I have employed many tricks to extend the gardening season; hoops, cloches and I have made good use of plastic greenhouses. However, there are some plants that are just too delicate to leave outside, even with protection. Our Ohio winters can be brutal for tender plants and they must be brought inside.
I am very fortunate to have a sun porch attached to my house. This room is approximately 8’X10’, built originally with the house and even has its own basement room. This is a lovely room for about 9 months out of the year…but it is an unheated part of the house so it can get quite cold on this porch jeopardizing the plants I put on it.
Since this room is original to the house, it is built rock solid with masonry block and poured concrete walls, a full roof (which will be getting skylights in a couple of years) and metal casement windows. These very large casement windows are standard metal, embedded directly into the concrete walls. They are lovely to have for ventilation, and I love the aesthetic of a casement window, but they are not what you consider energy efficient…in fact they are downright drafty.
In recent years, I have added a combo ceiling fan and heater to offset the cold and put window film insulator kits on the windows in an attempt to keep the room comfortable…with marginal success. This goes against my need for healthy safe plants and my principles of energy efficiency.
This year, however, I was bound and determined to make this room more comfortable for plants, animals and people without breaking the bank (a recent estimate on replacing the perfectly functional casement windows in this room was $10k); My partner and I came up with the notion of creating polycarbonate storm windows.
Since the walls of this room are poured concrete, the window ledge is really deep and terribly difficult to attach panels to. To solve this we decided to adhere a wood frame to the wall outside the window ledge, inside the sun porch with industrial strength construction adhesive as well as one wood piece down the middle of each window span. We then cut steel strips to length using a special blade for my circular saw (the garage looked like the fourth of July!!!) and adhered those to the wood. Next, we cut ¼ inch polycarbonate panels to create a panel for each side of each window (left and right). We employed the same construction adhesive to the panels to bond magnetic tape to the outside edge of each panel. These magnetic strips connect to the steel bars on the frame for a tight fit. We added four small screws to each panel to provide extra support.
This was not an easy project since we were trying to create something from scratch and we definitely made some mistakes, but the nearly finished (everything, including the wood and metal will be painted in the spring) result has made a significant difference in the temperature of the sun porch, providing a pleasant winter home for many tender plants and will be a perfect place to start seeds for next year’s garden!