How One Grower Is Heating His Greenhouses This Year

To combat the single largest expense of owning and operating greenhouses, Dick Kearley of Robrick Nursery in Hawthorne, Fla., looked to the forest.

“I was inspired by the rising cost of fuel to find some sort of alternative,” Kearley says. “Then I began looking at wood for the alternative.”

When he first began looking at conventional wood-burning stoves, Kearley found the price to be astounding. Instead of paying around $30,000 for the equipment, he came up with a plan to go with something basic and low-tech. With a water stove, the simplified unit is essentially a fire box surrounded by water. The heat gets transferred to the walls and the water heats the greenhouse.

His initial problem appeared to be solved, but after using the water stoves for two to three years, Kearley wanted to improve efficiency. He had been learning about wood gasification, the process of converting organic materials into carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane by reacting it at high temperatures.

Kearley thought this could be a good way to address the heating and efficiency issues. At that time, however, no one was willing or able to build a gasifier that could heat a greenhouse.

“Many people didn’t feel like it was worth it to build one,” Kearley says. “So I took what I was reading and went out to go build one.”

What Kearley ended up with was a piece of equipment that used unprocessed wood to gasify the greenhouse with a water heater backup. If the gasification failed, vents could be opened so the water heater would heat the greenhouse conventionally.

With his new design, Kearley saw savings of 80 percent. Although that figure is normally the attention-grabber, there is another number to keep in mind: the nursery owner estimates that 75 percent of the heat is generated by the gas and the other 25 percent comes from the fire box.

“It gives me goosebumps every time it lights up,” says Kearley.

Another benefit Kearley sites is creating minimal fuel waste. Whereas a coal-burning model might create 40 to 50 pounds of charcoal, the gasification stove turns out a mere 20 pounds of ash. The reduced smoke output also makes the stove a much greener option.

One positive that surprised the amateur inventor was how “controllable” his stove would be. Working like a conventional home oven, the gasification stove cycles its heat.

“It doesn’t cycle as fast as the home oven, but it does the same thing,” he says. “It might pop on and off every 20 minutes or so. It shuts off and turns back on quickly. The new stove is far better in that regard.”

There is one potential downside to the gasification stove, however: cost. Although Kearley kept the specific price point a secret – he doesn’t want anyone clamoring for him to build one for their greenhouse – he notes that the price tag might make some greenhouse owners sweat.

“I will say that this stove would cost more because it has more steel. It’s a complicated structure; it has 14,000 pounds of steel and 200 pounds of welding wire,” Kearley says.

Learn more about Robrick Nursery at www.robrick.com.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “How One Grower Is Heating His Greenhouses This Year

  1. I'd really like to see more about the heating system using wood for fuel and water pipes to hold the heat….any pictures of this fellows system????

  2. The trick for gasification is to keep the fuel particle size consistent.

    Wood chips are the most common fuel; and they need to go through a drum sorter.

    That means having a huge source of wood chips or your own hog mill.

More From ...

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plants To Give Back

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
Hakonochloa macra Aureola v

April 17, 2015

Ornamental Grasses — A Few Thoughts

Grasses have been embraced by growers, landscape architects and retailers, and are an important component in wholesale and resale sales. Allan Armitage shares some popular grasses, one to avoid and a few to use with caution.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winners, Syngenta And Danziger

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plant…

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
Hakonochloa macra Aureola v

April 17, 2015

Ornamental Grasses — A Few Thoughts

Grasses have been embraced by growers, landscape architects and retailers, and are an important component in wholesale and resale sales. Allan Armitage shares some popular grasses, one to avoid and a few to use with caution.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winn…

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Gazania hybrid 'Amber Ice' (Cultivaris)

April 17, 2015

The 80/20 Theory Approach To Inventory Selection Is Put…

Tim Runte of Calloway Gardens is a member of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Here, he shares how he determines which plants shown at this year's California Spring Trials will make the cut at his retail stores.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Trends At California Spring Trials: AmericanHort’…

Michael Geary, CEO and president of AmericanHort, hit the road during California Spring Trials, and noted trends he saw at many of the stops. Here's one that he says we'll need to consider carefully.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Golden State Bulb At Spring Trials Has Great Appeal For…

