laserfan

Freezing Rain and 10x12 HFGH!

laserfan
13 years ago

Here in TX rain accompanied by 24-26F temps are causing trouble for our HFGH. The only Good news of this situation is that our new Oregon Scientific Weather Station alarmed at the reasonable hour of 8pm, signalling freezing temps in our heated GH. Something's wrong, it's been in the low 40's inside there all day long despite the mid-20s outside.

Maybe the pilot light blew-out? Ran-out of propane? Nah, this is the first really cold weather we've had--we've only turned the heater on once before in fact! Bundle-up and get out there, thank goodness the rain/sleet has let-up a bit. Good grief, the doors are frozen shut! Get a torch. No, get a hairdryer, the torch will melt the polycarb! Apply hairdryer to center of doors, where foam weatherstripping is frozen together. Seems like forever to get that thawed; doors still don't move! Water collected in lower track & froze! Get the torch out, use it on the track, finally get the door open far enough to get in. Now in DON'T SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND YOU!!! It will freeze you-in for good!

Ok try the heater; it lights for a few secs then burns-out. Check the tank outside. Empty! I'll change the tank, you get an electric heater! Tank changed, electric heater in place, hold thumbs that these survive the night!

Our heater is only 10K BTU, and it's got a thermostat so it only runs near the freezing mark, but still it's obvious that a small 20lb-er is inadequate for this GH.

But the main point of my post is to warn about the track freezing. You can NOT get in with the track solid with ice! I haven't figured-out yet what-if-anything can be done to avoid this problem. Maybe we don't care so long as it's warm inside, huh.

Definitely the propane-running-out thing is a problem, but at least a remote sensor and alarm can alert you to do something about it. I guess we gotta look into a bigger tank...

Comments (23)

  • chris_in_iowa
    13 years ago

    Some posters on here think I am nuts, well I am.

    24-26F that is tropical!!!

    It is -8F here at the moment.

    We need a "disaster recovery" thread on here, maybe even an FAQ?

    "door frozen shut" hey no problem! My intake vent is 2x2ft and the screws are on the OUTSIDE for a very good reason. (yep, it is just big enough for me to crawl into my greenhouse.

    As to saving your plants when,

    1, The temperature goes way too low for your heater to maintain.

    2, You lose a panel due to wind and the temp is way cold.

    3, Well there is at least another 30-40 things that can go wrong that will kill all your plants!

    ""at least a remote sensor and alarm can alert you to do something about it."" That remote sensor is useless unless you have a plan. A remote sensor without a plan just causes you to run around like a chicken with its head cut off outside in weather that will kill your plants and at best will cause your ears and nose to fall off.

    I have a cunning plan all set up......

  • oppalm
    13 years ago

    I believe they call it "experience". Disaster recovery would be a great thread. Lets face it, usually the only time people do something is when a crisis happens. Of course that also makes it exciting.

  • laserfan
    13 years ago

    Weather event continues today--the electric heater employed to back-up the Propane heater failed, when the power went out this morning! Downed powerlines; entire area dead. OK now tho the propane heater should take over, right? Damn, appears to be set just slightly too low; alarm goes off again (at 33F). And the doors are frozen-shut again too, big-time. Looks like Zhivago's cottage. What to do?

    Easy--pull a side polycarb panel off (on the lee side, the windward side has 1/2 inch of ice coating everything). Two lath screws, pull the clips... in! Set the heater up just enough to turn-on (it's 33deg in the GH). Done; good, the GH held around 44F most of the day. The electricity came back about 7 hours later (!) The propane heater is fine but getting the setting right is a trip--too high and you use-up the propane very quickly, too low and, well, there you are with frosty plants.

    None of the above would have been a big deal except for the freezing rain aspect--Experience, yes--I will leave at least one panel with an easy-off/easy-on mechanism.

    BTW chris you needn't have admitted you were "nuts"! You live in IA! 'Nuff said! :D

  • chris_in_iowa
    13 years ago

    laserfan,

    I didn't need to hear that! Just re-read your first post and ""Now in DON'T SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND YOU!!! It will freeze you-in for good!""

