GRISWOLD, USA, September 24, 2012: It was warm, but not hot enough to keep his plants healthy and hardy, owner Louis Demicco said of his family’s century-old Jewett City Greenhouses. Grant-funded energy efficiency measures implemented in the past year at the greenhouses let Demicco turn up the heat without his wallet feeling the burn.
A $36,000 state grant and an $18,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy program covered most of the $75,000 cost of replacing the glass panel walls and ceilings in two of three greenhouses with ribbed, double-paned plastic. Demicco also added insulating heating blankets to the greenhouses, another change recommended in an energy audit.
Without the grant, Demicco said, “I couldn’t have done this on my own. To have 75 percent of the cost covered, that’s a big help.”
On Monday, Demicco took U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who helped him secure the federal grant, through the greenhouses.
The last of the new panels are being placed, said Phil Zapadka, of Canterbury, who was working at the site Monday with his company Greenhouse Systems.
When they were first built, the greenhouses were covered in glass panels bound by a caulk-like sealant, Demicco told Courtney. The glass was still in good shape, but almost a century of fickle New England weather took its toll on the sealant.
“When it was raining outside, it was raining inside,” Demicco said. “And if water can get in, we knew we were losing a lot of heat through there.”
The breach in the otherwise tightly controlled heating and humidity systems led to diseased and dead plants, said Brent Demicco, lead grower at Jewett City Greenhouses.
“I want to sell all of them. I don’t want to see any of them die,” he said. The new panels are “going to be great. They’re great already.”
It’s also been a boon for the bottom line. Each winter, the business uses 150 gallons to 200 gallons of oil per day to heat the greenhouses, Demicco said. That much fuel used to keep the greenhouse at 55 degrees. Now, it keeps the greenhouse at 75, Demicco said, which is better for the plants.
The Demicco family has run Jewett City Greenhouses for 75 years. Demicco and his wife, Jan, took over in 1971. Their adult sons, Brent and Louis III, run the day-to-day operations now. The continuity of the business was what made them want to invest in the energy-saving measures, Jan DeMicco said. “They’re the fourth generation. Had it been he and I alone, we probably wouldn’t have done it,” she said. “But with our sons, we want to preserve the business for them.”