BetterGrow Hydro Blog
30Aug/110

Control Your Workload in the Grow Room

Make short work out of your gardening duties with grow room controllers

Millions of people will celebrate the American workforce with picnics and backyard barbecues this weekend.  But if you aren’t using environmental controllers to keep grow room heat, humidity and carbon dioxide levels in check, chances are you’ll just be putting in work this Labor Day.  Of all the tasks an indoor grower must perform, keeping tabs on temperature, moisture, CO2 delivery and other grow room variables -- and making the necessary adjustments to maintain the ideal growing environment -- is one best left to automation.

With controllers, growers can help ensure their plants remain in optimal yield-boosting temperatures (75 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and up to 10 degrees cooler at night) and relative humidity levels (60 to 65 percent in the vegetative stage, 40 to 50 percent in flowering). With those variables dialed in, growers can eliminate many of the obstacles they face, like heat stress and powdery mildew, and spend much less time checking thermometers and hygrometers with their finger on the trigger of a fan or air conditioner in case the readings spike.

While controllers can be one of the more expensive items in an indoor garden, they can make a staggering difference in yield and quality for growers locked in a struggle against heat, humidity and CO2 enrichment.

Luckily, BetterGrow Hydro is offering deep discounts on select environmental controllers and other items you need to ease your garden workload, giving growers a chance to save both money and time this Labor Day Weekend.

 

Set it, forget it

For the beginner with a simple grow room setup, temperature and humidity can be controlled with an exhaust fan, a thermometer and a conventional timer or two.  But that’s not to say that setup is still workable if that beginner progresses.  Add in CO2 enrichment, air conditioning, a dehumidifier or multiple high-intensity discharge lights and maintaining the ideal environment can get complicated very quickly.

One 1,200-PPM shot from a CO2 tank can almost immediately send humidity levels soaring past the optimal range, as plants begin to metabolize and transpire at a faster rate, followed by a rapid increase in temperature since the moisture-laden air can suddenly hold much more heat than before. The situation gets even trickier knowing that if you turn on the exhaust fan to control that sudden spike in moisture and heat, precious CO2 will also be removed from the grow room.

AIR-4 Temperature, Humidity, and CO2 Control

That’s where the AIR-4 Temperature / Humidity / CO2 Controller can make a big difference.  Sensing temperature and humidity changes with a probe that can reach 12 feet into the garden canopy, where the magic happens, the AIR-4 controls your exhaust fan or cooling device, and a dehumidifier or humidifier, based on user-defined settings. An additional outlet hooks up to your CO2 device -- either a tank and regulator or a generator -- and shuts it off when CO2 is being released. The AIR-4 also disables the CO2 device during the night cycle, and has an extra outlet that will power an additional piece of equipment, like a heater, only at night.

If you aren’t using CO2 just yet but need to keep grow room temperatures under control, the I.G.S. Day/ Night Temp. Controller with Display lets you plug in a cooling device, set the maximum garden temperature and walk away, knowing your exhaust fan or air conditioner will come on when it is needed.  The temperature differential can also be adjusted to prevent your air conditioner from cycling on and off too often, which wastes energy and reduces the dehumidifying effect.  During winter, set the minimum temperature and this controller will trigger a heater as needed.  It also has day and night settings that let your further dial in temps.

Relative humidity -- a measurement of how much water vapor is suspended in the air -- is important to plants. If there is too little moisture in the air (below 30 percent), plants may become stunted and the leaves will “taco” as they struggle to keep from losing too much water to the dry air.  With too much moisture (90 percent and above), plants don’t transpire properly and nutrients do not move through the plant as they should, leading to deficiencies, not to mention mold and mildew problems.

If you need a simple, accurate way to control grow room humidity, the I.G.S. Day/Night rH Controller with Display will turn on a dehumidifier or a humidifier when moisture levels fall or rise above the user-defined levels. Like the I.G.S. temperature controller, the humidity differential can be adjusted to keep equipment from too rapidly cycling on and off.

Plants thrive when grown in an environment with the correct temperature and humidity levels, and the AIR-2 Temperature & Humidity Controller is an excellent way to keep both in check. The AIR-2 features split outlets for controlling humidity and temperature devices, which lets the grower counter excessive heat even if the humidity is within the right range, and vice versa.

 

Grasping at gas

Let’s face it, CO2 is odorless, tasteless and invisible, so trying to maintain adequate levels of this yield-boosting gas without an accurate way to measure those levels is a little like wrangling cats: it ain’t gonna work right.

The PPM4 - a cost effective digital CO2 controller

Growers looking for a cost-effective way to take the guesswork out of their CO2 enrichment program should consider the PPM4 - CO2 PPM Monitor / Controller by CAP.  This user-friendly unit gives growers plug-and-play control over CO2 enrichment. Just mount the meter at canopy level, plug it in and plug a CO2 tank regulator or CO2 generator into the unit and it will monitor and control delivery using a built-in infrared sensor to ensure that CO2 levels stay near the ideal 1,450-PPM mark.  Whenever levels fall below 1,400 PPM, the PPM4 will trigger the release of more CO2 and shut it off at 1,450 PPM.  Additionally, three LED indicator lights on the unit give the grower a reading on the CO2 levels in the garden at any given time.

