Maximizing Yield with Effective Energy use
Feeling the pinch from the energy crisis? We've got some top tips for how you can get the most out of your electricity consumption or even reduce your energy bill.
At Hytec Hydroponics, our customers have been asking us now more than ever: "how can I reduce my electricity consumption without affecting my yield?" With the cost of energy now higher than ever before, it's now more important than ever to ensure that you're maximizing the efficiency of your grow room and getting the most out of the energy you're using. We'd like to share with you some things that can be done to bring the cost of your grow down or to maximise the effectiveness of your existing consumption by increasing your yield. While not all advice will be relevant to everyone's situation, we're confident that growers of all scales will be able to take something positive away from the advice contained within this blog. So without further ado, let's run through some of the principles, techniques and products available to the grower.
Increasing light efficiency
Not all lights are created equal. If you were to compare the most and least efficient lights on the market, the difference in relative light output would be considerable - we're talking triple the amount of usable light for the least vs most efficient fixture! To be more specific, a 400w single-ended HPS using a magnetic ballast will produce around 0.9μmol of light per Joule of electricity used, whereas many top-end LED grow lights will sit at around 2.9-3μmol/J. With lighting consuming the largest share of electricity in the grow room, switching to a higher-efficiency fixture can drastically lower your total energy consumption and knock a huge chunk off your bill. This is especially true during warmer months and will also reduce your consumption from extraction fans or air conditioning. The Lumatek Zeus 600w Pro 2.9 or the Dimlux Extreme Series 750w LED are some of the better choices out there and will outperform many 1000w HPS fixtures at a much-reduced wattage, while also giving you fantastic quality harvests. Just remember that you should never compromise your environment for the sake of saving money on electricity. Your plants require a minimum temperature in order to thrive and produce, so you'll lose far more in yield than you'll ever save by trying to skimp on your environment. Check out our Growing In The Cold blog for more information.
Increasing fan efficiency
It's not just grow lights that have come on leaps and bounds over the last few years; efficiency gains have also been made in fan design that can translate to significant cost savings over time. High-quality EC motors are not only now able to push more air than an equivalent wattage AC motor, but are much more suited to deal with varying speeds - with the vast majority coming with speed controllers out of the box as well as being compatible with aftermarket 0-10v automatic speed controllers that can regulate speed based on both humidity and temperature. If like many people, you don't want or need your fan to run on full power for the majority of your growing cycle (especially true for LED growers who will be producing much less radiant heat), then an EC fan is a better choice all-round. If you're looking for the best in efficiency and quality, take a look at the industry-leading, super-silent Revolution Vector EC fan range by SystemAir; alternatively, the EC Whisper Fans by Mountain Air are also an excellent choice. For more information on the advantages of EC fans, take a read through our EC Fan blog.
Use Reflective Walls
Whether you're growing in the corner of a spare room, converting a loft, or setting up a large facility; it's important to make sure that all available light is being utilised to its maximum potential. Darker walls will absorb all wavelengths of light and convert them into heat, so the better you're able to reflect missed light back from the walls and onto your plants, the more efficient your grow will be. Use reflective sheeting on your walls or make sure you have a quality grow tent in order to get the most out of your grow light and the electricity it's consuming.
Making full use of your growing area
So you've got an efficient light, your fan is cruising through the seasons, and your walls are shinier than a bus driver's head. The next thing you should ask yourself is: are you making full use of the available canopy space in your growing area? Situating some equipment outside of your growing area - or at least off the floor - can free up valuable real estate and increase overall yields. Reservoir tanks can be brought outside and dehumidifiers can be placed in front of fan intakes (never do this with your humidifier!). If your carbon filter or extraction fan is standing in the corner of your growing area, why not hang it up out of the way and free the space up for another plant? Basically, anything that is being lit up below the light or is taking up the footprint of what could be another pot should be taken out of the way if possible, as it's just a waste of usable light and canopy space. Once you've freed up all available space in the grow room, you can boost yields by training and shaping your plants to a full and even canopy that makes complete use of the light you're throwing at it. We suggest getting yourself a variety of plant supports to help you achieve a desirable plant structure - SCROG nets are particularly useful and will help you to splay plants outwards in veg, while also providing excellent support during flower.
Utilising your central heating boiler
With the KWH price of gas at around 1/4 of that of electricity, anything you can do to transfer the work of heating your grow room from a mains-powered heater to your home boiler will help keep costs down. For example, if you're using a mains-powered electric heater to keep your plants happy when lights are off, you'll be able to cut a huge chunk off the cost of heating by removing this. Obviously, you still want to make sure that your heat sources are targeting the right area, so use the TRVs (valves) attached to each radiator to regulate the temperature in each room and ensure that you're not unnecessarily heating other rooms.
Shortening Veg times
While you won't be using quite the same light intensity (and total wattage) during the vegetative stage as you will be during flower, anything that you can do to fill your room faster and shorten the period that your plants will be vegetating for will save on the total electricity used in that cycle. While increasing plant numbers is an effective way to boost your head start, it may not be desirable for all circumstances. Additionally, while training your plants (as mentioned above) will certainly pay off in the long term, be careful not to be too ruthless. Techniques like 'mainlining' are effective at producing homogenous branching and an even canopy but will set your veg time back considerably. Try to use 'low stress' techniques such as bending and tucking and only prune if you absolutely need to.
Are you truly getting the most out of your plants? If you've got a few successful grows under your belt and are confident enough with what you're doing, then why not take things to the next level? Triacontanol-based boosters are an especially effective and safe way to stimulate additional growth during flower/fruiting. When used in appropriate amounts on healthy plants, they've been proven to dramatically increase yield. Take a look through our range of Bloom Boosters on our online store. Our most popular boosters are Nutrifield Bud Burst, Shogun Sumo Boost and Canna Boost Accelerator, but if you're unsure as to which product would benefit you the most (e.g. based on your growing system or current feeding regime), feel free to speak to one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members.
If you're maximising all aspects of your grow and have things really dialled in, there's one last piece of the puzzle left: CO2. By increasing CO2 levels in proportion with all other inputs it's possible to push plant growth beyond natural limits. Just be aware that in order to benefit from the added cost of CO2 supplementation, you'll need to create a closed-loop environment that recirculates your air, otherwise it'll be wasted. In situations where heat retention is also desired (such as winter or LED growing), this can make for a winning combination that maximally benefits from both worlds. Just make sure that you account for and take care of the inevitable increase in humidity that will come with a closed-loop setup. We've got a fantastic range of CO2 products available in-store and online - and as above, please don't hesitate to contact us if you'd like to discuss the possibility of integrating CO2 with your grow. MotherNature CO2 Generators are a great place to start, while a fully monitored and regulated Ecotechnics Evolution CO2 Kit will be able to deliver large quantities of CO2 accurately and consistently.