Sunspaces and Solar Greenhouses

Dozens of free design guides and plans for dozens of sunspaces and greenhouses you can build.


Attached sunspaces can be a good way to solar heat your house, provide some additional living space,  plant growing space, a place to read the newspaper and look at the views, and a place to hang the laundry for solar drying.   Very versatile and they look nice to boot.


Sunspace designs vary widely depending on whether you want to 1) provide heat for the attached house, 2) provide more living space, or 3) grow plants, or some combination of the three.  Be sure to review the guides below so that your design does what you want it to.

One sunspace aspect that is not well covered in most of the sunspace guidelines is the desirability of a low thermal mass sunspace if your aim is to transfer a maximum amount of heat to the attached house -- see the low thermal mass sunspace entries below.  


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Sunspace and Solar Greenhouse Design and Construction

Sunspace Notes: 

Attached sunspaces can be a good way to add solar heating, and provide some additional living space, or plant growing space.   Sunspace designs vary widely depending on whether you want to 1) provide heat for the attached house, 2) provide more living space, or 3) grow plants, or some combination of the three. 

The Homeowner's Complete Handbook For Add- On Solar Greenhouses and Sunspaces

Andrew  Shapiro

Very good book on the design and building of sunspaces and greenhouses.   Provides quantitative design procedures that allow you to take into account your climate and sunspace objectives (house heating, plant growing, ...).  Also covers construction, economics, & much more.  Out of print, but generally available at used books (or the like).

It would be hard to overemphasize what a really fine reference this is.

Solar Rooms -- excerpts from the book Passive Solar Energy, Bruce Anderson and Malcolm Wells



This set of extracts from the book Passive Solar Energy covers:
+ Types of solar rooms.
+ Design guidelines for solar rooms.
+ Construction details for solar rooms.
+ Pictures of example solar rooms.
Sunwings - The Harrowsmith Guide to Solar Addition Architecture

Merilyn Mohr

Good book on attached sunspace design and construction.  Many good ideas on how to plan, design and build an attached sunspace.  Out of print, but generally available at (or the like).
Solar Greenhouses

Barbara Bellows



Good writeup on solar greenhouses.  Covers fundamentals and then goes on to cover a variety of solar greenhouse approaches, including some unusual ones.  Includes an extensive list of references.
The Solar Greenhouse Book

James McCullagh (editor)


Good book on building solar greenhouses, and on growing plants in them.  Out of print, but available on used books for less than a buck!


Sunspace design guidelines



Some general guidelines on sunspaces.  Not very detailed.
Construction and Greenhouse Tip Sheets,
Charlie's Greenhouse


Some useful tip sheets and building and using greenhouses.
Design and Installation Guide

Sundance Design Guide


This is a good 20 page or so sunspace/greenhouse construction guide.  The Sundance website has more material.


Installing Large Glass Sunspace Windows...

A good entry from the Alt. Build Blog on a good way to install large insulated glass units for sunspaces.

The article goes over some problems that have developed with the glazing units in a 1980's sunspace, and then details the full repair and a better way to mount the glazing units.


Low Thermal Mass Sunspaces for Home Space Heating (and many other things)
Low thermal mass sunspaces provide an exceptional combination of advantages:  very efficient space heating for the home they are attached to, added living space that can be used for a wide variety of purposes, a wide range of cost effective designs, and they can also look great (a plus for HOAs and spouses).

This section provides a design guide to explain what its all about, test data that documents their heating efficiency, and quite a few example low thermal mass sunspaces.

Our Home Power article covering Low Thermal Mass Sunspaces (LTMS)
Home Power Magazine, Dec 2013, HP158

- Design Information
- Performance testing
- Example LTMS designs

Low Thermal Mass SunspaceOur article in Home Power magazine. It basically covers most of what is in this section on Low Thermal Mass sunspaces in a very readable form -- a good place to start learning about the LTMS.

You can download the pdf version of the article after subscribing to the digital edition. The digital edition of HP is $10, and a 3 year digital subscription at $24 gives full access to all 25 years of back issues -- a great resource.

There is also a free html version of the article on the HP website here...

Design Guide for Low Thermal Mass Sunspaces,

This design guide covers low thermal mass sunspaces -- including:

  • What they are.
  • How and why they work well.
  • Covers the design rules for goes over the design rules.
  • Testing demonstrating the heat output and efficiency.
  • The multi-purpose space advantages and uses.
  • What they don't do well.
 Low Thermal Mass Sunspaces for Space heating

Transparent, Walk-In Enclosure Installed Along South Side of Existing House and Used to Heat the house,
William Shurcliff

Nick Pine usenet post on low thermal mass sunspaces...


low thermal mass sunspaceThe two articles listed to the left explain how low thermal mass sunspaces work, and why they are so effective for space heating.

