11Jul/12Off

Shed a little light on the matter – Part 1

When it comes to setting up your first hydroponic system, there’s an awful lot to consider – from merely what plants you want to raise to what pumps you need and what solutions will work best – and it’s easy to overlook something as seemingly standard as lighting.  After all, a light’s a light... isn’t it?

That’s where you’d be wrong, but fortunately the BIG Shop is here to help out!  The world of hydroponic lighting is, like many other ‘technical’ realms, awash with terminology that makes little sense to the new or otherwise inexperienced indoor grower.  Here’s where we step in to help with a few key terms you’ll encounter in your search for the right light.

First off, although you may set out just to buy a standalone ‘light’, you may not be aware that it’s best to buy individual components first and put together your own personalised kit.  Not only is it easier to adapt a DIY assembly for a different hydroponic system if you decide to change something after you’ve started, but there’s nothing quite like the “I did that” effect when you step back to admire your finished piece.  So what exactly do you need to get your hands on to set up the perfectly customisable hydroponic lighting system?

Constructed basically from a ballast, a reflector and a bulb (with a timer being an optional and infinitely useful addition), your setup should be planned around your hydroponic system – after all, the light is quite possibly the most important part!

The ballast is essentially your power unit, used to keep your lamp safely lit and moderate the power input.  It’s best to keep this unit off the floor for safety purposes – you don’t want it getting wet if you have any hydroponic mishaps!  Pay attention to the wattage of your ballast too, you’ll need to match this to your bulb’s – for small scale systems a 400w setup should be sufficient, but if you’re thinking of leaving room for expansion do consider a 600w.

A regular light will spill energy in all directions – and any energy lost to the surrounding area is energy wasted!  That’s why reflectors are essential in order to focus and direct the output of your bulbs to make the most of how much energy will be taken in by your plants.  Especially if you’re growing to sell, it’s a good idea to keep overhead costs to a minimum and getting the most of your energy usage like this is a necessity.

Your bulb is arguably the most important feature of your lighting though – and these come in two major varieties.  Stay tuned to the next BIG Shop blog for more details on this frankly illuminating subject!

26Mar/12Off

Control the environment of your growroom – Lighting

The main purpose of almost every growing system is the crop yield gained as a result.  Anyone creating a hydroponic system or modifying an existing one has a wide variety of factors to take into consideration that can directly affect this yield, such as;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

Several blog posts over the past few weeks have been dedicated to these topics and more before now – however, today we’re focusing on the world of:

Lighting

It may be an obvious thing to point out, but the lighting in a hydroponic system is probably the most important part.  Photosynthesis is the process of absorbing sunlight and, using water and carbon dioxide, creating glucose (food) and oxygen.

The process of photosynthesis is the main influence on a plant’s growth and yield, so the importance of a lighting system cannot be understated.

A grow light has three essential components – the lamp itself to produce light, a ballast to regulate the power input of your lamps and a reflector to best direct the output of the lamps.  The interaction between these three parts is essential in the assembly of a functional and effective lighting system.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps come in three varieties for different growing periods, each with different light outputs optimized for specific stages in a plant’s development.  Metal Halide lamps, for instance, emit more blue spectrum light, which is more effective on plants in the early, vegetative stages of development, while High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps produce more red spectrum light specifically for flowering periods.  Some types of lamp, such as Grolux or Sunmaster Dual Spectrum lamps, emit light from both the blue and red spectrums and can, as a result, be used for growing throughout the cycle.

Ballasts come in two major types – magnetic and digital.  Magnetic ballasts work by using a copper coil that becomes electromagnetic as power is drawn through it and into the lamp.  This magnetism reduces the amount of power that can be drawn through the coil, thus regulating what goes into the lamp.  Therefore, the bigger the coil, the higher wattage lamp can be safely powered.  Digital systems use a circuit board instead of an electromagnetic coil, losing far less energy through heat and noise than their magnetic counterparts.

Lamps don’t focus light on their own; that’s the job of a reflector.  Reflectors take all the light energy put out by a lamp and reduce wastage by focusing as much as possible at your crops.  This process means that your plants can absorb the same amount of light with less energy expense on your behalf, and is important in making sure your system is economical.

One more thing to remember is that all lamps produce heat – excess heat isn’t good news for your plants at all, as you can read in our blog entry here.  Don’t forget, you can always ask our experts at The BIG Shop for advice relating to this or any other growing topics.