While Golden State Bulb is a smaller stop at California Spring Trials, it’s always a treat. You not only get to see less common plants like calla lilies and eucomis, you also get to meet the passionate breeders who developed the plants you’re seeing. For plant geeks, this is a fun stop. First up, the Aloha Lily series of pineapple lily or eucomis was introduced last year, and a new variety, the dark red Kona, joined the lineup. The team at Golden State would like to see this sweet-scented series treated much like orchids by consumers. Like orchids, Aloha Lily does well in low light and has blooms that last two to three months. Now that homeowners have grown accustomed to having orchids, it just may be time to test which other long-flowering plant they would be willing to embrace. Golden State would like to see consumers approach callas in a […]

Read More
PW_calibrachoa_holy moly1

April 17, 2015

Proven Winners Shows Off Its Newest Plant Rock Stars At…

With its wide assortment of plants, great presenters and an amazing location atop a hill at a spa/resort, Proven Winners is a can’t-miss stop during California Spring Trials. The Greenhouse Grower team first visited with Proven Winners’ nursery partner, Spring Meadow, where we got to see the new shrub introductions. Shrubs Proven Winners has two new hydrangea series. The Let’s Dance series is third generation breeding and boasts strong reblooming and a compact habit. The new mountain hydrangea, ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff,’ is another rebloomer and grows to 1.5- to 2-feet tall. Its leaves take on a purple hue when they encounter cool night temperatures. The attractive new Gem Box ilex, an ink berry holly, is suggested as a boxwood replacement for those areas being hit with boxwood blight. It grows to 2- to 4-feet tall and takes full to part sun, but cannot take full shade the way boxwoods can. Spring Meado Nursery  is […]

Read More
Asian-Vegetables-Lettue-Trio-American-Takii

April 16, 2015

American Takii’s Asian Vegetable Line Is Designed…

Unlike many of the other breeders displaying at Spring Trials, American Takii didn’t have many new introductions. But it did have a new program that has prompted many visitors to post to social media — its Asian vegetables. Takii, which is well known for its vegetable breeding, is in the process of vetting the eight to 12 vegetables it will include in the program, and it should have its list fully complete by fall 2015. It is selecting plants that will be easy to use in Asian cooking and will help it stand out from the many vegetable programs in the ornamental market. The Takii marketing team designed bright-red Chinese food takeout containers to act as plant sleeves and a small booklet with five recipes. Honey Chicken With Pak Choy looked especially tasty. Take a look at how the program looks and let us know what you think.       HilverdaKooij is a […]

Read More
HGTV HOME Plant Collection_pre-made succulent container

April 16, 2015

HGTV Incorporates Plants Into Lifestyles And Helps Cons…

When we visited Dummen’s site at Edna Valley Vineyard, the HGTV HOME Plant Collection display was teeming with excited visitors checking out the new varieties, designer mixes and concepts.

Read More
Westhoff_Crazytunia_Swiss Dancer

April 16, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds Some Surprising Intros At Floricul…

Allan Armitage visited three breeders at Spring Trials’ newest location, Floricultura. He found several plants that made Floricultura’s debut a must-stop site in 2015. Westhoff At Westhoff, plant breeding is alive and well, with many things to embrace. The petunia program is vibrant and creative, and I am particularly confident that the Crazytunia program will continue to grow. Crazytunias should fly off the shelves because of their unique colors. Westhoff also brings more standard fare to the table. The Epic series of bacopas have large flowers and should be of particular interest. ‘Epic White’ is particularly nice. And the lobelia in the Hot series has been excellent. ‘Snow White’ adds a good white to the mix. The Hot series does tolerate heat better than most lobelias and now it has a reasonable number of colors. The plant that caught my interest the most this year was ‘Lilac Cascade.’ According to Westhoff, this […]

