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This article describes how to ventilate a greenhouse used for solar heating, and how to connect the greenhouse to the house for effective heating. We discuss insulating the greenhouse against night time heat losses, and also we describe how to get warm air or heat from the greenhouse into the rest of the building.
We give suggestions for ventilating greenhouses or sunspaces in hot summer weather, and we describe where to watch out for leaks in greenhouse or sunspace or solarium roofs & walls.
The table of insulation properties at page top and accompanying text are reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss. Our photo at left illustrates a small greenhouse constructed at a private residence in Hanmer Springs, New Zealand.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Question about how to best insulate a greenhouse (sunspace) against night time heat losses:
I plan to convert a carport to a greenhouse / dining room. The brick wall between the carport and the house contains a door to the kitchen and a window to the living room.
How should the greenhouse be ventilated and how should the greenhouse be connected to the house for effective solar heating? - Michael Moran, Clemson SC
Sunspace or Greenhouse Trombe Wall Retrofit Advice for Solar Heating
The brick wall between house and the new greenhouse has the makings of a Trombe wall, with one minor hitch - if it does not receive direct sunlight, its value as a thermal mass that absorbs, stores, and later returns heat is greatly reduced.
Cutting skylights into the carport roof would help the thermal mass wall work better by allowing sunlight to strike it directly.
Our photo (left) shows a large sunspace constructed atop a converted factory building in Poughkeepsie, NY.
The question-and-answer article about greenhouses or solariums on this page quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article, from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.
Sunspace or Greenhouse Air Movement Advice for Solar Heat Design - Getting Warm Air into the Building
To get proper air circulation from the sunspace to the house you will need two vents - one high and one low.
The doorway and window should provide this ventilation, though a high vent can be added if required.
Since natural air convection is relatively week in a one-story building, a thermostatically controlled fan in the wall would give greater control and move even more heated air from the greenhouse sunspace into the rest of the house.
Greenhouse or Sunspace Ventilation - Summer Needs
For summer ventilation of the greenhouse or sunspace, high and low vents to the outdoors usually suffice. A doorway at one end, combined with a high vent at the other end is a common setup.
Another greenhouse solution combines awning windows along the front with operable skylights for roof vents. For accurate sizing for venting and heating of a sunspace, see "The Last Word in Sunspace Design," Solar Age 6/84
Our greenhouse photo (left) was taken in the Barri Gotic in Barcelona, Spain.
Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.
Green House or Solarium Roof Leak Points to Watch For
As Carson Dunlop Associates point out in their sketch (left), greenhouses and solariums can be leaky, especially where an add-on solarium abuts the original structure.
Often we can spot these leaks as stains down the building wall below the points of contact between the solarium roof and the building walls.
Watch Out: a solarium or greenhouse leak that enters the wall cavity may not show up immediately as a stain on the building interior, but it can lead to rot, insect damage, or a mold problem
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Questions & answers or comments about trombe wall designs, solar heating, & greenhouses or sunspaces.
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Solar Age Magazine was the official publication of the American Solar Energy Society. The contemporary solar energy magazine associated with the Society is Solar Today. "Established in 1954, the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is the nation's leading association of solar professionals & advocates. Our mission is to inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy. We advance education, research and policy. Leading for more than 50 years.
ASES leads national efforts to increase the use of solar energy, energy efficiency and other sustainable technologies in the U.S. We publish the award-winning SOLAR TODAY magazine, organize and present the ASES National Solar Conference and lead the ASES National Solar Tour – the largest grassroots solar event in the world."
Steve Bliss's Building Advisor at buildingadvisor.com helps homeowners & contractors plan & complete successful building & remodeling projects: buying land, site work, building design, cost estimating, materials & components, & project management through complete construction. Email: email@example.com
Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com
Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Home Inspection Education Home Study Courses - ASHI@Home Training 10-course program. Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Home Reference Book, a reference & inspection report product for building owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones.
Passive Solar Design Handbook Volume I, the Passive Solar Handbook Introduction to Passive Solar Concepts, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v1.pdf
Passive Solar Design Handbook Volume II, the Passive Solar Handbook Comprehensive Planning Guide, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v2.pdf [This is a large PDF file that can take a while to load]
Passive Solar Handbook Volume III, the Passive Solar Handbook Programming Guide, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v3.pdf
"Passive Solar Home Design", U.S. Department of Energy, describes using a home's windows, walls, and floors to collect and store solar energy for winter heating and also rejecting solar heat in warm weather.
"Solar Water Heaters", U.S. Department of Energy article on solar domestic water heaters to generate domestic hot water in buildings, explains how solar water heaters work. Solar heat for swimming pools is also discussed.
"Heat-Transfer Fluids for Solar Water Heating Systems", U.S. DOE, describes the types of fluids selected to transfer heat between the solar collector and the hot water in storage tanks in a building. These include air, water, water with glycol antifreeze mixtures (needed when using solar hot water systems in freezing climates), hydrocarbon oils, and refrigerants or silicones for heat transfer.
"Solar Water Heating System Freeze Protection", U.S. DOE,using antifreeze mixture in solar water heaters (or other freeze-resistant heat transfer fluids), as well as piping to permit draining the solar collector and piping system.
"Solar Air Heating" U.S. DOE also referred to as "Ventilation Preheating" in which solar systems use air for absorbing and transferring solar energy or heat to a building
"Solar Liquid Heating" U.S. DOE, systems using liquid (typically water) in flat plate solar collectors to collect solar energy in the form of heat for transfer into a building for space heating or hot water heating. The term "solar liquid" is used for accuracy, rather than "solar water" because the water may contain an antifreeze or other chemicals.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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