Testing and Technology

Suncatcher Passive Solar Greenhouse

SunCatcher – THE Energy-Efficient “GREEN” Greenhouse of the Future

A decade ago, SunCatcher PSG challenged itself to design the greenhouse we would want to grow in ourselves – a “green” greenhouse that could outperform and outlast all other greenhouses while being able to function independent of fossil fuels and the electrical grid. Feedback from our friends and customers has been consistent – the SunCatcher helps them grow the way they want, without all the hassles of a conventional greenhouse. We made our blueprints available to help even more people grow the way they want – people like you.

Standard greenhouses in cold climates use too much energy for economical winter growing. The answer is “passive solar.” China knows this. The China Agricultural University provided a 20-year study, redesign, and review of solar greenhouses. This study points to these designs as the future of protected agriculture, while finding weaknesses in the designs. We believe that SunCatcher has addressed these issues (and several not addressed in the report) to create a design for successful and economical plant production during the winter in cold climates.

The evolution of these SunCatchers took place in the mountains of western North Carolina and they have been tested in harsh winter mountain conditions. The SunCatcher captures solar energy according to the sun’s changing position during the seasons resulting in all the heat and light needed for plant growth. This design is extremely efficient. During sunny days, even in winter, the SunCatcher captures so much solar heat that fresh air can be introduced from the outside while the excess heat and humidity are released by our natural, convective ventilation system.

Two years ago SunCatcher began work to understand how best to use phase change material (PCM) as thermal mass in greenhouses. We have installed PCM as thermal mass in the walls of the Carolina Mountain SunCatcher. Research is continuing to determine how best to utilize these materials in all greenhouses to store the excess heat created during the day and to release that heat at night and during periods of cold temperatures to reduce heating needs.

In addition, SunCatcher has consulted with GrowerNode™ Greenhouse Automation of British Columbia, Canada, to develop a complete automation system so that a SunCatcher can be monitored and controlled from anywhere in the world via PC, tablet, or mobile device. These automated systems can be driven by a simple photovoltaic panel, 12V battery, or electricity from the grid. You can track temperature, light, humidity, or soil moisture and make operational changes while at work or on vacation! You can add cameras, alarms, and smoke monitors for the utmost security.

SunCatcher is also pleased to be developing a small movable 4′ x 4′ SunCatcher designed with the same SunCatcher PSG passive solar design elements as our full-sized models. The SunCatcher Jr. is specially designed for urban dwellers, allowing individuals and families who rent or have limited yard space to still be able to grow their own plants year-round.  This smaller SunCatcher will be ideal for those with limited space, time or budget. It will also be a great addition to small school or community gardens. We hope this model will be available in 2016. Check out a few pictures of our first 2 prototypes for this model on our Consultations and Custom Designs page.