Jun 7, 2021
How a boiler from 1984 handles the load of 2021

{Sponsored} Not many growers can say they’ve been running the same boilers for their entire greenhouse career, but Mike Gooder can make that claim. In 1984 he set out to start a greenhouse business like no other, and began looking for boilers that could take his plants through the tough winters his Iowa location would dish out.

He connected with BioTherm, who recommended Raypak boilers for Plantpeddler’s cold climate of Cresco, a northeastern Iowa town nearly to the Minnesota line.

The company installed two Raypak boilers, which have run continuously since 1984. Tied to an Argus control system, they serve the greenhouse’s needs well, even in the bitterly cold, snowy winter months – Mike says they get 20° F below weather, blizzards with 40 mph winds and dinner plate-sized chunks of ice on the greenhouse roof.

Originally, Plantpeddler had the boilers set to shut off when heat wasn’t needed, but then when the units came online, they’d try to come back full throttle. “The inlet and outlet temperatures get beyond the 30° spread, and it will automatically shut down,” says Mike. “So we set them so they run all the time. We have them stay about 160 to 175°, and they roll with what we need. The water temperature is always there.”

Basically, the boilers are hot water heater/heat exchangers, Mike explains. “We only run like 10 psi in our pipes – with steam you’d have a lot more than that.”

Efficiency and consistency are key when producing young plants in what he calls “52-week full-on production.” Now up to more than 500,000 sq.ft, about 11 to 12 acres, Plantpeddler sticks upwards of 400,000 begonias a week in season, for example.

“The crops we produce are very fragile, needy,” he says. “We make sure we have redundancy, and work with partners who understand the loads greenhouses require, how heat integrates into our short-range plan.”

Over the years, the Raypak boilers Mike installed in 1984 have suffered through the seasons right along with the greenhouse – and thrived along with it. “We have overhauled, replaced heat exchangers, tubes, etc. We’ve frozen them, cracked the castings on them,” says Mike. “But I probably have more battle scars than they do.”

Nearly 40 years later, the same boilers power that same greenhouse. “We have the space for another one, but I don’t think we’d ever need it because they’re so powerful,” Mike says. “We just have quarterly PMs done on them.”

While heat management is crucial for the short-term plan, risk mitigation and growth planning are key components for Plantpeddler’s long term. How do they manage and mitigate risk? “By having reliable partners. I’m a firm believer in front-end infrastructure and BioTherm. Good advice, reliable products, backed up with integrity of service,” he says. “We can buy a heater from anybody, but we buy from BioTherm.

“We originally put two boilers in, and those boilers have run continuously since 1984. The original system operates as designed since 1984.”

– Joli A. Hohenstein


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