hanging-Basket-Watering-System-WaterPulse-feature

December 2, 2017

15 Tools That Can Help You Maximize Water Quality and Efficiency in the Greenhouse

New advancements in water management and irrigation are making it easier for you to manage your water use. Here’s a look at some of the latest offerings from leading suppliers, and how you can best incorporate them into your greenhouse.

Read More

September 29, 2017

Vertical Farming Looks to Go Mainstream

The University of the District of Columbia is the nation’s only urban land-grant university, so it was a particularly appropriate setting for the Association of Vertical Farming (AVF) to host the AVF Summit 2017 on September 22. The summit was a mix of education, advocacy, and policy discussion about urban agriculture — vertical farming in particular — targeted at finding ways to broaden its adoption in cities around the country and around the world. You’ve probably heard quite a bit in recent months about vertical farming — systems for growing food in stacked layers in completely controlled environments, applying inputs such as light, water, and fertilizer in precise amounts. While there’s some use of these systems in greenhouse settings, in many cases, urban farmers are repurposing abandoned buildings or even shipping containers. Match the availability of these facilities in most large urban areas with big cities’ limited access to fresh, […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Monitoring the plant canopy for temperature

December 9, 2017

Infrared Thermometers for Monitoring Plant and Substra…

Growers use many tools to monitor the greenhouse environment. Learn about the best practices for using an infrared thermometer to measuring plant temperature.

Read More
Hanging-Basket-Watering-System-WaterPulse-feature

December 2, 2017

15 Tools That Can Help You Maximize Water Quality and E…

New advancements in water management and irrigation are making it easier for you to manage your water use. Here’s a look at some of the latest offerings from leading suppliers, and how you can best incorporate them into your greenhouse.

Read More

September 29, 2017

Vertical Farming Looks to Go Mainstream

The University of the District of Columbia is the nation’s only urban land-grant university, so it was a particularly appropriate setting for the Association of Vertical Farming (AVF) to host the AVF Summit 2017 on September 22. The summit was a mix of education, advocacy, and policy discussion about urban agriculture — vertical farming in particular — targeted at finding ways to broaden its adoption in cities around the country and around the world. You’ve probably heard quite a bit in recent months about vertical farming — systems for growing food in stacked layers in completely controlled environments, applying inputs such as light, water, and fertilizer in precise amounts. While there’s some use of these systems in greenhouse settings, in many cases, urban farmers are repurposing abandoned buildings or even shipping containers. Match the availability of these facilities in most large urban areas with big cities’ limited access to fresh, […]

Read More
Soil Dosage Bunkers at Meyers Greenhouses feature

September 22, 2017

An Up-Close Look at Meyers Greenhouses’ Central Soil De…

Head Grower Aron Hoff was looking for a way to customize soil mixes on multiple planting lines in real time. The system he’s now using makes the process much simpler.

Read More
Dramm TracFOG Nozzle Extension

June 2, 2017

Dramm Adds New Feature to Its Fogging System, Updates O…

Dramm is now offering an optional nozzle extension for its line of TracFog PTO-driven fog systems. Meanwhile, the company has also updated its online forum to make it easier to find product solutions quickly.

Read More
Bellpark Horticulture and Visser Shipping System

May 31, 2017

New Greenhouse Conveyors Help Automation Become More Fu…

The latest conveyor and shipping systems from leading manufacturers are designed to be more versatile and customized to any operation. Here’s a look at the newest models.

Read More
Irrigation boom at Cavicchio Greenhouses

May 23, 2017

The Road to Sustainability at Cavicchio Greenhouses

Incremental changes to reduce its carbon footprint have paid off in greater efficiency and public recognition for this Massachusetts greenhouse grower.

Read More
Argus Multi-Feed RM - feature

March 26, 2017

Feeding System Allows For More Precise Delivery of Nutr…

Argus Controls’ Multi-Feed RM100 is designed to help producers custom-feed their plants based on specific nutrient recipes.

Read More
Emerald Coast Growers Seed RoomTight feature

March 22, 2017

An Inside Look at Emerald Coast Growers’ New Seed…

Florida-based liner producer Emerald Coast Growers custom retrofitted and expanded an existing greenhouse, with the goal of increasing production efficiency.

Read More
Pic-O-Mat Vision system feature

March 3, 2017

How Growers Can Make the Most of Automation

A Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Grower says investing in automation can reap several long-term benefits, as long as you do so for the right reasons.

Read More
Visser PC 16 Transplanter feature

February 13, 2017

How to Find a Greenhouse Transplanter for Every Grower&…

Equipment manufacturers have recognized a void in the market for machinery that appeals to growers of all sizes and budgets. Here are some affordable options to consider investing in to improve your operation’s efficiency.

Read More
ISO Cutting Machine

February 4, 2017

Getting to the Next Generation of Greenhouse Automation

The most successful growers in the future will be those that are willing to accept and invest in new technology.

Read More
DRAMM PulsFOG

February 1, 2017

DRAMM: 75 Years of Innovation

This manufacturer and distributor of horticultural tools and equipment has a long history of developing inventive new technology that solves problems for its customers.

Read More
Botany Lane Greenhouses

January 27, 2017

Why Botany Lane Grows Poinsettias On Capillary Mats

A move to watering mats cut water and fertilizer use, production time, and labor for this Colorado-based grower.

Read More
Ever Bloom Robot Sprayer feature

January 23, 2017

New Automation Systems Improve Spraying and Harvesting

In response to increasing regulations on labor, Ever-Bloom Inc. decided to invest in new automation technology that also dramatically improves efficiency.

Read More
Bouldin and Lawson Precision Needle Seeder feature

January 19, 2017

How You Can Get More Precise With Your Seeder

Bouldin & Lawson’s Precision Needle Seeder is designed to improve accuracy when sowing small, difficult seeds.

Read More
north-creek-nurseries-gutter-connected-greenhouse-feature

November 23, 2016

How Greenhouse Technology At North Creek Nurseries Expe…

The new structure is the latest step in a lean flow efficiency process designed to help the company cut waste, drive down shrink, and increase profits.

Read More
greenpower-led-production-module-philips-lighting

October 18, 2016

Lighting Research Center Is Surveying Growers On Supple…

The Center, part of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is looking for commercial growers to participate in an online survey regarding supplemental greenhouse lighting.

Read More