    I think I plan for all disasters, but that is one I didn't think of..

    I can get in there by taking out a vent (by the way for those who think I am a cousin of Spiderman my intakes are on the knee wall, not 11ft in the air) but I never planned for the door freezing shut when I was in there!

    What would happen if I was in my greenhouse, and I got trapped! How would I get more beer in there?

    I think the answer is to keep a spare 30 pack in there in a cooler, (with no ice, the idea is to keep the beer above freezing!) Got that problem sorted!

    OK, now down to the plant thing, laserfan, I have enough cardboard boxes to be able to go into my greenhouse and pack it all up. Then I can bring it all inside and stick it in the basement if disaster strikes. The boxes are packed flat and I have tape ready. The plan is I can get everything back in the house and just leave the boxes stacked up in the cool/cold basement. Who cares that my plants don't see the sun for a few days until either the bad weather goes away or I repair my poly...

    As a final note, laserfan, now you got your heater thermostat set make sure the sun don't shine on it!

    A cold sunny day, sun heats up your heater.... heater stays off... greenhouse air temp really cold, but heater is warmed by the sun. (we had this one before on here)

  • laserfan
    13 years ago

    >A cold sunny day, sun heats up your heater

    You may not believe this chris, but where we are there is no such combination as "sunny" and "freezing"--the sun ALWAYS has warmth in it. Indeed we have an inverse problem here of the possibility of >100deg in the GH even in the dead of winter. Happened just last week in fact. All last winter we had only 3 or 4 days of really cold (sub-freezing) temperatures, and we've matched that already this yr so it may be one for the record books! ;) If it ever hits the 'teens here it will be a very unusual thing!

    I am retired from the upper midwest myself so know all about 5-month winters and sub-zero madness. Wouldn't want to try to maintain this HFGH design under such conditions but I wish you well in your efforts to make it work! Our GH just went into service over the last couple weeks--a few plants and a few seedlings. Assuming next year we have a full house of greenery in there we will surely have the bugs ironed-out and an emergency plan in place ourselves.

    As for the possibility of getting trapped inside (maybe after a few brews?) I think the easy way-out for us will be to secure the aforementioned/removed panel with ONLY 3M Dual-Lock tape, no screws. Then if one gets stuck from either cold/ice or even the mechanism jamming somehow, you need only push-out that panel to escape. Sounds a little silly to plan an escape hatch, but lemme tellya this freezing rain (continues today for the 3rd straight day) is nasty stuff!

  • pcdur
    13 years ago

    O.K.

    Now guys, I need to know what is the beast kind of heater for my 10x12 HFGH? I want to keep it around 70 all winter.

    I would like to use electic if poss. I can use k1 for back up if ele. goes out.

    Thanks

  • oregon_veg
    13 years ago

    Just rub a thin layer of oil where the doors meet. They shouldn't stick (unless of course you have those arctic temps that freeze oil... then you'll be stuck until spring :-)
    Tom

  • laserfan
    13 years ago

    >Just rub a thin layer of oil where the doors meet.

    Tom! Buddy! Not that easy! After 2 days we have 2 inches of solid, perfect, crystal-clear ice covering everything and I'm not exaggerating. So wrt the HFGH we're talking top rail, bottom tracks, and the middle mating surfaces covered by a very thick layer of ice. This is unusual of course but still who wants to grab/maintain oily doors.

    I will admit that when the weather breaks the first thing to go will be the foam weatherstripping on the mating surfaces--these freeze instantly and stick together, making a fine base for the layer-after-layer of freezing precipitation we've had.

    It was dangerous to be outside again today; the yard is a skating rink, sidewalks are impassable, our normally rough, rocky 1/4 mile driveway is solid ice such that we can't walk-or-drive it, if we did manage to drive down we'd never get back up. Our trees are bent-over and breaking-off by the dozens. Hope my little chainsaw is up to the clean-up work that will be needed (we have maybe 6 groomed acres out of 26 here). Not fun!