Those seeking greater control over grow room CO2 levels will no doubt find their way to the PPM3 - CO2 PPM Monitor / Control by CAP.  Unlike the PPM4, the PPM3 lets the grower set a desired CO2 level -- from 0 to 5,000 PPM -- and maintain it by controlling a CO2 tank via piggyback cord.  That’s why many growers consider the PPM3 to be the easiest and most accurate way of controlling CO2 delivery.  The PPM-3 will work with any make of CO2 regulator or CO2 generator.

PPM3 - precise CO2 Control

Using CO2 in the grow room presents the grower with the often-challenging question of when to run the exhaust fan to remove the hot, moist air that has built up.  If the fan comes on too soon, CO2 is removed.  If it comes on too late, heat and moisture wreak havoc.  Either way, plants lose.

To coordinate CO2 releases and synchronize exhaust cycles, try the CO2-2e - 2 Timer CO2 Controller.  It features two timers to control how often and how long CO2 is released from a tank regulator or generator, as well as temperature and humidity controls that will cut CO2 and turn on an exhaust fan when the levels the grower has set are exceeded. It also has a photosensor that cuts off CO2 production when the lights are off.  With the addition of the PPM-1C - PPM Add-On Monitor, the unit will precisely control the CO2 level in the grow room.

 

 

Power struggle

MLC-4X Light Controller - safely operate up to 4 HID lights @ 30 amps on one controller

Plugging in and controlling one grow light is pretty straightforward. But problems -- and safety hazards -- can arise when a grower tries to run multiple 1,000-watt grow lights simultaneously using a standard residential electrical circuit.  A 15-amp, 120-volt circuit -- the type found in most U.S. households -- can power no more than one 1,000-watt ballast, which will draw close to 10 amps. With fans, pumps and other electrical equipment running on the same circuit, it may be impossible to add additional equipment without tripping a breaker -- or worse.

But with the UPM-1 - Universal Power Module, growers can add additional high-amperage equipment -- whether it’s an air conditioner or another light -- to their grow room without fear of overloading the circuit.  That’s because the UPM-1 uses a 16-foot trigger cable that can be plugged into a different circuit to power the two outlets on the front of the unit.  Plug the UPM-1 into an environmental controller or lighting timer, and when the controller or timer turns on, it will trigger the UPM-1 to power devices plugged into it from the circuit the trigger cable is plugged into, instead of the controller’s circuit.

Growers who want to rig their electrical system to handle a heavier lighting load should seriously consider Custom Automated Products’ MLC-4X Light Controller, which is available in 120-volt and 240-volt models capable of handing up to 30 amps. This unit can be hardwired to a 30-amp 120-volt or 240-volt power source, or connected using a C.A.P. Dryer Cord with a plug type that matches your outlet. The MLC-4X also features “X-Plugs” that make it easy to switch between 120-240-volt ballast plugs, though the user must make sure the voltage of the ballast matches the voltage the unit is supplied with.

 

 

Pump, Water and pH Controls

ART-DNe - precise timings with built-in photocell

Anyone who’s tried to turn grow room equipment on and off at precise intervals using a standard analog or digital timer knows the frustrating limitations. Analog timers generally break up on and off times into 15-minute increments, while digital timers can usually only be programmed for eight different on-off cycles per day.

But the ART-DNe - Adjustable Cycle Timer frees the grower from the constraints of standard timers, letting the user set “on” times anywhere between 1 second and 60 minutes, and “off” times between 1 minute and 8 hours. The ART-DNe also has a switch that will trigger the timer to operate at day, at night, or both day and night. These features make the ART-DNe a perfect fit for controlling water pump cycles to keep your growing medium properly irrigated, or for operating ozone generators, synchronizing CO2 delivery or running exhaust fans.

 

Growing is a labor of love, but that doesn't mean it has to take so much work.  So get to BetterGrow Hydro or BGHydro.com and give yourself -- and your plants -- a break.

6Jan/110

Find The Right Fan

Finding The Right Fan To Air-Cool Your Lighting System

Need to cool that light down? Unsure what size fan to get? Following this general rule of thumb can help get you the best fan for the job:

For normal air-cooling situations you’ll need a fan that can create 150-200 cfm (cubic feet per minute) of air movement per light. For example, if you have two 1000 watt lighting systems running in-line, you’ll need a fan that moves approximately 400 cfm of air. Easy, right? Now, keep in mind that the best fans for this job are “centrifugal” fans (such as Can-Fan, ValueLine and Vortex) or better yet, the Can-Fan Max-Fan. Unlike other types of fans (such as “squirrel cage”, axial and in-line booster fans), centrifugal fans generate a lot more static pressure and move air more efficiently. Although other types of fans state that they move as much air as their centrifugal equivalents, their stated cfm ratings are given in “free air movement”; in other words, they will move the given volume of air if only if nothing is attached to them. As soon as you attach ducting, reflectors, etc. the cfm will decline sharply, making them a poor choice for air cooling, especially when multiple reflectors are being used.