Hoffman Garden Center

Energy efficiency helps local greenhouse

Energy curtain helps flowers, vegetables grow during Illinois winters

Growing annual and perennial flowers and vegetables has been a Hoffman family tradition since the early 1900’s. Started as a flower and vegetable farm and later expanding to several greenhouses and florist shops, energy efficiency wasn’t top of mind until recently.

“We’ve gotten to a point where we always want to make sure that we are getting the most out of our energy use,” said Richard Hoffman, Hoffman Garden Center owner.

In the early 90s, Richard installed the Garden Center’s first energy curtain. Energy curtains help prevent warm air from escaping through the greenhouse ceiling, conserving the energy needed to cool and heat a greenhouse. Without an energy curtain, extreme temperatures can cause crop damage. Early energy curtains, like the first energy curtain Richard installed, use a pulley system with cables, requiring an employee to manually pull and adjust the curtain daily, based on the location of the sun. Richard felt limited with the equipment—especially because it was manual—but he did notice its advantages: there was an increase in heat in the greenhouse and energy bills were lower.

When it was time for Richard to upgrade the energy curtain, he contacted energySMART, who worked closely with the manufacturer and Richard to calculate the energy savings achieved from the new energy curtain.  These calculators also helped determine the Garden Center’s rebate. energySMART works with businesses to identify custom energy efficiency projects that are not eligible for standard rebates (like a furnace or boiler replacement), but still produce substantial therm savings.

Richard further explained that several times this winter, he has taken the temperature of the greenhouse; taken at various areas of the greenhouse and getting as close as possible to the curtain. The thermometer consistently read 65 degrees. When he took the temperature of the exposed glass, it read 20 below zero.

“With the new energy curtains, we’ll get 10 years. It keeps the greenhouse so tight,” Richard said. “Now, I don’t have a fluctuation of 4-5 degrees. The efficiency of my garden operation with the curtain is super. I’d say we’re seeing a savings of 20 percent on our bills. What makes me the happiest about this project? The quality of my plants.”

“When we [greenhouse owners] make an effort to save on energy, we’re doing the economy a favor. We should all abide by conserving things. Even though energy is available to us, we shouldn’t be abusing it,” said Richard. “I’m happy Nicor Gas was able to give money for the upgrades. I was not aware each month a certain percent went into this energy efficiency fund. I didn't know that all customers pay. It’s really a great fund. For us, it’s super. It’s outstanding.”