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Cold Chillin’: Hydro Innovations Discusses how Chillers Keep Heat in Check

Hydro Innovations can help you and your grow room chill out. Hydro Innovations can help you and your grow room chill out.

 

Air conditioners cool your grow with brute force. But they can come with a brutal energy bill. Many indoor growers are exploring the benefits of water chillers as a way to keep their crop cool and their costs down.

To learn more, we spoke with experts to learn how these devices can keep temperatures in check, both in your grow room and in your hydroponic system itself.

GO WITH THE FLOW

Hydro Innovations manufactures the Chillking® line of water chillers. Brandy Keen, the company’s Vice President of Customer Relations, explains how chillers help you get a grip on your garden temperature.

Rosebud: What are the benefits of water-cooling your grow room?

Brandy Keen: On average, water-cooling is about 30% more efficient than traditional air conditioning, even with a high-SEER A/C system. This is because the heat capacity of water is four times greater than the heat capacity of air. Water can absorb four times as many BTUs as air before it increases in temperature.

The compressor on the chiller system will come on less often than the compressor on an A/C unit because the water in the system will stay cold for a longer period of time than air when the same amount of BTUs are absorbed. This means that you will actually get air conditioning out of a chiller system even when the compressor isn’t running.

Water-cooling systems also allow you to run a truly sealed environment because you can recirculate the air in the garden instead of introducing air from outside the garden. This conserves CO2 and reduces the introduction of pests and pathogens. Lastly, using a chiller system instead of a traditional air conditioner can allow you to use a single piece of cooling equipment for air conditioning, cooling your lights and chilling your nutrients.

A lot of people view water-cooling as being complicated. What are your thoughts?

Water-cooling can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like to make it. Often, it’s as simple as a single cold water line in and a second warm water line out. The manufacturers of water-cooling systems in our industry are usually happy to draw the plumbing plan for you and can even build the water-distribution manifolds for you if that’s your preference.

I have run this system before and I got a lot of condensation. Why does that happen?

Condensation is essentially dehumidification. It’s what happens when the water vapor in the air condenses into liquid form. This will happen any time your water temperature is set lower than the dew point temperature in the room (and is actually how an air handler in a water-cooled system provides dehumidification). The dew point temperature is a product of the relative humidity and the ambient temperature.

If you leave your water temperature lower than the dew point temperature to encourage dehumidification, simply insulate the cold water lines with black plumbers’ insulation to discourage condensation on those lines. Otherwise, reduce your humidity and/or increase your water temperature to eliminate condensation altogether. Generally speaking, if your humidity is controlled around 50%, condensation is a non-issue.

Is there a savings over traditional cooling methods?

Absolutely. While a chiller and a high-SEER A/C will typically consume the same amount of power while they’re running, the chiller will run far less often to achieve the same results, which will result in a dramatically lower electric bill.

How do I control the room temps using the Ice Box setup?

This will vary somewhat depending on humidity and cooling needs in your specific space, but generally speaking, Ice Boxes will need to run at 55-65°F and air handlers will need to run at 45-55°F.

And I can use this system in place of air conditioning, right?

Absolutely. With a chiller and the proper heat exchangers, your water-cooled system can handle every single cooling need you have.

What is the rule of thumb for how much chiller power I need for the amount of lights I’m running?

Again, this will vary based on your specific cooling needs but is between a quarter-ton and half-ton per 1,000-watt light. A quarter-ton per light will usually handle the light heat but nothing else. A half-ton per 1,000 watts will usually handle the light heat and all of the ambient air conditioning as well. If you are in an especially hot climate, round up. If you are in a cool climate, round down.

Are marine chillers the same thing compared to the custom grow room chillers?

The chillers commonly used for aquariums (or nutrient cooling) are intended for that purpose only. They are excellent for their specific application. However, when you are asking a chiller to cool an entire garden, a more commercial chiller is needed. Chillking and Banks Chiller Systems are heavy-duty, energy-efficient and are intended for this type of use. If you choose to use these other types of chiller in your garden, you should purchase something at least 25% bigger than you think you’ll need to compensate for the lower efficiency.

What’s wrong with the aquarium chillers out there? Why wouldn’t they be able to handle the heat?

Nothing is “wrong” with those chillers. It’s just intended for a different purpose. When a chiller says it’s good for, let’s say 250 gallons of water, it means it can hold 250 gallons of water at a specific set point against ambient heat absorption only. When you start absorbing all of the heat produced by your lights and other equipment into that water, it requires far more power to keep it cool.

Remember, cooling is not its own energy — cooling is simply the removal of thermal energy. So a chiller isn’t adding cold to water, it’s removing heat. All chillers are limited by how much heat they can remove. A 1-hp chiller from Hydro Innovations is rated for 12,000 BTUs of heat removal (and usually does about 14,000 BTUs at QC check). A 1-hp nutrient or marine chiller usually does about 9,000 BTUs. This is a dramatic difference.

Could I use my chiller indoors?

Remember that when we cool things, what we’re really doing is removing heat. So the water absorbs the heat from the room, then the chiller removes the heat from the water. That heat ultimately exhausts out the back of your chiller. Like any other piece of cooling equipment, if it’s kept in an exceptionally hot environment, it won’t perform as well. Traditional air conditioners usually begin to lose efficiency when the environment reaches 85°F. Chillers will last a bit longer — usually around 100°F — before experiencing significant performance degradation.

So it’s best to keep your chiller outdoors and in a shaded area if possible. If that’s not possible, they can be kept indoors with the proper venting. There are also window-mount options available for chillers up to two tons. Always keep your chiller out of the garden, though.

Some of the chillers you sell are really big. It would seem conspicuous next to my house. Do you have anything smaller coming out?

We have a new line of chillers called Banks Chiller Systems that use the same condenser housing as a traditional split A/C system. They are indistinguishable from an air conditioner from the outside and would look “normal” outside of any residence.

Can I cycle my pump on and off to save a little electricity?

As long as the chiller is powered, the pump should also be running. When you turn your chiller off is the only time it’s safe to turn the pump off.

Should I turn my chiller off with my lights during the dark cycle?

You certainly can, but we don’t recommend it. When your lights are off, there is no heat load on the chiller, so even though it’s powered on, it won’t run because there is no heat to be removed. Therefore, turning it off when the lights are out is usually unnecessary.

What if I buy the recommended system and it still isn’t cooling my room? What are some other things to look at?

Air speed, water-flow rates and insufficient heat exchangers are usually the culprit in this kind of situation. If you got the correct chiller but your room isn’t cool enough, there are usually minor modifications you can make to the setup that will result in dramatic changes. Before you go out and buy another chiller, contact your water-cooling manufacturer and tell them about your setup so they can recommend minor tweaks to get your system running at peak performance.

You can always tell if it’s the chiller or the setup that’s causing the problem by checking your water temperature and chiller run time. If your water temperature is being maintained and the chiller is cycling off, your chiller is not the problem. If the chiller runs constantly and/or water temperature is increasing, you probably need a bigger chiller. If this is the case, there are likely sources of heat in the space that weren’t accounted for in the beginning.

What do I do if my chiller goes down? Is there a backup?

Absolutely. Just incorporate a fresh-water bypass into your plumbing system, which allows you to connect a water hose to your water-cooling system and use your municipal supply for short-term cooling if your chiller needs service. In most circumstances, commercial chillers can be serviced by refrigeration technicians all over the country, so they can be repaired very quickly if it becomes necessary.

© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2013



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Last modified on Tuesday, 03 September 2013 18:10

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