23Mar/12Off

Control the environment of your growroom – Air Flow

If you’re thinking about starting a hydroponic grow room, or are looking for advice on how to maintain or improve an existing one, you’ve come to the right place.  We at the BIG Shop have been running a series of blogs to help seasoned growers and those aspiring to earn their first green fingers alike - here are the major topics we’re covering;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

Some of these issues have already been addressed – browse our previous blog posts for more details – but today we’re focussing our attention on a very important part of any hydroponic system:

Air Flow

Plants, like all living creatures, need to respire (breathe) in order to survive.  You may well already be aware that plants photosynthesise in light by taking in energy, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce food (glucose) and oxygen (O2) – but it’s also essential that they can reverse the process comfortably.

Respiration is biochemically the inverse of photosynthesis, as it uses up glucose and oxygen to produce energy for their own use and releases carbon dioxide along with water vapour.  This process provides plants with the energy to grow – which after all is the crux of any hydroponic system.  Giving your plants nutrients is fine, but without the correct levels of gases to break down those nutrients into useful energy, their food source will be wasted.

In the wild, plants respire constantly but only photosynthesise in sunlight.  They have, therefore, developed to photosynthesise at a more concentrated rate to make the most of the short space of time in which the process can be carried out.  It stands to reason, then, that in a hydroponic growing system where plants are under lighting for longer than they would otherwise be, they photosynthesise more than they respire - meaning that the natural balance of gases with which their growing processes are at their most productive is not achieved without a little outside help.  Put quite simply – a good supply of fresh air will increase your crop yield.

That’s where we come in – we stock a range of fans, filters, ducting, kits and accessories to make your extraction system as efficient as possible.  Taking into consideration the heat output of your lamps as well as your available space will help you make the most of your setup.  We recommend, however, getting the highest output fan within your budget, even if your setup is a small one – when run on low power a larger fan can still have a considerable output while keeping noise to a minimum.  Take a look at our range of Torin High Output Acoustic Wooden Box Fans for several examples of this concept.

Don’t hesitate to contact us via telephone or email for some professional guidance and advice tailored around your specific requirements – air circulation is a massively important part of your hydroponic system, and it’s essential that you don’t neglect it.

5Mar/12Off

Control the environment of your growroom – Carbon Dioxide (Co2)

Controlling the indoor environment of a growroom is key to increasing the successful growth of your crop. We have addressed two primary issues regarding environmental control including temperature and odours. The main points to consider with this are;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

Today we are focusing on...

Carbon Dioxide (Co2)


Co2 is one of the most important factors in an indoor growroom. For those of you who have studied up on its integral role in this process will know it is referred to as Photosynthesis. When plants combine Co2 molecules with water molecules they form complex sugars that result in spare oxygen atoms being released back into the air. These sugars are processed further by the plant to form natural polymers for growth. Remember, carbon makes up the largest portion of the dry weight of the average plant and it is supplied in the air. Carbon Dioxide is as important to a plant’s life cycle as oxygen is to human beings.

Many plants benefit from raised Co2 levels. Carbon Dioxide enrichment is a process that can be used throughout all stages of the plant growth. The ambient level of Co2 in air is 300-400ppm, fast growing plants in your growroom or glasshouse can use all the available Co2 in less than an hour slowing photosynthesis and therefore growth to a virtual halt.

So what do you need to control this aspect of the environment?

A Co2 Controller would be a good place to start. The Evolution Digital Controller (one of our preferred choices) has more features and functionality than any other product of its kind. It’s a highly accurate way of monitoring your Co2 levels with a great deal of accuracy. Then there is the Unis Co2 Controller with regulator, specifically designed to allow easy Co2 enrichment for home growrooms. This product helps to cut out the trouble of calculating things like gas flow rate, pressure and timing. Perhaps you just want to keep things simple and go with just a Co2 regulator without all the digital trimmings.

A Growth Gas Generator will help increase overall growth rates and will yield a larger end product by introducing the Co2 into the atmosphere of the growing environment. It runs on propane gas and electricity producing heat and Co2. Assorted extras such as Co2 washers and release tubing might also need to be considered.

The importance of Co2 goes beyond being a luxury and falls into the vital camp. You need it in order to grow a crop that yields real, lasting results. Increased levels from 1000pm-3000pm will generally increase yields by 20-30% and take roughly two weeks off of the 3-month growing cycle.

Invest in Co2 to help grow a healthy crop and increase your yield. Contact us for more information at The Big Shop.