Heating Your Greenhouse in Europe This Winter

Started by Bern, September 03, 2022, 09:59:17 AM

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David Pilling

There is an epic programme of fitting "smart meters" going on in the UK. They read themselves and communicate the data back via the mobile phone network. Having one fitted is voluntary for now.

The pros are that it is easier to monitor energy use and one can get cheaper energy in some situations like at night, or be rewarded for reducing energy consumption. UK was on the brink of needing this tonight due to World Cup Soccer game combined with cold weather.

The cons are that after having one fitted my neighbour was without power for a few days. The man can sit at his computer and turn off your energy. They can also remotely switch your meter into prepayment mode.

A presenter on one of the news channels was saying "what if we all just didn't pay our energy bills" - well the computers would turn off your energy - the argument about lack of enforcement to deal with mass protests would not apply.

Why does soccer require so much energy - shouldn't we ban it until the war is over.

During the industrial action in the 70s which resulted in actual rolling black-outs, they turned off all the TV transmitters at 10:30PM.

I've got a container of paraffin for the greenhouse heater, come the apocalypse, I know from the 70s, I'll be laughing.

Martin Bohnet

Quote from: David Pilling on November 29, 2022, 10:23:44 AMWhy does soccer require so much energy - shouldn't we ban it until the war is over.

still wondering why it's presented to you by your friendly gas provider Qatar?

On the other hand, TVs went down the same road as cars: every bit of efficiency improvement we engineers got out of the hardware was eaten up by making the things bigger & bigger. "That's what the customer wants" they keep telling us. Those fancy marketing guys telling you this don't have to fit those beasts into moms living room wall system from the 90ies...
Martin (pronouns: he/his/him)

Robin Hansen

Going back to David's comment about smart meters, isn't prepayment mode the next step on the road to ruin, poverty and a police state, not allowing dissent?
Robin Hansen
President, PBS


Quote from: Robin Hansen on November 30, 2022, 07:31:10 AMisn't prepayment mode the next step on the road to ruin, poverty and a police state, not allowing dissent?

Prepayment in the UK pretty well always means having a meter which accepts coins or some kind of prepayment card - in other words, you pay in advance of use.

It is totally normal in the UK for fuel bills to be averaged over 12 monthly payments, based on the previous year's use, so payments in summer are partially in advance of using fuel over-winter. I do not see how/why the vast majority of people would find that a problem or undesirable - generally you pay the same in each of the 12 months.

David Pilling

Quote from: Robin Hansen on November 30, 2022, 07:31:10 AMisn't prepayment mode the next step on the road to ruin, poverty and a police state


14% are on prepayment meters for energy in the UK. It is a long standing situation.

The rest are mostly on "direct debit", the utility company take a fixed amount direct from your bank account every month. The idea was that half the year you'd be in debt and the other half in credit. That used to work, but at the moment my utility ensures I am in as much credit all year long as I will stand.

"In 2022, the average Brit has £7,509 saved.  1 in 5 (20%) Brits have no savings at all."

Which may explain why not everyone is on direct debit.


"A Quarter of Americans at Risk of Winter Power Blackouts, Grid Emergencies."


Quote from: David Pilling on November 30, 2022, 10:13:10 AM"A Quarter of Americans at Risk of Winter Power Blackouts, Grid Emergencies."

Here's a link to the full article on this topic.


This happens sometimes in parts of the country that do not usually experience extreme cold. In 2021 there were rolling blackouts in Oklahoma when bitterly cold air penetrated the middle of the country all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  In 2011, a burst of record cold weather in New Mexico resulted in the loss of natural gas for heating in much of the state. The same thing might happen this year, but it could be more widespread if the article proves to be correct.

We live in interesting times. It's much more pleasant to live in uninteresting times for sure.
Geeks note: "May you live in interesting times" is not a Chinese curse according to Wikipedia. It is supposed have originated in England around 1936.  Apparently, there are no known equivalent phrases in Chinese. The closest phrase in Chinese is "Better to be a dog in times of tranquility than a human in times of chaos."

It's much more pleasant to quote the English version to most people.


David Pilling

"olde English curses" - plenty of those around here.

Is there an interesting times index.

Perhaps the vix which spiked nicely on 20th March 2020.


Vix might be an interesting times index. You can easily see the spike for the 2008 and 2009 financial fiasco as well as the 2020 covid reaction. The trouble is that it's mostly clear in hindsight; you can't really tell how bad things are going to be until they are quite advanced.


