How Do Greenhouses Work? Part 4
In Which We Cover How To Get A Free Greenhouse (Or Nearly So!)
If you’re looking at the cost of new greenhouses, you’re likely to be shocked! They ARE expensive! And when they arrive in your driveway on a couple of pallets and in a couple of crates, with a teeny little instruction book on how to assemble them, they’re still a complete and baffling mystery.
But read on, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the alternative!
There are greenhouse businesses all over the US that used to grow flowers and ornamental plants, for which there is very little market in today’s economy. Other greenhouse operators simply went out of business when they no longer could make money on outmoded greenhouses that used energy as if it was free. You can purchase a greenhouse from one of these companies for pennies on the dollar, disassemble it, and transport it to your location for reassembly and reconfiguration as an Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse.
We’re not talking about “junk” greenhouses here: we know a grower in Maine who got a nearly-new, 42,000 square foot aluminum and glass greenhouse that cost $40 per square foot for materials only (yes, that’s $1.68 million worth of greenhouse) for simply taking it down and hauling it away. He’s got it behind his barn on pallets, waiting for the Spring thaw so he can start assembling the first increment he’ll use.
One of the participants in our October 2018 Dallas Commercial Aquaponic and Greenhouse Training got two 30-foot by 120-foot greenhouses with water walls, fans, and thermostatically-controlled, motorized side curtains; she paid the owner $100 and removed them from the property. If you look carefully, you can find really awesome deals.
So, how do you find these great deals on greenhouses? It’s simple: fire up your personal helicopter and check out your area from the air; it’s really easy to spot greenhouses that way.
Translation: Start by typing your address into Google Maps “Earth View” on your computer or smart phone; this will “zoom” you to right over your house. Then, “cruise around” in your area, looking for greenhouses from the air, by zooming out, panning the view, and zooming in to examine greenhouse candidates more closely. Often they’re out at the end of the road, screened from view by trees. If you drove by it on the road, you’d never know there was a greenhouse there without Google Maps.
Locate your candidates, then go interview them: drive by and check them out; find out who owns the property (usually your County Tax Office has this information), then contact the owner and make them an offer, starting with “I’ll remove that old greenhouse from your property, leave the site clean, and not charge you anything”. You may be pleasantly surprised when they take you up on this!
(Below) This is what greenhouses look like from the air. One way you can tell greenhouses is that they’re HUGE! The little white roof to the right of the greenhouses is a normal house, and the light green roof above that is a LARGE house! The two big greenhouses are 70 feet wide by 230 feet long!
Also, do your web-based “due diligence”: put “Wanted” ads on Craigslist for your area, for the size of greenhouse you want, and for your price range; and of course, also search Craigslist, Ebay, and other online auctions for your greenhouse. Go to banks in your area and ask about any foreclosed properties with greenhouses on them, then start talking to the bank if you find a good one.
What are you looking for in a greenhouse? You want one that has a full-length screened ridge vent for venting hot air in summertime, that can be opened manually from the ground. You also want one that has roll-up side curtains and end walls (these are usually the first 4 to 5 feet in height of the sides and ends) that can also be manually operated, so that you can let in cool air. If it has “Aluminet” or similar sliding mesh shades inside, they’re a plus. If it has what are called “water walls” they are a plus, but they’re not necessary, as you can easily build your own later.
What you DON’T need: you don’t need to spend any money on air conditioning units, air conditioning ducting or fans, propane space heaters (air heaters); these are all a waste of money to remove and reinstall; in fact, don’t even accept these if the owner gives them away for FREE! You’re going to be using MUCH more energy-efficient heating and cooling systems than these outmoded and energy-wasting ones! Don’t worry if the greenhouse sides seem high; you can make them shorter by cutting the wall columns shorter when you reinstall it at your site.
What you ARE looking for is a relatively new structure that has no rust; they’re all made of galvanized metal. Don’t worry if the owner says “the glazing or plastic covering is old”, you’re going to replace that anyway with Asahi Glass’ ETFE film or regular poly film. Also, it needs to be reasonably-priced; to determine if you’re getting a deal or getting scammed, get the brand name and model, then call the manufacturer for a current price, plus shipping to your location; now you will have an idea of what “discount” you are getting for the used house.
It’s VERY likely that if you are persistent and polite, you can find a greenhouse in good condition for ten to twenty cents on the “original” dollar cost. Third, being reasonably nearby may also be a benefit; we’ll explain why in next week’s newsletter, Part 5, when we cover how to go get your greenhouse and rea-assemble it on your property.