Design an attached winter greenhouse / solar thermal mass heat room

Design an attached winter greenhouse / solar thermal mass heat room

This video is intended to help people that want to attach a winter sun room to collect the suns heat and also use as a greenhouse to their home, This video shows some of the key design features that we have found most beneficial over the 15 years that we have heated our home from and grown winter crops in our attached greenhouse / solar mass sun room. The greenhouse is running East and West and faces South (which is necessary). It has no roof overhang, so the sun will have a sliver of light come in through the summer month around summer solstice, on June 22, and not over heat the room. I designed windows that can be opened that draw cool air from under the deck on the East side and through convection it will create a very heavy draft out the West side that has a window located up higher. If I need a greater cooling draft, I have a small window located at about 12 feet high, up near the ceiling that draws the hot air right out and sucks the cool air in through the East side (It works very well in July and August). Remember when you are designing your greenhouse, that the more plants that you intend to put in your sun-room/greenhouse, the more you will have moisture in the air (which can be a good thing in dry climates if you do it right as well as oxygen from the plants in the air). Build your greenhouse with good moisture barriers, ventilation and material :). If you are building your greenhouse, it would be wise, as the same time, to install earth tubes in the ground and run them into the greenhouse and then in the winter, you will be able to get fresh earth heated air drawn into the room for circulation needs (easier than installing it later). We have found that for our uses and long term overall productivity, it is best to use this greenhouse in the winter and relocate the plants out into the garden and outside summer greenhouse in the early to late spring… by removing the plants in the summer, the attached greenhouse is purged of all garden pests (white fly, aphids etc..) and by doing this and not allowing plants to sit in the greenhouse when there is not enough sun (thereby causing the plants to become unhealthy and susceptible to pests and their propagation) we have eliminated virtually all pest problems by insuring the plants get enough light and good natural fertilizers and the greenhouse is cleaned out in the summer. And in the fall, around September, when the southern sunlight starts to shine heavily through the southern exposed windows, we start to fill all the grow boxes and pots with our winter crop. We have found over the years that most plants transfer incredibly well and take off like crazy (some better than others). This year we focused on plants for our green-drinks and they grew stellar fast and lush green and better than in the summer greenhouse that was starting to cool down. We only use peat moss and compost in our grow boxes and do not use any dirt whatsoever and have found the plants do best as well as the simplicity of transplanting… We hope this gives you insight so you can do even better with your design than we have :). Happy growing, god bless with good health :).
Please feel free to comment or ask any questions 🙂


Steve Mabey


What do you think?


Written by Aleksandar

Video MakerContent AuthorYears Of Membership


  1. I thank God for you, Steve. Your sand and paver idea is great. I never thought about ground moister wicking up to cool down the grow space. I'm going to put this to work in my low tunnels and beds. Thank you. Also, folks with a south facing wall may want to consider positioning the roof of a potential sun room up high enough so that they can actually provide for an overhang to keep the summer sun and heat off the floor. Doing so has the added advantage of providing for more vertical hydroponic grow space just behind the windows.

  2. I pick greens all the time leaves we mix it and cook,also younger years of the turnip other green leaves I pick throw back in my beding helps as fertilizer,European radishes very good for pick leaves and cook it,, not big bulb all greens 10"to 16" of green leaves to sotee or cook.

  3. Love the green house! Have a suggestion for the water drainage on you grow boxes….it looks like you’re getting some “back flow” of drainage onto your wood. A cheap and easy way to prevent this is to put a plastic kitchen funnel from the Dollar Store or other thrifty shopping store through the hole in your plastic so the nozzle of the funnel hangs down well below the wood bottom of your grow box. I’d also consider painting the bottom of the box for extra protection and longevity. Happy growing and thanks again for sharing your design!