For the 2011 cold spell in the US southwest in 2011, commercial succulent greenhouses in Tucson, Arizona ran out of natural gas and lost a lot of their inventory to the freeze.

In the 2021 freeze in Texas, an officer in the Cactus and Succulent Society of America reported that he lost most of the plants in his greenhouse when his utilities were cut off.

So, you don't just have to worry about whether or not you can afford to heat your greenhouse this winter, you have to have a backup plan in case you lose power or natural gas as well.  A backup propane or paraffin heater is good planning just in case.

David Pilling

Bern - noticeable that Vix is in general higher post pandemic.

Could you avoid reading the newspapers and just look at a market index... the old quote is "Wall Street indexes predicted nine out of the last five recessions"

During the worst of Covid the stock market was a better way of seeing what was going on than trying to make sense of the medical data - serious investors employ people to do the work.

Must be heartbreaking if you lose your plants due to heating failure. The sort of problem that farmers in general face with the weather.


I've been growing geophytes for about 35 years now without heating the frames or roofed, open-sided shelter I now use. I've found that simply covering marginally hardy plants in growth during severe cold periods (below 20 F here) increases survival. Microfoam row cover is available to the nursery industry here, but lately I use the thin quilts used by furniture movers; the latter are available at low cost from places that sell cheap hardware, such as Harbor Freight. I set my vulnerable container plants on the patio floor and tuck the quilts around the flats. Sometimes I protect marginal crocuses in growth just by putting a drinking glass upside-down over them. All the plants in the bulb house are plunged in sand. I haven't experimented properly, but I suspect that one can gain an extra 5 degrees F by these simple expedients. This might not help with obligatorily frost-free, actual tropical species, though.

Robin Hansen

Robin Hansen
President, PBS


I've read the articles about stock indices predicting recessions and I just don't believe that the hype is true. You need more information about what you're looking at. And fortunately, I found it in this chart. Here's the S&P Composite stretching back to 1870 based on the real (inflation-adjusted) monthly average of daily closes. This is a snapshot at about the time of the all time high for the US stock market with 150 years of data. The key point is that this chart is a detrended linear regression line with the standard deviations clearly shown. The current all time high is greater than 4 SDs.  As you know, this is an almost impossible probability and it had never been reached before in 150 years. This chart should clearly indicate a regression to the mean is forthcoming and recession is on the way. Caution should be the order of the day. Instead,wild and imprudent gambling is going on right now.  If the S&P sat squarely on the regression line in this chart, it would be at 1698. A mean regression of 50 to 70% is probable.


Here's the link for the most current chart. (Someone should do the same thing for the FTSE)


When the regression to the mean occurs, many people could badly hurt if they are heavily invested in the stock market.

David Pilling

Bern - very interesting chart which made me think.

The quote about predicting recessions is from Paul Samuelson in 1966, from your chart it might make more sense then. When were there recessions, since they've stopped having them by reducing interest rates and QE. Wikipedia has a list, early 2000's early 90's early 80's. Downward blips on the chart then. Interesting that the 1920s Wall Street boom is a modest upward blip. Anyone buying at the top just had to hold on till 1960 to get their money back.

US shares have always looked expensive from the UK for the last 30 years. I did find similarish analysis for the FTSE and it is below the trend. But UK today is a lot different to UK in 1920 or 1940.

Probably a sudden fall of the S&P to the trend would have real world consequences and the central bank would have to do more quantitative easing.

David Pilling

Robin - the Guardian article is interesting - underground greenhouse - good idea for someone. Not here since the water table is about six inches below the surface.

The other aspect of the article is something like community gardening, which often appears on TV here in the UK, Google tells me it was invented in the USA.

Like not everyone is going to get everything from the supermarket - some are going to have to grow their own food, like peasants in the olden days - either for reasons of cost or as therapy. Not quite the world of flying cars one imagined.

At first underground greenhouses seem doomed to be for mushrooms - but they have glazed tops above ground.

Martin Bohnet

Underground Greenhouse - or coldhouse is another reason why I'd love to buy a neighbor's house - remove the house, cover the basement, and voila, there we are. Now I just need the funding and the agreement of the neighbor. Maybe it would be more realistic to just reproduce Pinky&brain's plan of a paper mâché second earth. :'(
Martin (pronouns: he/his/him)