Posts Tagged ‘Winterizing’

Winter took its toll last week.

Kansas City’s temperatures hit the single digits, with wind chills in the minus range. Snow fall approached blizzard conditions. When the greenhouse’s night temp dipped to 49 degrees, I opted to turn on the auxiliary heater, a Kenwood Electric Oil Filled Heater, with programmable clock timer and thermostat (Model # TRN0812TK), purchased at Home Depot about two years ago. (As it turns out, the Eskabe might have managed without the extra help. I thought that I’d turned the non-electric furnace to its highest setting (5), but discovered on Friday that the temperature gauge also has a “High” setting.)

Actually, a worse problem is snow drifts and ice around the door. In order to unfreeze the door latch, I thump it with a hammer. (I’ve tried hot water, which only exacerbates the problem in the long run.) Ice and snow also build up along the threshold and have to be chiseled and swept away. Small ice chunks and snow drifts around the door frame consistently prevent the door from closing properly. Consequently, I keep a 1×2 inch board wedged between the ground and the door handle.

These are all problems on the outside, created in large part by the temperature difference between the warm greenhouse and the frigid world of Zone 5. But problems can also occur on the inside: On two wintry occasions, I’ve tried to walk out of the greenhouse, after working in it for several hours, only to discover that the door had re-frozen and sealed me inside.

In one way, the steep dip in night temperatures is an advantage. Some of my orchids thrive in this type of temp differential. Lc Drumbeat ‘Heritage’ HCC/AOS, one of the bloomers from this week (see Photos), has six giant blossoms and more coming on. Howara Lava Burst ‘Puanari’ is also in full bloom.

Even so, I fear that the 40 degree drop may have taken its toll on at least one of my Phalaenopses. Several buds on the little Phal. lobbii have turned yellow.


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The heating problem is solved.

The new furnace is an Eskabe, a non-electric, gas-powered heater, with a thermostat and an outside vent, manufactured in Argentina and distributed through several vendors in the U.S.

Two of my orchid-growing friends who live in a small lake community outside Lawrence, Kansas, recommended the furnace. Their problem with winter electric blackouts occurs considerably more often than mine in KC. They have two non-electric furnaces, one in the orchid room and an older one in an artist’s large studio. On more than one occasion, the two heaters have provided the only reliable heat source for the couple’s two-story house.

The Eskabe comes in three sizes based on the generated BTUs:

  • 17,000 BTUs for 425 sq. ft.
  • 11,000 BTUs for 275 sq. ft.
  • 8,000 BTUs for 200 sq. ft. [This smallest size does not have an automatic thermostat.]

I bought the middle sized unit. Although the square footage of my greenhouse is less than 275, I calculated that the Lexan and glass walls are significantly less insulated than most rooms in a house. I also wanted the auto-thermostat.

Installing the new heater was just one step in winterizing the greenhouse against the oncoming Missouri winter. I also covered the louvered windows and glass door with a product called “Shrink & Seal”® by M-D Building Products. It’s the plastic sheeting that is taped along the window/door frame and then shrunk to fit using a hair dryer.  The “Shrink & Seal” product works great once it’s installed, but it is a labor intensive process in a greenhouse because installation must wait until the metal framework is bone dry before the tape will stick.

phal (fred auction)

View of greenhouse's frame

Prior to installation, I shut off the misting system temporarily. Luckily last weekend the condensation that normally builds up in the greenhouse on cool nights abated when the temperatures outside and inside the greenhouse reached an equilibrium. After fitting and shrinking the plastic on the frame, I reinforced the M-D tape, which isn’t substantial enough to withstand any moisture, with FarmTek’s “Greenhouse Premium Repair Tape.” Although the Repair Tape must also be applied while the frame is dry, it is much better than the M-D tape at resisting the inevitable build up of moisture during the winter.

With the greenhouse now sealed and the little Eskabe humming away in the corner, my tropical-paradise bubble can now hunker down for those negative-Fahrenheit nights in Zone 5.

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