With so much energy wasted in our homes, we have all become experts at minimizing our carbon footprint.
But as our energy bills soar, we’re also becoming experts at cutting back on the things we love most in life: food and fresh produce.
That’s the goal of the new greenhouse bar that was unveiled at the 2013 National Home Builders Association Build-A-Bear conference in Las Vegas.
The bar’s patented design, which can hold up to 20 pounds of produce, will serve as a sustainable way to bring more fresh produce to your backyard.
“We think people will find it really fun,” says Chris Leblanc, executive director of the National Home Builder Association.
“It’s a very elegant solution to a problem that we’ve had for a long time.”
The greenhouse bar is the result of Leblac’s years of research, which involved studying a wide range of food storage systems.
The greenhouse is made up of three pieces: a lid, a top and a bottom, each of which is connected to a metal plate that holds the produce.
The bottom plate is connected by two rings that run parallel to the top plate.
The lid sits atop the produce and can be covered by the top lid or by the lid itself.
The produce can then be placed on the bottom plate, which is then sealed with a mesh to prevent the top from drying out.
“If it gets really cold out, the lid gets completely covered in ice and we have to start again from scratch,” says Leblanç.
“With a greenhouse, we can just get it up and running in no time.
This is what makes it so easy.
You can just lift up and down the lid and put the lid on.”
While the concept is simple, it can be a challenge to make it work.
There’s no guarantee that the lid won’t melt and crumble, and it’s also not always clear how much fresh produce can be stored inside.
So Leblanch has enlisted the help of the team at New Zealand’s University of Otago to devise a system that works for the most part.
“The problem with greenhouse bars is they’re really expensive,” says Paul Pert, the associate director of engineering at the University of Auckland.
“This is a new kind of system where you can use the cheapest kind of metal in the world and still produce a lot of produce.”
Leblans team took their research from the University’s design lab, which was able to come up with a design that was both light and inexpensive.
“That’s what gave us the confidence to go forward with the prototype,” he says.
The team then took the idea to the University and asked if they could borrow it for their own greenhouse.
“They were like, ‘Sure, we’ll use it,'” Leblany says.
Pert says they spent a month designing the prototype, and the results were promising.
The design, he says, was “quite simple but elegant.”
“It just works,” he adds.
“When you think about it, we’ve built a whole system around the concept of the greenhouse.”
Pert notes that the idea of a greenhouse has been around for a while, but that most people still thought of it as a simple solution to the problem of energy consumption in homes.
But Leblanches team took the concept to a new level.
The greenhouses design features two doors.
“There are actually two doors that open into different sections of the space, so that it can expand,” Leblais says.
“So the product is much more compact and much easier to store and more energy efficient.”
The team used the new system to produce a greenhouse bar that can hold between 20 pounds and 100 pounds of fresh produce and produce that can be frozen and then opened.
The two doors can be closed with a small magnet or a large magnet that can swing open and close automatically, depending on the amount of produce.
“You can see the product from outside,” says Pert.
“But inside, it’s the product you need to keep.
The product you don’t want to waste.”
The entire system is designed to be as energy efficient as possible, with the goal to reduce energy usage by as much as 80 percent by 2020.
And with the help from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the team was able take the product to the test in the field, where they found that the system was able save about 100 kilowatt hours per year.
The prototype can also be used for a variety of other purposes, including making insulated packaging for insulation and insulation products for homes and businesses.
The project is expected to be tested in the lab and will be finished by March 2019.
Leblaunas team is also hoping that the greenhouse bar will be a success with the builders market.
The National Home Building Association estimates that over 1.3 million homes worldwide are built with greenhouse bar solutions.
LeBlanc says he hopes that other companies will join the party, offering products