  • scott361
    13 years ago

    After I bought my 10x12 HFGH, I took one look at it and left it in the box! There was no way that I was going to trust it with thousands of dollars of orchids. Even if it could survive storm winds, it would be too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter! I figured that I could use it as a hothouse inside my future solid greenhouse. I could maybe use it as a seedstarting building this spring. I alway had that in mind anyway!

    I have all of my orchids in a heated carport room with lights.
    I have my lemon grass, pomogranite and many others that need protection in there as well. I decided not to risk even them. It took to long to grow them. I have had a couple of issues with it, but it's far more reliable.

    After five years, I'm getting used to the winters here. So far it's been almost non-stop rain with some flooding of what had been potential greenhouse building sites.(I knew that there was a reason why I waited one more season to get a better feel before building anything!) The ground has been frozen solid for weeks and now has several foot of snow. No biggie really, but I can see what stays warmer and thaws the fastest. I can definitely see what stays shady and frozen the longest.

    Scott

  • oregon_veg
    13 years ago

    okay, I get your point..
    Believe it or not, I have only lived in Oregon for a few years. My previous life was in the bitter Alaskan frontier.
    I know cold. The wind would reach 70mph, Celsius and F would meet (-40deg). When you came in the house, you couldn't blink right away because your eyelids were frozen. Everything metal to metal was frozen shut. so I used plenty of oil. Believe it or not, when you open a door you don't grab the rail, you grab the handle. If you apply it thinly, it makes no mess at all.
    Some of it even comes in a spray can (I think some that I used to use was actually even a silicone or maybe teflon spray).
    You are right laserfan, weatherstripping is a good idea.
    ö¿ö
    ~
    Tom

  • scott361
    13 years ago

    Where in Southern Oregon are you, Tom?
    I'm closest to Cave Junction. Just seven or eight miles out of town.

    There is a reason why those places are still called the frontier!! I'm so glad that my parents moved to California when I was a baby! We got snow about every four years.
    That was in Northern California in Sonoma County. Until moving up here, I'd spent the past decade living in Palm Springs. Winter was when you went golfing. (with short sleeves!)

    Scott

  • laserfan
    13 years ago

    >After I bought my 10x12 HFGH, I took one look at it and
    >left it in the box! There was no way that I was going to
    >trust it with thousands of dollars of orchids.

    I don't disagree Scott--though I do think it can be enhanced/modified to meet many folks' needs, if one has the aptitude & patience for refitting the thing. It remains a very good deal if it fits your purpose; I think my wife is just gonna use ours for over-wintering a few things, seed-starting, and I built a nice potting bench for her general use in there.

    I too am from "Up North" but don't recall seeing anything like this ever wrt rain that STAYS rain until it gets to the surface and then freezes, for days at a time. In any case Tom spray lube makes sense, but I'm still plotting an emergency escape route just in case!! ;-)

  • oregon_veg
    13 years ago

    scott361,
    I'm down off fish hatchery!
    How was Hayes hill after this snow?
    or didn't you go east in GP
    ö¿ö
    ~
    Tom

  • scott361
    13 years ago

    It's not like I'm throwing it away. I'm still planning on using it. I also think that it'll make a great seed starting building or whatever. I just couldn't feel safe with my orchids in it. I don't really think that it was intended for that sort of thing anyway.
    When I first got it, I had intended to use it for the winter and then keep it as a hot house inside a much larger one. I figured that it would make some plants happier and cut down on my heating requirements.
    I was just too busy and didn't have the time to worry about it staying together. There was just too much going on. Also, as I have been planning an "actual" greenhouse, I didn't want to put the time into something that was temporary and seemed too fragile.

    I went to GP last week, just before the snow, and haven't really left since. I'm not a bad driver, but I'm not really happy driving on ice! Our jeep got rolled a few weeks ago(not by me!) and I don't want to damage our trucks. I had to go to town and could barely keep our Dually on the road. It was almost dark and the roads were refreezing. Black ice everywhere! Coming back from the hardware store was really spooky! I don't like sliding around in something that big!

    Scott

  • mollyd
    13 years ago

    I was just on another group reading a post by someone in Oklahoma. Seems they've been hit really hard to the point their governor is going to ask that Bush declare them a disaster area.
    Hope their greenhouses have held up under the 2 to 4 inches of ice they've gotten!