In a nutshell, if your main goal for the sunspace is house space heating, you don't want to waste solar heat heating up mass out in the sunspace.
Testing the Heating Performance and Efficiency of a Low Thermal Mass Sunspace

sunspace for space heating

sunspace heating performancesunspace temperaturesThis is a testing I did to measure the heating performance and efficiency of a low thermal mass sunspace for space heating. 

In addition, it provides temperature surveys of the space, thermal images, and some thoughts on designing for a combination of good space heating and a comfortable space to spend time in.

The sunspace performs very well as a space heater -- on par with high quality active collectors -- and you can read your paper and catch a few rays.

All the details...
Example Low Mass Sunspaces
Some examples of low thermal mass sunspaces that shows some of the huge range of  possibilities.
Mike's Low Thermal Mass, Multi Purpose Sunspace in the Colorado Mountains

Colorado low mass sunspaceThis is Mike's low thermal mass sunspace in Colorado.  It is used for a variety of purposes including heating the house, drying clothes, kids play room, drying food, and reading the paper.  In addition to all those uses, Mike is currently working on a way to integrate solar water heating into the sunspace.

An exceptional job of blending the added sunspace with the existing house. 
The variety of purposes that sunspaces can be put is what makes them exceptional -- drying clothes alone saves about 1200 KWH and 2000 lbs of CO2 a year.

Mike provides all the details on the design, build, and performance...

Innovative, energy efficient, cost effective Montana solar home

A really nicely integrated Low Thermal Mass Sunspace on a new home -- plus lots of other innovation energy, cost, and material saving ideas.

Andrew did an amazing job of combining a Low Thermal Mass Sunspace, an inside-out Mooney Wall, plus many material and labor saving construction ideas into a house that is energy efficient, solar heated, and cost effective.

A treasure trove of applied innovative ideas.

All the details...

Low Thermal Mass Sunspace in Minnesota,
William Sikora




Architect William Sikora describes his design for a modern and elegant sunspace for this Minnesota home.

The air distribution and control system is very simple, and designed to be maintained by the home owner with only simple tools.

Certainly a beautiful and cost effective addition to the home.

All the details on this modern, elegant sunspace...
Norman Saunders Cliff House

Cliff house by Norman Saunders (pdf)


The Cliff house designed by Norman Saunders uses a large, 2 story, low mass sunspace across the front of the house that provides 100% of the heating demand for the house all year.

The sunspace is coupled with heat storage systems in the attic and crawl space that allow the home to achieve 100% solar heating.
Instant Sunspaces  -- How cheap can a sunspace be?

Laren Corie
Download the Feb, 2005 issue


Ed's Zero Cost Sunspace ...

ESSN Journal, Feb, 2005

A good article by Laren Corie on how to build and experiment with inexpensive sunspaces.  The example used in the article cost a grand total of $22, and went together in a couple hours!

A free download.


Here is another very low cost (actually zero cost) sunspace done by Ed.   Details ...

This shows how inexpensive and easy it is to turn a porch into a sunspace that is pleasant to spend time in, and can supply some heat to the house.

Air based solar-thermal “Hot-Box” collector

Full details...



solar thermal hot box collectorMitch calls this a "Hot-Box" collector, but I think it could equally be called a mini-sunspace.

Very nicely built -- as Mitch says, its "wife approved".

Some performance estimates provided.

Note the use of the reflector to improve collection -- reflectors are particularly effective in that they increase collection area without increasing heat loss.
I would pass on the idea of adding rocks for heat storage for the reasons discussed above -- unless you have a way of insulating the glazing at night.
Solar Sunspace Plans

This list of sunspace plans could be longer -- how about contributing some more!!  Gary

Sample Sunspace Pictures

Sample sunspace pictures:


I am having trouble finding good plans for attached sunspaces.  Here are some pictures gathered from here and there to illustrate how adaptable and good looking some of the sunspaces can be.  Please let me know if you run across some good plans.

Prices vary over a huge range depending on materials and construction, but sunspaces of all prices can perform well thermally.  Also, many of the greenhouses shown in the next section can be adapted as attached sunspaces -- some of these can be built for pennies a square foot.

Artic Glass Sun Room Plan


Plan Sheet 1 (800K)

Plan Sheet 2 (800K)


Nice set of plans for a double glazed sunroom.  Good details.

