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Ask Erik: RAW! - Power Outages: What to Stick Where the Light Don’t Shine.

Don’t let your plants suffer while you wait for the power to come back on after an outage. Don’t let your plants suffer while you wait for the power to come back on after an outage.


Where I live power outages are a common nuisance for me and my grow. They rarely last a few hours, although occasionally longer. This has been creating several problems for me including the fact that the lighting cycle gets all messed up in flowering, and it’s even caused some hermaphrodites as a result. I am a smaller scale grower and coupled with the fact that I live in an apartment doesn’t make a generator seem like a good solution for me.

Any ideas, especially where it comes to keeping the lighting cycle? Sick of picking out the seeds here :P


Power outages can cause serious problems for indoor growers besides triggering hermaphrodites, which create unwanted seeds, devaluing the crop. For example, hydroponic growers using aeroponic systems or mediums that don’t hold reserves of moisture could suffer the loss of the entire crop, since pumps aren’t operating if nobody is around to water manually. After PWP (permanent wilting point) there is no amount of water or B-Vitamins that is going to help bring them back.

The solution is a battery back-up system or UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply). You can use the kind they use to keep power going to computers in the event of a power failure. They are widely available, use your existing power supply and run quietly, making them a potential solution for interruptions to your growing power supply.

UPS devices have a limited amount of power output for any length or period, so we are not planning to keep your high wattage HIDs, like a 600W or 1000W HPS, running with it while the power is out.

Instead, we simply want the plants to maintain their proper “schedule.” As long as the lights go on and off at the same time every day, without light interrupting the regular dark cycle, you should be able to prevent the power outages from creating hermaphrodites and seeding your crop.

Next time the grow lights go out because of a power failure, the timer connected to the battery backup will determine if it’s supposed to be dark or not, as it mirrors the grow light timing schedule

All you need is a 60-100W incandescent bulb(s) hanging on a cord above your crop. The trick is making sure it’s not blocking light or creating shadows when the HIDs or other light sources are on, while at the same time making sure that when it is on, your regular lighting system isn’t blocking the light from the incandescent(s). Wall mounting several smaller wattage incandescents can be effective. Just watch-out, the bulbs can get hot.

While the incandescent isn’t going to create intense light for growth, the portions of the red spectrum that it irradiates while on will help the plant to “keep time” while the grow lights are out. The light bulbs don’t need to be super close either, a few feet distance is usually good.

Plug the circuit with the incandescent bulbs into a photocell, then plug the photocell into a timer, then plug into the back-up power supply which stays charged on your line voltage while the power is up and running.

Next time the grow lights go out because of a power failure, the timer connected to the battery backup will determine if it’s supposed to be dark or not, as it mirrors the grow light timing schedule. Make sure that your grow lighting timer has a built-in battery back-up, you don’t want your grow clock to “lose time” when the power is interrupted; otherwise confused plants will result because the 24 hour cycle will have changed.

If the lights are supposed to be on, the photocell with tell the incandescent bulbs that it is dark when it shouldn’t be, and they will turn on giving your plants the red spectrum they need to “keep time.”

Once power is returned to the grow lights, and they come back on, the incandescents will shut off automatically. If the dark cycle comes before that happens, they will also shut-off on time, because they are connected to a timer that mirrors the higher intensity lighting cycle timer.

You can also use a similar set-up for pumps and other lower wattage vital equipment in your hydroponics systems using this back-up battery method.

While a battery powered household lamp is not a replacement for healthy and intense grow lighting, it will help your crop stay on track when circumstances beyond your control are out of whack.

Cheers, Erik Biksa

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Don’t let your plants get caught standing in the dark, or wearing cheesy ‘80s outfits either for that matter.
Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 16:39

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