An energy curtain is known by many names—shade cloth, shade curtains, energy screen, energy shield, blackout cloth, and heat blanket. Panels of them are generally closed at night in greenhouses to help conserve energy. However, those savings may also come with dangerous risks.
The material used to make energy curtains is often flammable and can easily ignite, allowing a fire to spread quickly. In addition, the polymers inside may melt and drip when burning, damaging plants and even starting pots and trays on fire. That can lead to devastating personal injury or casualty loss, catastrophic property damage, and possibly long-term business income loss.
That’s why it’s important to look for ignition sources near energy curtains to help keep them from catching fire or making a fire worse. Curtains need at least three feet of clearance from any ignition source. Be on the lookout for:
- Worn electrical wires
- Careless welding or brazing operations
- Heating appliances
- Short circuits
- Electric motors
- Production lights
- Other electrical devices
You can limit your risks by using a flame-resistant shade cloth. It’s generally more expensive, but insurance premium deductions for using flame-retardant panels may offset the additional cost.
Other energy curtains include firebreaks on the edges. They could keep the fire from spreading from panel to panel, limiting flames to one small area. Remember, it’s critical to take any steps you can to reduce or eliminate the risk of shade cloth spreading flames.
One more thing to remember about fire-resistant curtains—replace them on a regular basis, since age and sunlight diminish qualities of the fire-retardant materials they’re made of.
Beyond fire-resistant energy curtains, keep your greenhouse maintenance up-to-date. Make sure you:
- Correct potential wiring problems that can result in fires
- Use flame-resistant/retardant cloth
- Place proper firefighting equipment in each structure
- Install and maintain smoke alarms
- Post emergency numbers near all telephones
- Train greenhouse employees about:
- The seriousness of energy curtain fire risks
- How to handle energy curtains in the event of a fire
While energy curtains can be an important tool in your greenhouse, it’s important to be aware of the dangers. By taking these measures, you’ll help reduce your fire risk. Talk with an expert from Hortica to learn more about this or any other safety concern you may have in your business.
For more information on protecting your business, check out the Hortica Resources section.
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