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Choosing heating solutions for vertical farming operations

Most of the energy used in vertical farms goes to power the artificial lighting and heating solutions needed to grow plants year-round indoors. Maintaining optimal growing conditions, particularly heating solutions that can ensure efficient and sustainable operations in vertical farming environments is essential.

Choosing the right heating solution
It's important to consider the space when exploring a heating solution. Growers use various types of structures for setting up vertical farming operations, but plants are generally stacked and are in an indoor environment. Heat uniformity is also necessary to provide the best possible growing environment.

Those things being considered, unit heaters work well in a vertical farming environment where space may be limited. These heaters are ideal because they're compact and can be mounted on walls or ceilings, saving space on the floor for crops and equipment. Additionally, this provides a safer working environment for all vertical farming employees since they are up and out of the way.

Unit heaters offer a steady, uniform heat source that keeps crops at the right temperature. Because they are compact, it's also possible to install multiple unit heaters to distribute heat evenly and to create redundancies. This is beneficial should one heater require maintenance or replacement. The other heaters will maintain proper heating while the down unit is being serviced ensuring farming operations continue uninterrupted.

Heating efficiency
There are unit heating solutions on the market offered in both gas and electric. Electric heating solutions are easier to install, and they offer a cleaner source of energy, but they are generally more expensive to operate.

Depending on where the farms are located and the availability of fuel, gas-powered heating systems provide a more economical solution for vertical farming environments. Utility bills can be one of the highest expenses for these operations, so where available, gas-operated unit heaters would be your most efficient choice.

Another efficiency tool growing in popularity is the use of a building management system (BMS) for vertical farming environments. A BMS offers operations managers a centralized platform for overseeing and regulating the entire vertical farming system including its heating solutions.

The system allows managers to have a bird's eye view of the entire operation and allows them to control and monitor on/off cycles from a centralized place. They can see in real-time if one of their systems go down allowing them to immediately address the situation and avoid interruptions in the farming operations.

Unit heaters like Modine's Effinity™ line are all equipped with BMS integration capabilities allowing them to be added to existing BMS systems easily. In addition, they operate with up to 97% thermal efficiency making them an optimal choice for growers looking to minimize utility costs.

Preventative maintenance
Even with the right equipment to withstand vertical farming environments, preventative maintenance of heating solutions should not be overlooked. Overall maintenance has a positive effect on efficiency.

If unit heaters are not properly maintained, it could result in the loss of crops. Regular preventative maintenance not only extends the life of the unit, but it will also improve efficiency allowing the units to operate at optimal capacity.

As a best practice, establishing routine maintenance by a licensed technician will ensure unit efficiency thus contributing to smooth, uninterrupted farming operations.

Depending on the type of heating system, the maintenance requirements will vary. For electric heating systems, typical maintenance tasks will include inspecting and cleaning the heating elements and reflectors to remove any dirt, dust, or debris that can hinder heat distribution.

Additionally, checking for loose connections, worn components, or signs of corrosion that could lead to potential malfunctions is recommended.

For gas-powered units, technicians will check the equipment, including fans, wiring, gas pipes, and venting systems for any damage. They will check for any cracks or rust on the heat exchanger, clean the burners, and check the vent pipes for any rust or other blockages. All motors, whether gas or electric, should be checked and oil added if needed.

Ensuring uninterrupted heating all year long
Heating is a vital component of vertical farming, directly influencing plant health and productivity. By choosing the right heating solution and integrating it with other environmental controls, vertical farms can achieve efficient and sustainable operations. As technology advances, new fuel-efficient heating solutions will continue to emerge, further enhancing the viability and success of vertical farming.

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