Read More
westhoff_lilac falls

April 16, 2015

The New Floricultura Stop Showcased A New Interspecific…

Floricultura is a new stop for Spring Trials that hosted Westhoff, Beekenkamp and Plug Connections. It is a welcome addition to the California tour, offering a backdrop of an impressive high-tech greenhouse with orchid production underway within a few feet of the Trial displays. Westhoff The first breeder the Greenhouse Grower team toured, Westhoff, is a relative newcomer to CAST. This German company brings its storied European history of breeding plants (it’s a more-than-100-year-old company) to the U.S. Here in the U.S., Westhoff is best known for its Crazytunia series of petunias, with its vivid and sometimes unexpected colors. It introduced eight new varieties in the series, with ‘Limy’ and ‘Cherry Cheesecake’ getting some pointed attention from attendees. The Hot series of lobelia captured a lot of attention. These lobelias are tested in Florida, Texas, California, Michigan and Colorado, and offer more toughness than we are used to seeing from this genus. The […]

Read More

April 16, 2015

Golden State Bulbs And Sakata: Allan Armitage Highlight…

Dr. Allan Armitage was excited to see both new and improved breeding, as well as have the chance to meet breeders and talk shop at Sakata Seed and Golden State Bulb. Sakata Seed At Sakata, we wandered through traditional crops like zinnias, New Guinea impatiens, calibrachoa and petunias. However, I have always been impressed with the SuperCal program, and this year’s introduction of vibrant colors of Light Yellow and Pink really caught my eye. The flowers of Light Yellow are significantly larger than other colors in the series. I believe the SuperCals are poised for major additional sales. Everybody was talking about ‘Dragon’s Breath’ celosia, and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. It is surely hype-worthy. The plants I observed were large with obvious vigor, and the foliage was coppery with huge, bright, rose-red flowers. Apparently this is a plant that benefits from minimal inputs, such as […]

Read More

April 15, 2015

Redesigned SunPatiens Website Offers New Tools For Saka…

Sakata Seed America's new and improved SunPatiens website launched March 1, 2015 and provides growing information, marketing support, product location and many more tools to encourage consumer success with SunPatiens.

Read More
Farwest2015

April 15, 2015

Online Registration For FarWest 2015 Open, Discount Bef…

Online registration is now open for FarWest 2015, a green industry educational conference and tradeshow, which will take place August 27 to 29 in Portland, Ore. The show promises a full menu of classes, seminars and off-site events, plus a special benefit added this year for attendees.

Read More
Dummen_SunStandingseries_Salmon Pink1

April 15, 2015

Dümmen Group Updates Confetti, Debuts New Mixes And Con…

At two separate locations, the Dümmen Group presented its new take on several lines of plant genetics from the many companies under its brand umbrella. For the second year at Edna Valley Vineyards in San Luis Obispo, the Dummen Group presented new varieties of Red Fox plants, along with the HGTV HOME Plant Collection. Meanwhile, Dummen Group held its second trial location about 30 minutes up the road, at BarrelHouse Brewery in Paso Robles. Both locations were beautiful settings, but the vineyard provided especially lovely panoramic views through the tasting room window.

Read More
CAST15_Suntory_Soiree1

April 15, 2015

McHutchison’s Vaughn Fletcher Reviews New Offerin…

Vaughn Fletcher with McHutchison Horticultural Distributors is part of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Fletcher recounted some of the standout varieties he saw while visiting Suntory Flowers and Westhoff during California Spring Trials.

Read More
Basil_Persian-AAS2015_620x329

April 15, 2015

All-America Selections Launches New Perennial Trial

All-America Selections (AAS) in partnership with Perennial Plant Association (PPA) will launch an herbaceous perennial trial, with entries due this July. It will follow many of the basics of the recently launched AAS Vegetative Ornamental trial. Entries accepted will be herbaceous perennials propagated from seed, cutting, tissue culture or bare root.

Read More
PAC Elsner_Pelargonium 'Bermuda Pink'

April 15, 2015

Kientzler Makes First Independent Display At Spring Tri…

The Spring Trials exhibit at Windmill Nursery in Buellton is a fairly new location as of 2014, and it continues to evolve, with a number of new suppliers presenting their wares. Kientzler, Terra Nova Nurseries and PAC-Elsner presented new varieties while McConkey, Pelemix and Dramm promoted their products.

Read More