Artic glass was providing these plans at the MREA Energy Fair, and appeared to be offering very good prices on the tempered glass to construct such a sunspace.
website: (honest)
(this link appears to not be working for now 6/7/07)
Construction Details for Solar Rooms

From the book: Passive Solar Energy"

Some good construction details for solar rooms.
Embedded Sunspace...

Sustainable Housing Design Guide for Scotland



Full Description (111K pdf)

A nice concept for embedding sunspaces in multifamily units.

This site has a lot of generally good information.

The Bathhouse

Joe Schwartz and Ben Root

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issues 63 and 64

Very Good article on passive solar bath house using solar heated water. Built with emphasis on low impact and using local materials.  Strawbale construction with native stone floors, and "dirt bag" foundation. Composting toilet.  Planning, design, and construction details. 2nd part gives quite a bit of construction detail.

Earth-sheltered Greenhouse

Mike Oehler, Mother Earth News


Another build using Mike's design:

How To Build an Earth Sheltered Greenhouse, Susanna Raeven, Mother Earth News

Finding Mother Earth News articles...

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 202

Good article on a unique design for a greenhouse that combines solar gain and earth sheltering.  Good construction detail.

The 2nd article by Susanna provides some good build photos and description. Some nice details.

The Construction of Mother's Bioshelter Greenhouse,


Finding Mother Earth News articles...



Mother Earth News Article, Issue 100  July/Aug 1986

An interesting greenhouse design that combines a number of functions in one design.  Uses both active and passive solar as well as photovoltaics.

One Man’s Personal Straw Bale Odyssey

David Booth

Search HP archives for issue 46

Home Power Magazine article, issue 46

Good article on building a variety of small load bearing strawbale buildings, including a very nice greenhouse.  Lots of background on strawbale construction, and some how-to detail.

Solar Closets and Sunspaces

Nick Pine and Paul Bashus

The full Solar Closet paper here...

Nick's blog: Ask the Renewable Engineer...

An interesting idea for coupling a low thermal mass solar collection area with a well insulated, high temperature  heat storage area that is used as a "solar battery" to heat the attached house during cloudy periods.
Convertible Solar Porch



A potential way to convert your porch into a sunspace using canvas and Vinyl panels.

Panels roll up for quick conversion between open and enclosed.

Sunspace with Attached Solar Air Collector

More of his solar projects here...
An overview description of an interesting arrangement of sunspace and air collector.
Sunroom, Greenhouse and Skylight Plans


Plans for building sunrooms using tempered glass sliding glass door units.  The glazing system appears to be well thought out and doable as a DIY project.   Cost is $15.


Greenhouse  Plans and Descriptions
Greenhouse Notes:
  • Many of the greenhouses show below can be made into attached sunspaces by joining them to your house on the end, or by using half of the greenhouse to form a lean-to style greenhouse with your house wall providing the north wall of the greenhouse.   In this case, heat can be transferred from the greenhouse to the house via ducts or windows or doors.  These connections between the house and greenhouse can be closed at night when the greenhouse is cold.  This can be a very cost effective way to heat a space.
  • Many of the greenhouses plans below are not particularly energy efficient, and would need some design changes to earn the title solar greenhouse.  These changes might include: 1) double wall poly construction with a small blower to inflate the space between the two layers of poly,  2) insulation on the north exposure,  3) the addition of moveable insulation for the glazed areas.  In addition, to protect plants from freezing at night, thermal mass (e.g. water barrels) may need to be added depending on your climate.  I have included plans for inefficient ones because they may have construction ideas that are right for your situation -- its up to you to change the designs a bit to make them more efficient.  Making the changes will cost you a bit up front, but will payoff in much lower heating bills and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.  See the first two entries for more on true solar greenhouses.

There are some conflicts between using an attached greenhouse for space heating, and using it for plant growing.   For maximum space heating of the attached house, the greenhouse space should have little thermal mass in order to provide a maximum of heat to the house during the sunny period.   A low thermal mass greenhouse of this type will not be suitable for growing plants year round in cold climates, as the night time temperatures will go below freezing -- however, it may still be useful for extending the plant growing season.  On the other hand, greenhouses intended for growing plants year round need more thermal mass to keep their heat overnight, and will have less heat to transfer to an attached house.  The Andrew Shapiro book listed above, provides very good detail on these tradeoffs for various climates -- highly recommended.

The plans cover sizes from small cold frames up to greenhouses you could play football in.

