“100 degrees in there. No supplementary heat.” Mrs. Kiefer was returning from checking on her greenhouse. At just 49 degrees outside, the sun was doing an incredible job heating that transparent sanctuary for flowers and food plants.
To function properly, a greenhouse must be placed in an optimal position. Hers is at its third location now. The first one was a small clearing between the woods and a utility building. Once the sun angles became low during the winter months, there was only a short time span for the sun to rise above the treetops. It required extra heat from an electric radiator, and the plants were unhappy with the lengthy shade periods. The second location was better and lasted as long as the plastic panels of the greenhouse did. After 8 years, they had yellowed to the point of becoming opaque. The new kit arrived with a much higher grade of panels and transparency, and the garden chief decided on yet another location. It places the structure just south of a garage building, which provides shelter from cold wind. In North Georgia, freezing winds tend to come from the north and northwest. During construction in the summer, a large old maple tree shaded the area and kept temperatures moderate. Due to the long daylight hours, there was plenty of light available for the plants. Now, during winter, the tree has no leaves. Full sunlight warms the greenhouse from about 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., producing a nice tropical climate inside.
House design, too, can take the Georgia climate into account. When adding a garage structure to the home (not the one near the greenhouse), we placed it on the northwest side. It produces the same wind-shelter effect as the other one. The deck, sunroom and a little structure housing the honeybee hives need warmth and sunlight. So those are facing south and southeast.
Bad experience with a rented house during my student years showed that the worst place for a bedroom is the southwest side. The main wall ends up sitting in sunlight all day. In late afternoon, the sun shines from the southwest, heating an additional wall of the room. I had to hose the brick façade down on summer nights to avoid sleeping in a kiln. Both these negative and positive lessons can help design efficient home structures.
Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor at Brenau University, teaching physical and health sciences on Brenau’s Georgia campuses and in China. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.