  4. Hi Steve, I just need clarification on one small point if you have a moment. I'm looking to build a winter lean to, which is attached to a south-facing insulated garage wall. I understand that the sun is lower in the sky in the winter and insulation is key . Is it necessary to trap solar heat through a polycarbonate roof in addition to the glass wall ? Or would you recommend just installing an insulated R20 roof? I'm located in lower New England. At the very least I'm looking to overwinter Mediterranean plants. I'm considering supplemental heating due to extensive cloudy days. Thanks! I love your design and will be using the same insulated floor. I'm not sure how deep I'm willing to dig for tubing just yet…

  5. Thanks for sharing your knowledge,I can't have a garden, but want one so bad, I live in an apartment and it's not allowed to grow any food or seeded flowers or plants,but I'm gaining all the tips and tricks of gardening cause I'm going to propose a social garden for a social club I attend,I'm on the northeastern part of the State's, blustering cold winters and blistering hot summers, where do I start,do you have any suggestions on what would be best veggies to grow for a beginner,I've had three plants my entire life,and right about now they need that tea your brewing over'm going to be in a budget,but know many people who would gladly donate to our garden,it would be so good for my friends at the club to get down in the dirt and learn how to tend to and take care of a garden,it's a Mental Health Club and just watching you and seeing the results you've gotten threw trial and era,especially with the raspberries made me realize how rewarding it would be for all of us to grow and care for our's just so relaxing to hear you talk about your beautiful garden! Thanks any tips would be helpful..

  6. We just found your channel looking for greenhouse solutions. We are moving back to Colorado from Oregon where we have been spoiled by the mild climate. We will be buying land and building and need one of our greenhouses attached. We tried the 50 gal drums with water before but they DO take up so much room. Love the sand and pavers. We are Jim and Rhenda with Heartiness Approach. We VLOG about our homestead and real food, fitness, emotional wellness and aging in place. We have subscribed to you. Take a look and subscribe if you like. Thank you. We look forward to see your other videos.

  7. Great job on your home. A NSF (National Science Foundation) sponsored home in New Mexico in the 1070's or so did the same thing as you did and commented in the report that they never had to heat or cool their home. It was a big surprise to them. Do you think they should have been surprised. No. The should have figured it out pretty easily with just one fact:
    Heat goes from hot to cold. And if the medium that transfers the heat is steel it goes very fast, concrete 10x slower than steel, and dirt 10x slower than the concrete.
    If you insulate your concrete stem walls on the outside so the concrete stem wall and the earth beneath your structures does not connect with the outside air then look at your green house:
    1. When the sun comes in energy is introduced making photosynthesis and what is not used for that is left in the greenhouse above ground and reaches a temperature of say 80 degrees. Where does the heat go? Now how does is get there. The outside air is 20 degrees. The ground is 55 degrees and your home is 70 degrees? Where does the heat that caused the temperature in your green house go? It cannot go to the 20 degrees through the concrete but can go through the glass. Why can't it go through the concrete? Because the concrete is insulated on the outside – that means no heat flows (mostly). So heat goes out the windows, goes into the concrete stem walls, goes into the floor tiles, goes into the sand, goes into the dirt with a certain moisture content, and goes into the walls of your home – because it wants that 70 degrees. And the walls of your home take the heat to the ground because they are insulated and no heat gets to the 70 degrees, but it wants to and is trying to.
    Now at night when the green house loses all its heat to the outside air through the glass through both the conduction through the glass and radiation to the universe (universe very very cold – it wants all your greenhouse heat but radiation is not so fast, but fast enough).
    So when the greenhouse gets 50 degrees what happens?
    You figure it out. What temp is your concrete stem wall? What temp is the dirt it took the heat to? What temp is your paver? What temp is the sand beneath your paver. What temp is the earth and moisture in it? What temp is your home inside? Right. All higher than the greenhouse. So? All the heat wants to go into gthe greenhouse that was taken from the greenhouse during the day.
    Make sense? Better because the physics makes it work like this – no surprise. You just have to think about it (like the experimenter in New Mexico forgot to do). And their study still is how people understand things today – by not thinking about it, they understand incorrectly. Good luck. Great greenhouse. You will never pay a heating or cooling bill if you get it right. Very cold period coming. Thanks for sharing with us.

  8. BTW, if anyone gets plagued with "Comment failed to post", this works for me: Copy comment, cancel comment, refresh page, reply, paste and post.

  9. would help if on your About page you had at least the state or latitude you lived at. So many of these greenhouse and growing videos seem to forget that's important.

  10. Hi, replying from Western Canada, Saskatchewan to be exact, just a thought, if you had the pavers black, or, a really dark color, they will absorb alot more hear, and faster and incease the temp in your green house, as well as more so at night,
    I am interested to hear that someone else who experien ces 39 below actually has a green house that keeps from freezing thru the winter, thanks for the info, great video.


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