An Energy-Efficient Solar-Heated Greenhouse
Produces Cool-Season Vegetables all Winter Long,
Thomas, Becker, and Crawford, University of Missouri-Columbia

This is a great set of papers from the U of Missouri on a carefully designed passive solar greenhouse that maintains growing temperatures all winter without supplementary heating.
Full design and construction and winter performance information is provided.  This GH has an 18 year track record.
Unique greenhouse uses a water to air heat exchanger to store excess daytime solar heat in a heat storage water tank...

solar greenhouse uses water to air heat exchanger to store heatThis greenhouse uses a blower located in the peak to blow hot air through a water to air heat exchanger.

The water heated by the heat exchanger is stored in a 275 gallon tank.

On cold nights or cloudy days, the heated water is used to heat the greenhouse. The same heat exchanger is used for both heating and cooling.

Our New Solar Greenhouse in Montana
MT solar greenhouseThis is our new solar greenhouse project in Montana.
The design is based on the U of M greenhouse just above, but scaled down a bit.

I plan to do some sunspace and tiny home testing before going to full greenhouse mode.  This is an experiment in progress -- any advice or comments would be appreciated...
Developing a Solar Greenhouse in Manitoba

Manitoba GH article 1...

Manitoba GH article 2...

Manitoba GH Paper on performance...
manitoba winter greenhouseVery interesting material on rsearch into greenhouses that will allow growing through the winter in Manitoba without supplemental heating (solar only).

One of the tests involved dividing a long greenouse into 4 side by side sections -- each section was glazed or insulated differently to allow direct comparison.
One of the sections used Argon filled poly glazing -- it did quite well.
A Small Solar Greenhouse
small solar greenhouseThis is a very nicely done small solar greenhouse.  The design includes double glazing, north wall insulation, water barrel storage, and a passive ventilation system -- all of which help to control the winter and summer temperatures.
Andrew used mostly materials from the local Habitat Restore, so it was not too expensive.
Temperature and humidity logs show the summer and fall performance.  Pretty good detail on the construction.
Passive Solar Greenhouse



Very nice set of picture plans for building a true solar greenhouse.  The design uses strawbale construction for the non-glazed walls, and twinwall polycarbonate glazing, and thermal mass to provide a greenhouse that will allow year round gardening in most climates without supplementary heating.
Converting a Conventional Greenhouse to Passive Solar,
By Example ...


Good article from By Example on converting a conventional greenhouse to a passive solar greenhouse through the addition of insulation, better sealing, and double glazing.  Good detail.

(thanks to Mel at By Example for suggesting this)

Passive Solar Greenhouse



A good series of picture plans for a passive solar greenhouse.  The greenhouse uses Strawbale construction for the non-glazed walls, an insulated foundation, and incorporates a cistern in the design.  Very nice.

Geodesic Dome Greenhouse

Details at

New -- the geodome greenhouse is now "off-grid" and powered by PV...

geodesic dome greenhouseThis is a very nicely done geodesic dome greenhouse.  It also includes a rain collection system and pond.

Good construction detail on the whole project.
Doug's Solar Greenhouse ...


A description of Doug's passive solar greenhouse, which is attached to his passive solar house.  The greenhouse is used for plant starting and also provides some heat to the house.

Some good information on planning and constructing a solar greenhouse.

Kiva's Straw Bale Greenhouse



Very nice and complete set of plans and pictures for a 10 by 12 foot greenhouse.  Includes the use of 2 walls constructed from strawbales.


Flagstaff Solar Greenhouse


A fairly detailed description of a nicely designed and built solar greenhouse for the challenging Flagstaff climate.

Includes some detail on the GH design and construction.  Also includes a little info on the water harvesting system and solar powered ventilation system.

Cristian Adds a Greenhouse to His Earth Sheltered Home

All the details on Cristians greenhouse...
Cristian's greenhouseCristian provides all the details on building a twinwall polycarbonate greenhouse on a rectangular steel tubing frame.

The greenhouse is an addition to his amazing earth sheltered home...
Geothermally heated greenhouse



Some photos of a geothermally heated, double wall greenhouse at the Chico Hot Springs resort, north of Yellowstone National Park.  The Story...
Hoop House Construction for New Mexico: 12 ft X 40 ft Hoop House,
Cooperative Extension Service -- Circular 606
College of Agriculture and Home Economics,
New Mexico State University

Full plans and instructions ... (pdf)

The NM State University Extension Website:

Very detailed plans and instructions for building a PVC pipe framed poly greenhouse.


High Tunnel or Hoop Houses ...


