Controllers make your life easier. Having the right combination of meters and controllers can help you automate your garden leading to powerful results and saves you time and money. They can automate lights, temperature control, CO2 production, fans and many other aspects of your grow.
There are a wide range of temperature controllers out there to choose from. Many are combined with humidity, CO2 and fan controls. A simple temperature controller for a grow room or tent can make all the difference in a successful grow. Most seedling and young plants need to be kept between 68°F to 77°F. As plants mature, they can happily grow in temperatures as high as 82°F in a grow room or grow tent. The important factors are to never let temperatures exceed this as plants can begin to burn and never let them fall below 68°F as they begin to lose efficiency in nutrient absorption. Another consideration is to keep “day” and “night” temperatures from varying more than about 18°F, a difference of about 10°F is ideal. In order to regulate these temperatures, a good temperature controller can monitor and control, lights, fans and CO2 generators in order to ensure an optimal growing temperature. Some advanced lighting controllers also feature "trigger" cords that allow lighting controls to be plugged into temperature controls to enhance the features of the lighting controller. This further enhances the automation of your grow space when systems can talk to one another.
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Many new growers make the rookie mistake of not controlling their CO2 generators at the proper times. Plants only need and take in CO2 during the “day” or when light is present. Plants need light to process CO2 and convert it during photosynthesis. At night, plants give off excess CO2 and have no use for it so it’s important that you are not producing CO2 at a time when your plants can’t use it. Beyond simple on and off many controllers can regulate the concentrations of CO2 in order to ensure a healthy balance with what the plants need. More advanced controllers can even control multiple rooms or tents at once. Some controllers are equipped with fuzzy logic in order to more accurately achieve ppm concentrations without under or overshooting the target. This makes them more efficient by not wasting gas on overages.
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Fan controllers regulate fan speed. This is extremely helpful to ensure that your fans aren’t running too loudly or moving too much air. Plants enjoy fresh air and HPS lights can get warm so moving air around inside your grow room or grow tent is vital to maintaining a healthy environment for them. Fan controllers can take the work out of regulating when a fan turns on and how intensely it runs. Some manufacturers, such as Titan Controls, offer models equipped with photocells that sense when lights are on. They are also compatible with all other Titan Control models for easy expansion as your growing needs increase.
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Lighting controllers allow you to maintain a schedule of light and dark periods for your plants. This is important to prevent plants from blooming early or to encourage vegging longer. Lights can be controlled through the use of a simple timer on one light or through more comprehensive systems such as Titan Controls Helios controller that allows for control of up to 24 lights at once. Figure 1 shows a sample setup with this controller.
Some light controllers are photocell equipped allowing them to sense when lights are on. This in turn allows them to control lighting fans, movers and other devices that need to be activated when light is present and off during periods of darkness. Flipboxes are another great way to get more use out of your lighting controls. They allow a single ballast to control multiple lights. This means that you can run many more lights off the same ballast by alternating areas of light and dark. Figure 2 shows a diagram of how this would be setup.
Humidity is an important factor of the growing cycle. Seedlings and cuttings require more humidity than a mature plant. As you approach harvest it is important to slowly lower humidity over time. Young plants have small root structures and are not as efficient at taking up water through them. In order to prevent young plants from losing water through their leaves as they transpire, it is important to maintain a high level of humidity. Once plants establish roots and grow more, humidity levels can lower slowly over time. By the time you are ready to harvest humidity may be as low as 40%. Air temperature also plays a part in how much humidity the air can hold. As air warms it expands allowing it to hold more water vapor. As air cools it contracts and is able to hold less water vapor. This is why when you have a cold drink on a hot day, the air near the surface of the glass is cooler than surrounding air and the water vapor condenses out on the surface of the glass.
Clones need about 70-80% relative humidity. As plants enter vegetative growth, humidity can lower slowly over time from about 70% to around 50%. In the final weeks of flowering humidity should be reduced down to about 40%. It is important to always maintain a breeze for preventing mold and mildew from occurring in high humidity environments. Lower humidity levels force plants to produce more resin just before harvest. Some growers will lower humidity to 30% in the final week just to produce this effect.
Hydroponic systems require careful measurement of pH, EC/PPM, temperature and various other stats in order to maintain optimal conditions for plant growth. Hydroponic dosers and monitors will continuously monitor and/or adjust a hydroponic system to maintain balance. Bluelab has created a suite of controllers that will do just that.
Some manufacturers such as Titan Controls and Agrowtek have created control systems that will monitor lights, temperature, humidity and a host of other sensors in order to maintain ideal growing conditions. Some of these can even output to the cloud and integrate with security systems for real time data reporting. Figure 3 shows a sample Titan Controls Saturn 6 setup with controller, Figure 4 shows an Agrowtek control system. These systems offer a wide range of custom control options.
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