Choosing the Right Equipment for Your Cannabis Grow
There’s a lot more in a successful grow room than productive plants. Without the right equipment or square footage, your crops couldn’t even begin to achieve those maximized yields and your overall bottom line could suffer.
When creating a cultivation center, selecting the right equipment at the start is crucial to success. This means talking to engineers who have sized climate control systems for cannabis, building the right size garden for your budget, and knowing which equipment is often undervalued within a garden.
Sizing for Cannabis
While it is possible for someone with no experience to size a system correctly, most people undersize their first system. So, when selecting climate control equipment, talk to someone who knows more than you do—like engineers who specialize in cannabis cultivation equipment sizing.
Due to the high heat load and water content associated with a garden, sizing systems for cannabis cultivation can be very different from sizing them for other environments. Proper climate control systems for indoor gardens are often compared to those needed for data centers, but the amount of moisture in the air of a garden makes it more like cooling an underwater data center. As you can probably imagine, this distinction makes a big difference. While most beginners calculate the dehumidification load of a cannabis garden at only three gallons per light per day, they should really calculate the load to at least five gallons per light per day.
Building the Right Sized Garden
When planning a new cannabis business, it can be tempting to aim for the largest allowable square footage and plant count. However, the correct way to determine the size of your operation is to determine your budget, find out what equipment can be bought with that money, and then decide how big a garden can be built within that budget.
It is important to point out that “find out what equipment can be bought” does not mean looking at the cheapest equipment and making decisions based upon that information. Instead, your business goals and monthly expenses should be considered. Energy efficient equipment is crucial to the ultimate bottom line of your business and should be considered from the start. By spending a little more money at the start to purchase good equipment, you’ll be able to save yourself time and money down the line, leading to more profits.
If you are concerned with not building a large grow in the beginning, think about this: the better your start-up operation runs and the less it costs each month to keep the lights on, the quicker you will be able to turn a profit and gain recognition for your outstanding product. Once that happens, it will be easy to find financing to expand your cultivation facility. So, start small and create the best possible grow you can with the money you have, then expand to the larger garden you first dreamed of.
Choosing Grow Room Equipment
The Most Overlooked Aspect
One of the most overlooked pieces of equipment in a garden is the dehumidifier. Dehumidification load is higher than the cooling load in a growroom due to the amount of water present. In fact, cooling is a byproduct of dehumidification, so if you have enough dehumidification, there will be enough cooling as well. An undersized dehumidifier can lead to moldy buds and other problems, so make sure to consider dehumidification when designing a grow.
The Most Undervalued Piece of Equipment
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the most undervalued aspects of an indoor garden. Plants need CO2 to grow, and without sufficient levels, their growth will be stalled. Also, CO2 supplementation is one of the cheapest ways to boost production and increase plant yield. In sealed grow rooms, it is critical to add CO2 to give your plants a constant supply. Don’t worry, this won’t affect human occupation of the room as plants take in CO2 and put out oxygen, meaning there will be plenty of oxygen in a room full of plants.
Every piece of equipment that goes into a cultivation facility affects the bottom line of the garden. Here are some quick and dirty tips to help you choose the ideal equipment:
Never use single-ended bulbs. They are the least efficient at turning power into useable light. Instead, opt for double-ended bulbs, ceramic metal halides, or LEDs.
Use the correct reflectors. Some reflectors are designed for indoor gardens and others are designed for greenhouses. Know which application your reflector is for and choose one designed for your operation.
Avoid air-cooled reflectors. They get dirty easily, making it difficult to contain smells and bring in air from the outside.
Buy cooling products designed for process cooling, not comfort cooling. Comfort cooling is designed to keep humans comfortable, while process cooling is designed to handle and remove large amounts of heat. Using the proper type of equipment can make your facility more efficient.
Select energy-efficient equipment. Water-cooled equipment is more efficient than traditional air conditioning. This is due to the high heat retention of water versus air. Cooling is a huge monthly expense, so do yourself a favor and pick a system that saves you money every month.
Choose redundancy. Cooling is a critical aspect of a functioning growroom, so it is important that cooling be available when needed. Choosing a system that allows for redundancy ensures your garden will always have cooling.
Avoid soil. Soil is a great way to introduce unwanted pests and pathogens into the grow. Instead, opt for hydroponics or soilless media like coco fiber or peat moss-based soil.
Use proper tables. A lot of light meant for plants can end up hitting the floor. Proper tables, however, help you create a flat, even canopy through trellising that allows plants to catch all the light.
Size the system for wet product. It is all too easy to lose a crop during the drying stage due to an undersized dehumidifier in the dry room. When sizing equipment for the dry room, be sure to consider the maximum load when the room is full of wet product.
Again, choose redundancy. It is important to have a backup system for all critical pieces of equipment to avoid crop loss or damage. In the dry room, this means having a redundant dehumidifier system.
As you plan your new cultivation facility, remember these three things and you will be okay: Let professionals size your equipment, build the right size garden for your budget, and take care when selecting equipment.
Written by Surna
As the only true expert in cultivation environments, Surna is the first call any cultivator, investor, contractor, engineer, or cannabis consultant should make when planning and designing a controlled environment cultivation. We’re the industry experts in applied mechanical engineering, agricultural science, indoor farming and predictive facility modeling.