Lots of good information on building and using High Tunnel (or Hoop House) greenhouses.  High Tunnels are simple, cheap greenhouses built with PVC pipe and poly film that are tall enough to stand up in.  The site gives lots of data on both building and using High Tunnels.
50 Dollar Greenhouse



Nice and detailed set of picture plans for building an 11 by 15 foot hoop house.
The author built it for $50 with some contributions from his scrap bin, but its about $140 with all new materials.
Growers Supply


Growers Supply is a supplier of both hobby and commercial greenhouse kits.  The "Instruction Manuals" are downloadable, and are very detailed.  The instruction manuals are a good source of construction details that you can use in your own design (I'm sure they won't mind).
Hotbed and Propagating Frame

University of Tennessee Extension

UTEPlan5971 (668K pdf)



Hotbed 6 by 6 feet and 3.5 ft high.  Covering is poly, and frame is made from conduit and wood.

From the University of Tennessee Extension service:

Arched Roof Hotbed

University of Tennessee Extension

UTE Plan 6080 (500K pdf)


4 ft wide, poly covered hotbed.  The poly is supported by 8 gauge welded wire fencing.

From the University of Tennessee Extension service:

Solar Shed...



Handy Home Products sells kits for these Solar Sheds, but also provides very, very detailed plans as a free download.  Click on their "Instructions Available" link to get the plans.
Free plans for an attached greenhouse

Sun Country Greenhouse Company


Pretty good plans for an attached greenhouse that uses glass glazing, and some words of wisdom about solar greenhouses.
They also sell plans for a freestanding 8X16 greenhouse, and they sell greenhouse kits.
Small Greenhouse and Garden Storage

LSU Ag Center

GH and Storage Plan (pdf)


Plans for a small greenhouse with storage for garden tools at the north end. 

From: The LSU Ag Center

9' X 12' Hobby Greenhouse

LSU Ag Center

Hobby Greenhouse Plans (pdf)

A 9' X 12' hobby greenhouse.  Framing is EMT conduit.  Schemes are shown for covering with poly or fiberglass.

From: The LSU Ag Center

Tri-Penta Greenhouse

LSU Ag Center

Tri-Penta GH Plans (pdf)


Plans for an unusual tri-penta greenhouse. 
Wood framed with poly covering.
I am guessing the plans could be adapted to any size.

From: The LSU Ag Center


Plans for small Greenhouse

From Suntuf

Plans for a small greenhouse using corrugated polycarbonate glazing panels.  From the Suntuf website. -- Greenhouse Plan



Plan for a wood framed, poly covered greenhouse.  Fairly detailed plans, and looks easy to build.

Low-Cost Versatile Hoop Houses

George DeVault

Mother Earth News

Finding Mother Earth News articles...

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 196

Good article on building and using “hoop house” greenhouses, which provide a very low cost per sqft greenhouse.  Some construction detail.  This technique could also be used for inexpensive sunspace for generating solar heat for your house.

How to Build a PVC Hoophouse for your Garden


Nice set of plans for a PVC hoop style greenhouse.  Apparently, it can be put together by a 6 year old!
Small Backyard Greenhouse for the Home Gardner,
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service ... (pdf)


Nice detailed plans for building a 12 by 14 ft greenhouse using PVC pipe frame and poly covering.

If you are in a cold climate, I'd think about changing it into a two layer poly covering with the space between the layers inflated with a small blower (see 6720 GH just below).
Canada Plan Service

Plan 6720 for Double Wall Greenhouse (pdf)


Two Layer Polyethylene Greenhouse plan.   Canada Plan Service provides free plans you can download for this and MANY other Ag oriented barns, sheds, vegetable storage, ...  All carefully thought out and engineered:
Plans for PVC greenhouses


Free plans for greenhouses, cold frames, and sheds framed with PVC pipe.

Links to suppliers of PVC fittings for building PVC pipe frames.  "Submitted Pictures" showing some of the shows some of the interesting things people have built with PVC pipe.

Simple PVC Frame Poly Greenhouse

The Plan

How to build description of a simple PVC pipe framed poly greenhouse that was posted on the Homesteading Today website forum.
Gambrel Home Greenhouse

University of Tennessee Extension

UTE Plan 6181 (850K pdf)



10 ft by 12 gambrel roof style greenhouse.  Fiberglass pane glazing.

Might also work well with Polycarbonate twinwall glazing.

From the University of Tennessee Extension service:

Portable Plastic Greenhouse -- plan 5946

University of Tennessee Extension

UTE Plan 5946 ( 540K pdf)


Simple 7 by 12 ft poly covered greenhouse with bent wood for hoops.