    MollyD

  • laserfan
    13 years ago

    We only got two inches and it was awful--I can only imagine what they are going thru.

    Another all-day power outage here, but we got it back before Grey's Anatomy! (Whew!)

  • ninjabut
    13 years ago

    Well,Scott, looking at the list of your orchids, I would also opt for a formal GH with heating, cooling etc!
    I'm in Sonoma Co (between SR and RP) and am enjoying my first year with a GH. We have had record freezing here (22*) I enjoy going in my GH in the afternoon and reading. That way I don't have to turn on the heater! NANCY

  • scott361
    13 years ago

    Hi Nancy!
    Although I grew up in Sonoma Co, I haven't lived there since '95. The last place was out off of Bodega Hwy, west of Sebastopol. I still have relatives in the area and my brother lives in Penngrove.

    I still live by vinyards as well. There is one across the street and several down the road. Sonoma Co has been sort of home base since '68. Whenever we moved , we always still had a house there. We sold completely out of the area in '95. I've been up here for about five yrs and we sold out of Ca completely last March. I still love that area, even though most of what I knew and loved is gone. Even the parts of the Palm Springs area that I loved are gone!

    Congrats on the length of your marrage by the way! My parents have been married for 41yrs. You don't see a lot of long marrages anymore!

    I don't know how much you've been following or how long. Other than being far too busy, my largest issue has been trying to cover ALL of my bases in chosing a greenhouse. I'm actually glad that I delayed one more year. It's so easy to forget, during summer, exactly how much water and snow that I get. Many close potential building sites are either far too wet or stay far too cold/frozen all winter. All of the best places are taken, by the house, barns, etc. Something's gotta give up some room!! I don't know if you read some of my earier musings. It gives some ideas that I'm wanting, worrying and fussing over! I really want the effort to go into the planning and construction, not continual repairs and climate maintenance! I want some size for the climate stability.(I'm also greedy and want the space!)

    Scott

    Here is a link that might be useful: Sustainable Solar Greenhouses

  • nortonbk
    13 years ago

    Hey laserfan what part of TX you in? I'm in Lufkin and we got some of the freezing rain but not like you. My HFGH is still in the box sitting in my shop but I hope to be able to start putting the thing together soon.

  • laserfan
    13 years ago

    Hi nortonbk we are in the Hill Country west of Austin. Good luck with your HFGH--look for my "lessons learned" thread here pretty close by.

    You'll want to wait for a few days of nice weather for sure before starting this project!

  • ninjabut
    13 years ago

    Hey Scott,
    Sonoma CO is still beautiful! Just getting more populated!:(
    Out here on the flatlands (Stony Point area) we still have egrets, great blue herons, hawks, skunks, possum, and occasional fox, badger, golden eagle and deer.
    You probably sold at the best time cause the median priceis dropping rapidly right now! (topped out at about 615,000.00!) last year.
    Anyway, to keep OT, I'll be starting seeds in the next wek or 2 in my GH for this year's vege garden.

  • cowcatcher
    13 years ago

    Our track froze as well. A hair dryer solved the problem from outside.
    However, since then we have kept the tracks - top and bottom sprayed with plain old 99-cent windshield washer solution. It has not frozen despite subfreezing temps and the fact our dryer is vented to theinside of the HFGF, providing plenty of moisture to freeze the door shut.

  • chris_in_iowa
    13 years ago

    cowcatcher,

    Please buy some of that RV antifreeze, the edible antifreeze, food grade antifreeze.

    Propylene Glycol, look it up.

    ""plain old 99-cent windshield washer solution."" I think you may find that contains Ethylene Glycol which tastes sweet and in fact attracts animals to drink it.

    It is deadly......

    Look up premature deaths of domestic animals (cats and dogs) 50% are caused by road traffic, the other 50% is mostly caused by ingestion of toxic chemicals, pesticides, rodenticides etc.

    By far the number one killer of domestic pets by poisoning is.... antifreeze!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifreeze