I kind of figured it would affect my electric bill, but a recent increase from
in the Chicago area has made it more evident that raising plants from seeds can
very costly. For about one month, I had two double flourecent shop lights and
six small heating pads going to germinate my seeds. My electric bill almost
Guess there is no way around it, but makes one think twice about growing veggies
and flowers from seed.
The $63 tomato raises its ugly head again.
Personally I've come to the conclusion I don't raise plants from seed
to save money. I do it because I enjoy it, and that makes the process
of killing several painfully raised plants less traumatic.
What you are talking about though is the high cost of raising plants
from seeds under lights. Most of the equipment like heating pads is a
one time expenditure.
You might try winter sowing. People here are starting seeds in mini
milk carton greenhouses in January and putting them outside. The
theory is that although it can take some time for the plant to sprout,
the root development is taking place and the plant quickly overtakes
others once growing in friendlier conditions. There was one woman in
my local hort group who started about 40 last year. Mind you, she had
milk cartons piled against her fence for a couple of months.
The only reference I kept was this http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/wtrsow /
Just to clarify in case of misunderstanding, I'm not talking about
building greenhouse out of milk cartons. The milk carton acts as a
'greenhouse' - but a very small one.
However, one person on my local group mentioned she has a friend who
fills bottles with water, puts them in a square and puts a plastic
sheet over top and she says it works quite well. I'm collecting
vinegar bottles (they are rectangular in shape) to use in this way to
heat my little tomato house in the fall instead of using electrical
heating. It's worth a try anyway.
There was quite a bit of discussion last winter about winter sowing
amd use of milk cartons on canadiangardening.ca in the Plant Talk
forum. The posts are still there so if you put in winter sowing as a
search term you can find info on how to prepare the bottles, what
they've had the most luck with, etc. You don't have to sign in to read
|I kind of figured it would affect my electric bill, but a recent increase from
|in the Chicago area has made it more evident that raising plants from seeds can
|very costly. For about one month, I had two double flourecent shop lights and
|six small heating pads going to germinate my seeds. My electric bill almost
|Guess there is no way around it, but makes one think twice about growing veggies
|and flowers from seed.
| Sherwin D.
Have you tried doing without the heat pads? I start my seeds indoors under
double fluorescents - regular ones, not "grow lights" and don't have any
noticeable problems with either the seeds or the elect. bill. My furnace kicks
in around 50 deg. but the cool utility room where I have the seedlings doesn't
get much benefit from that. Probably gets down around 40.
Doubtless yours will germinate & grow faster-earlier but I suspect you can do
without the heat pads if you're willing to accept a slower start to your season.
It's the heating pad that killed your power bill. The shop lights alone only
cost a couple of bucks a month to run.
80 watts per two 40w bulbs in one light fixture.
Operate 12 hours a day for 960 watts total consumption.
Operate 30 days in a month for 28.8KW consumption
If you pay fifteen cents per KW, then your total cost is 28.8 x .15 = $4.32
Why? Chicago (42N) is not nearly as far north as me (55N), so I must
have lower daylight-levels than you, and yet I never use artificial
light or heat to start tender seedlings. I do mine outdoors in what we
call a cold-frame, which is about 3 ft by 2ft by 18" high.The walls are
wood, the roof is an old window. No heat. Otherwise, I would just start
them inside the house on windowsills.
Hardier annual veg and flowers, like peas and nastutriums, can just be
sown outside in spring in the place where they are to grow, with no
protection at all.
My problem is that I have no Sun lit window. Right now, I have my already
seeds in my only available picture window, facing North. They are basically in
a holding pattern, until the outside temps warm up a bit. They were originally
in my crawl space, where I don't mind the mess involved with this kind of
I do have a small cold frame which I use to acclimate the plants slowly to the
outside conditions. I really need to start my seeds no later than April to get a
jump on the season, and it is still too cold to try and germinate seeds outside
with a cold frame. I may try germinating my tomato plants without heating pads,
as they are more inclined to start the soonest. Flowers and certain veggies are
another matter, and I'm skeptical that they would start without some form of
heat. I could be more diligent about turning down the heating pads once the
start showing growth above the soil line. These are all measures I never thought
about when energy was cheaper. I'm not giving up on growing from seeds, but I'm
going to be more careful about how I use energy to do so.
Janet Baraclough wrote:
Many species don't *need* a warm temp to germinate, but they germinate
most quickly at that temp (and large numbers prefer a night temp about
10oC below the day temp). Lower than optimal temps just increase the
germination period for many species. Conversely, too warm a soil temp
can actually inhibit germination, often throwing the seeds into an extended
dormancy that's quite hard to break.
Sorry about the blank posts (if they show up). It was not
intentional. Slip of the mouse. ihategoogleihategoogleihategoogle
Anyway, I was going to say, that even with things like tomatoes,
which need a warmer temperature, they don't need to be heated up all
the time. I start my seeds in plastic containers with the lid on, so
if something needs warmth to start, I just put it over the heating
vent. The stove top is good too. Then as soon as they've germinated I
put them under the lights.
Some good info on this site. http://grow.ars-informatica.ca/index.php
Sherwin, please forgive me for butting in, with a non- gardening
idea....... but if you have an electric hot water heater, check to see
whether you've lost one of the heating elements ( most hot water heaters
have 2 elements for quick recovery capacity). You wouldn't necessarily
notice this right off in your hot water supply, but you sure would notice it
in your electric bill if one element was doing all the work of 2.
When I did condo/rental unit bill reconciliation, a huge spike in a bill
like that was usually a tip-off that it wasn't "use by resident", or
"weather related", it was an element failure in the hot water heater.
If I'm baked on the suggestion, call it just a suggestion, and never mind.
Sue in Maine
Lights: 20 W x 4 bulbs x 12 hr/d x 30 d = 28.8 KW-hr (new 4 ft tubes
actually use 32W)
Heating pads: 50W x 6 x 24 hr/d x 30 d = 216 KW-hr
245 KW-hr x $0.0996/KW-hr = $24.40
(the 9.96 cents per KW/hr is from the residential average rate in Illinois
in Feb 2007, per
If that $25 doubled your power bill, I'd love to have your bill.
Or you could start your seedlings inside and then put them in a cold frame.
You don't need lights till your seedlings are up; you don't need much heat
once they're up for most species.
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