From the University of Tennessee Extension service:

Plastic Pipe Frame Hoop Greenhouse

University of Tennessee Extension

UTE Plan 795-3 (1.2 MB pdf)


12 by 21 ft Greenhouse framed with 1.5 inch plastic pipe. 

The design might be adapted to two poly walls with inflated space between for less heat loss.
From the University of Tennessee Extension service:

FloridaGardner -- Plans for a 32' X 10' Greenhouse


Plans for a 10 ft wide by any length hoop style greenhouse from PVC pipe reinforced with steel rebar. 
Large - Wood framed Greenhouse

University of Tennessee Extension

UTE Plan 6029 (1MB pdf)

Large greenhouse.  22 ft wide by 48 or 96ft long.  Frames are wood trusses.

From the University of Tennessee Extension service:

Large Gothic Arch Double Wall Poly Covered Greenhouse

University of Tennessee Extension

UTE Plan 6298 (420K pdf)


Large 21 by 40 ft greenhouse.  Double wall poly cover supported by wood gothic style arches.

This might be scaled down to an interesting design for a home size greenhouse.

From the University of Tennessee Extension service:

Large Conduit Frame Poly Greenhouse

University of Tennessee Extension

UTE Plan 6217 (770K pdf)


20 by 80 ft poly greenhouse with metal conduit framing.

From the University of Tennessee Extension service:

Very Large Double Wall Poly Greenhouse

University of Tennessee Extension

UTE Plan 6185 (1.3MB pdf)


28 by 96 ft double wall poly covered greenhouse.  Covered with two sheets of poly with blower inflation between.  Wood or metal truss framing.

From the University of Tennessee Extension service:

 A Build-It-Yourself Pine Pole Greenhouse

Christine and Wilson Goddard

Finding Mother Earth News articles...


Mother Earth News Article, Issue 91

Good hands-on article on building a green house using locally available  pine poles and poly sheeting.   Some details on design and construction

A Solar Heated Greenhouse
Richard Lane and Chuck Marken

How to get articles from Home Power ...
Home Power magazine article, issue 96

Covers design, construction and performance of a solar
heating system for a large greenhouse in Wisconsin.

Winter Food Production in Pennsylvania -- without Fossil Fuels.
Steve and Carol Moore

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power magazine article, issue 99

An interesting article on the design of a large greenhouse for
growing through the winter with solar heating.  The design is simple and low cost.

Garage/Workshop Sunspace


Turn your south facing garage/workshop into a sunspace.

One Man’s Personal Straw Bale Odyssey

David Booth

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issue 46

Good article on building a variety of small load bearing strawbale buildings, including a very nice greenhouse.  Lots of background on strawbale construction, and some how-to detail.

Maine Solar Primer Modular Greenhouse

Maine Solar Energy Association

Some ideas on simple frames for free-standing or attached greenhouses.

Courtesy of the Maine Solar Energy Association

Stimson Marine -- Bow Roof Greenhouse


Detailed plans for a bow roof greenhouse.  The plans cost $18 from Stimson Marine.
Small greenhouse made from recycled windows

This nice, small greenhouse was made from recycled windows.

The greenhouse is used for hydropnic growing, and plans for this system are also included.

Thanks to Alex for sending this link in!

Old Swimming Pool Converted to a Greenhouse to Grow Produce and Fish
pool to greenhouseThis family converted an unused swimming pool into a greenhouse that grows produce tilapia fish, and chickens for eggs.
Pretty ingenious.
Their motivation for doing this is to be self sufficient in case of a major disaster, but it could certainly work for people not expecting a major disaster.
The family was featured in a National Geographic special on major disaster preparation --the video shows more details on the system they set up...
Heating, Cooling and Ventilation Schemes
Curtain Wall Ventilation

Canada Plan Service

Plan 9351 Curtain Wall Vent (pdf)



This wall curtain ventilation scheme was intended for livestock barn ventilation, but might work well for greenhouses?

From the most excellent Canada Plan Services  website:


Moveable Wall Panel Ventilation System

Canada Plan Service

Plan 9355 Wall Panel Ventilation (pdf)


This moveable wall panel ventilation system was intended for livestock barns, but might work well for greenhouses with the use of transparent panels?

From the Canada Plan Service:


Fan and Pad Greenhouse Evaporative Cooling System
R.A. Bucklin, J.D. Leary, D.B. McConnell, E.G. Wilkerson    University of Florida Extension

The Paper (pdf)

Paper from the Univ of Florida on designing and sizing evaporative pad cooling systems for greenhouses.

