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Protect your greenhouse from winter snowfall

Greenhouses in snow

Soon, the snow will fly. For greenhouse owners, winter means more than clearing it for customers. Heavy snow can also cause a greenhouse collapse. We have some tips to help protect your facilities all winter long.

Reduce the risk

We all know, each snowfall is different. Some snows are light and fluffy, with 12 inches having the same amount of water as 1 inch of rain. Or, it can be wet and heavy, with 3-4 inches equaling an inch of rain. It’s important to remember that 1 inch of rainwater weighs 5.2 pounds per square foot. That adds up to about 6.5 tons on a 25-by-96-foot greenhouse.

Even though the snow is outside, the best place to begin your safety preparations is on the inside. Here, warmth is your best weapon:

  • Keep your system up-to-date: Check and maintain your heating system.
  • Check system functions: Make sure your environmental control system and temperature alarms are working properly.
  • Get an early start: Give the heating system time to warm the cladding, so that once the snow starts, melting can take place.
  • Heat smart: Consider taking these steps for best effect:
    • Open your shade/energy curtains to allow the heat to get to the covering and/or gutter
    • Deflate poly on structures clad with double poly to allow the heat to transfer between the bottom and top layer
    • Be aware of any pocketing of snow and water
  • Alleviate loading: Determine if it’s safe, then push the snow/water out of a pocket to lighten the load.
  • Check for outdoor risks: See what structures on your property are susceptible to snow collapse (low profile, snow traps, etc.) and create a plan to keep the snow off these areas.

But starting up the heater once a snow load is on your greenhouse can sometimes do more harm than good. You should also be aware of any heating requirement in your insurance policy and remember that the minimal requirements listed may not be adequate for a good melt.

Prepare for snow removal

If you plan to manually remove snow from your greenhouses, be aware of your surroundings. You should also keep and maintain proper snow removal equipment. Here are some other helpful items to have on hand:

  • Lumber: Make sure the boards are the right length to brace structures and complete temporary repairs.
  • Extra poly: Have this on hand for a temporary repair to help you maintain heat in damaged structures.
  • Torpedo heaters: Use these for extra heat, but be mindful of clearance/fire hazards and the effects of the exhaust on your crop.
  • Brooms: Push snow off your poly structures without damaging the cladding.

By preparing for snow now, you’ll help keep your operation running smoothly and efficiently throughout winter. For more information about protecting your property from risks, or how to get started on a greenhouse maintenance program, talk to your Hortica agent.

 Related links:

Learn more about safety preparation for your business, check out the Hortica Resources section.

If you’re considering adding some extra space to your business for the holiday rush or a special program, you’ll want to make sure your insurance coverage also expands into the new space. Take a look at our tips.