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Question - I'm planning on building a professional greenhouse someday but I can not find a cost effective to insulated it so it pays itself back in fuel savings.  Do you have any suggestions to insulating it?  I, getting prices high as buying a HOME for a greenhouse like $70,000 for a 10 by 18 greenhouse installed>  for that price I buy myself a HOUSE without land never mind a greenhouse. Is there a more cost effective way to build a greenhouse?  The bestNew Organic Grower price I have gotten for a greenhouse with buying and installing the materials myself is $38,000 (materials only).  Where would you recommend me shopping in my budget (I earn $50 a day 7 hours) with a degree. Hoe Depot gave me a material price of $40,000.  What other material can I use for my greenhouse glazing for a much lower price?  The glazing I priced retails at $50 per square foot ( what I earn in a whole day)  How do I get height insulation and high light in a greenhouse?  I'm looking to be able to insulated half as good an insulated home ceiling.  How do I do that? My home ceiling has R 19 insulation in it but how do get a r value of aleast 12 for my greenhouse ceiling so that it can be heated.  At the same time I need plenty of sunlight with the insulation in there.  I can Not find a clear insulation to put in the ceiling.  The best R value I got was around 10 but at a readily price of $50,000.  I would have live in the greenhouse for that price.  The glazing I have priced is triple insulated Low E glass filled with krypton gas with Heat Mirror.  I need to find another way to insulate it.  Do you think you need Heat Mirror in a grower's greenhouse?  What makes that stuff extremely expensive to make? I was planning to make A-Frame greenhouse and put the glass in. Do you recommend doing that?

Answer -

Classic Garden StructuresInsulated greenhouses can be built on a budget and need not be heated like a house unless you are planning on growing extremely sensitive tropicals (please see Greenhouse Temperatures).  I would recommend triple wall polycarbonate for the roof and either double pane insulated for the walls.  I paid $85 each (retail) for a 34"x76" tempered insulated glass units for my courtyard.  That's less than $5 per square foot.  If you did all 4 walls, you'd need about 15 panes for $1,275 (walls only).  If you used recycled tempered glass and built you own double units the cost would be much less. $10 per pane x 30 panes = $300 plus wood (not including roof).

I built my Victorian conservatory for $10,000 with single pane glass in 1996.  Double pane would have been $16,000.  My gothic design runs about $4000 (double wall polycarbonate) $5,000 (triple wall) for all materials including heating, venting and cooling. Price does not include utility supply lines (water, gas, electric).  For a details break down, please see:Four Season Harvest

If you do not mind the look of double layer plastic film or fiberglass, the cost will be much less.  For more about glazing (your highest cost building material) see Greenhouse Glazing

You could go with a solid roof on your greenhouse to get a high R-value and just do the walls in glass.  This helps keep the greenhouse cool in summer, too.  In the winter (depending on how far north), when the sun is low, the majority of the solar energy comes in through the walls.  The trick is storing the heat generated in the day and then reducing the heat loss at night.

The Passive Solar HouseI highly recommend the Ortho book to get you started and the two books by Eliot Coleman, New Organic Grower and Four-Season Harvest, to reduce your heating costs and make profit from your labors.  For an in depth study of passive solar house design and a passive solar sunroom, see The Passive Solar House by  James Kachadorian

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