Using Evaporative Cooling,
John Bartok, Jr.

Details ...

Details part II...




evaporative pad coolers for greenhouseDetailde design and build information for evaporative pad cooling walls for greenhouses.
Plans for an Evaporative Cooling Pad Cabinet,
North Dakota State University Extension

The whole ND State plan list...

Plans for a large evaporative pad cooler for greenhouses.


Rollup shade plans

From Charlie's Green House

The Plans (pdf)


Plans for a simple rollup shade from Charlie's Greenhouse in Seattle.
Bubble Wrap Window Insulation


New Installation Instruction Sheet (8/15/06)

A really cheap and quick way to insulate greenhouse glazing to prevent high heat loss in the winter.
Can be put up and taken down seasonally.

Added some small updates to instructions 11/13/05.
Instruction sheet added 8/15/06

Efficient Blower for Double Skin Greenhouses


Many poly skinned greenhouses use two layers of poly with a small blower inflating the space between the layers.  This gives you cheap double glazing, and reduces heat loss.

Most of blowers are set up to run 24/7, but this article shows a way to cut down the run time dramactially using a small pressure switch and a very simple check valve.  With the check valve, the blower runs only when enough air leaks out to the point of needing reinflation.

Heating Greenhouse Soil With Solar Air Heaters...
solar soil heating in greenhousesThis is a really simple scheme that uses solar air heating collectors to heat the soil for a green house.

The results for such a simple system are pretty impressive.

The Rutgers Solar Heating System for Greenhouses
Mears, Roberts, Simpkins, and Kendall
Rutgers University

The Rutgers Solar Heating System for Greenhouse - 1977 (0.8 MB pdf)

Greenhouse Solar Heating-1981 (2.5MB pdf)

A related paper on a solar home using a similar flooded subfloor heat storage scheme.

Similar collector used in an Aquaculture project...

Papers from the Rutgers Horticultural Engineering website dealing with applying a combination of energy conservation, careful management, and solar heating with flooded subfloor heat storage.  This combined strategy yielded energy savings up to 80% in a large demonstration project.  While these papers are oriented toward commercial scale greenhouses, most of the concepts could be applied on a smaller scale.   The solar collector (pictured) is amazingly simple, and may have other (low temperature) applications.

A number of other interesting commercial greenhouse related papers at the Rutgers Horticultural Engineering Website:
Movable Thermal Insulation For Greenhouses

Roberts, Mears, Simpkins, and Cipolletti
Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department , New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station

Movable Curtain Insulation (1.2MB pdf)



This very interesting paper details work done on several automatically controlled, movable curtain insulation systems for greenhouses.  It includes test data for several systems that were developed and tested.   While these systems are intended for large commercial greenhouses, some of the concepts, design information and test data are applicable to hobby greenhouses. Like this?

A number of other interesting commercial greenhouse related papers at the Rutgers Horticultural Engineering Website:

Grey water for greenhouse heating and plant watering




For more on using greywater, see the water section ...






Using grey water for greenhouse plant watering and as a source of heat for the greenhouse seems like a potentially good way to go.
I've included the (meager) information I have been able to find on this below.  If you have other information, pictures, ... please let me know -- Gary.

Greywater treatment with some discussion of GH use



A GH that use greywater
An overview of a greenhouse that uses greywater for watering and heating.

Solar Bubble Build


Pretty detailed description of a building using the soap bubble insulation scheme.

I'd say this is on the experimental side, but the idea has been used on some "real" greenhouses -- quite an interesting concept!

Plant Bed Heating -- Plant beds may be used to store excess greenhouse heat,
John Canivan

From John Canivan's JC-SolarHomes website.


An interesting concept for solar heating the plant beds in a greenhouse to minimize or eliminate the need for night heating.

Subterranean Heating and Cooling System


A system that heats and cools the greenhouse using the earth under the greenhouse for heat storage. 
Performance of Greenhouse Coupled to Earth-Tube-Heat-Exchanger in Closed-Loop Mode,
G. Sharan, H. Prakash, R. Jadhav
Download Report (220K pdf)

Performance of Single Pass Earth-Tube Heat Exchanger: An Experimental Study,
Girja Sharna, Ratan Jadhav
Download Report  (pdf)

Report on the use of earth tubes for greenhouse cooling in a hot and humid location in India.
While this is a larger installation than most of us would need, it provides useful design material and results.
The 2nd paper reports on an experiment done with a smaller earth tube -- detailed results are provided.
Heating with Compost
The Composting Greenhouse At New Alchemy Institute - A Report On Two Years of Operation and Monitoring, Bruce Fulford

Heating a greenhouse with compost

The Report (pdf)


Very extensive and detailed report on heating a greenhouse with compost. 
Two years worth of testing on design and type of compost issues.

Warning: This document has many math errors. This appears to be mostly in the conversions between English and Metric units when they give both, but there may be other problems as well.

Composting Greenhouse with Straw Bale Foundation, From Experiments in Sustainable Urban Living ...


This uses surplus heat from a large compost pile under the greenhouse floor to heat water for the house.  You get water heating and greenhouse space with the same structure!

This is a pretty slick idea for heating water with heat generated from compost, as well as providing greenhouse space.
The thing that intrigues me is that you can apparently have working greenhouse space above the heat generating compost pile? 

I'd like to hear from anyone with composting experience on how workable this all seems? Gary

Heat free (nearly) with a compost furnace


This is a very nicely thought out space heating scheme that uses a large compost pile to generate heat.

Marc has worked out a design that provides for aerating the pile, keeping it moist, collecting the heat, and insulating the pile for greater efficiency.

Heating from Large Wood Chip Compost Piles
Jean Pain

The Methods of Jean Pain: Or another kind of garden, Ida Pain, 1980.
This book is out of print, and I was not able to find any used copies of this for sale.
A pdf copy is currently availabe here...

Mother Earth News has several articles by/about Jean Pain
Search their website for Jean Pain
Finding Mother Earth News articles...

Journey To Forever on Jean Pain:

The book covers Jean Pain's  research in using compost for both agricultural and energy production.  There is some good, practical information on building large compost piles for the production of heat for water or space heating. 
One example 50 ton pile provided the equivalent of 200 MBTU over a 6 month period -- enough to heat a house.

Biomeiler -- heat extraction from large compost pile...

Biomeiler - heat from compostDetailed description of a scheme to collect heat from a large compost pile -- somewhat similar to the Jean Pain piles. The piles are primarily made from ground wood.

The heat is extracted via coils of plastic pipe embedded in the pile as its constructed. Said to provide heat for 12 to 24 months -- up to 160F.

A detailed pdf construction manual is provided. All in German, so Google translator is your friend.

Storing Greenhouse Heat
Low-Cost Active Heat Storage,
Nathan Hurst and Paul Harrison,
ReNew Issue 100

Low-Cost Active Heat Storage pdf ....

The article describes a way to use a car radiator and water tank as an inexpensive way to  store heat from a greenhouse.

In most cases, when a greenhouse or sunspace heat is used to heat an attached house, hot air from the GH is blown into the house for immediate use.  This paper shows a simple way to store GH heat for use later.
(thanks to Nathan for making this available)

Unique greenhouse uses a water to air heat exchanger to store excess daytime solar heat in a heat storage water tank...

solar greenhouse uses water to air heat exchanger to store heatThis greenhouse uses a blower located in the peak to blow hot air through a water to air heat exchanger.

The water heated by the heat exchanger is stored in a 275 gallon tank.

On cold nights or cloudy days, the heated water is used to heat the greenhouse. The same heat exchanger is used for both heating and cooling.

Root Cellar
Low-cost Multipurpose Minibuilding Made with Earthbags,
Owen Geiger, Mother Earth News August 2009

Finding Mother Earth News articles...

Good book on Earthbag building...

Mother Earth News article on building a root cellar, storage shed, storm shelter, ... using the earthbag technique.

An Old Time Dug Out Root Cellar...



Root cellar suitable for flat ground.  Only one wall to build, rest are dirt.  Stairway down to below ground door


Root Cellar for Vegetable Storage

Canada Plan Service

Root Cellar Plan 6321 (pdf)
Root Cellar Info  6321 (pdf)



Root cellar for vegetable storage.
Speaking of Gardening 
Some other areas on the site that might interest gardeners

Solar powered garden tractors and lawn mowers...

My ElecTrak tractorsA collection of solar powered garden tractors and lawn mowers...

Solar Garden Helper Machine

Details on the solar garden helper machine...


solar garden helper machineThis is Randy's pretty amazing solar powered garden helper machine.  It makes chores like planting, weeding, and picking a lot easier on the back.

Its made from 1 inch steel tubing bent and welded by Randy, and uses a geared down drive from an electric wheelchair.  Its electrically powered with 4 golfcart batteries that are charged with two 80 watt onboard PV panels.

Details on the solar garden helper machine...

Solar Cooking... All sorts of solar cookers...