Sound too good to be true? Friends, it’s not.
It’s actually easier than you might think to set up your indoor grow to recapture all but a few drops of the moisture lost from the crop through the leaves via transpiration. Your air-handling machines, like dehumidifiers and air conditioners, already have what you need to get the job done: condensate drain hoses are your connection to liquid gold.
If you are already running a CEA (controlled-environment agriculture) or “sealed” setup, it’s simply a matter of creating an efficient catchment and distribution system. The condensate is captured and reused again and again – no extra water is added. In a real-world situation, the same 100 liters of water can be used for a year with only a 5% loss in a well sealed and operated CEA setup. You almost have to see it to believe it, but it really does work.
To get started, you can either use the same reservoir you typically feed your entire crop from or even better, install a separate cistern of equal or greater size than the reservoir you use for feeding your crop. It should be made of chemically inert material. Very pure water is highly reactive and will quickly dissolve water-soluble impurities into it, which can potentially wind up in your crop. Look for food-grade containers made for home brewing.
To collect the condensate and deliver it into your cistern or reservoir, you will need some food-grade tubing that will not kink, sag or otherwise squeeze the lifeblood out of your crop. Luckily, safe, nontoxic garden hoses are now widely available and competitively priced. The extra few dollars for a 50-foot hose is money well spent.
If the garden location goes unattended for periods during cropping, it would be prudent to install a float valve from the hose onto your cistern so there is no chance of overfilling and causing spillage. However, if the condensate return is closed, it may shut off your AC and dehumidification equipment, potentially causing disastrous overheating if you have not installed a high-temperature lighting-kill contact (aka a Chernobyl switch) in your grow room.
For spacecraft-level automation and self-containment, you can completely automate the entire process, including the necessary additions of nutrients to the recaptured water before it is cycled back to the crop. All it takes is a suitable float-switch-activated pump and a nutrient-dosing system like the GroBot. If you use a pH Perfect crop-feeding program, you don’t need to worry about adding chemical adjusters, allowing you to use the freed-up containers on the dosage rack for more productive additions to the crop-feeding solution.
Think about it: The plants will essentially be watering themselves. Once they sweat enough moisture away from the previous watering, the condensate level in the reservoir will activate the float-switch on the water pump. As water starts pumping through the irrigation lines toward the emitter system that will feed the individual plants in the soilless garden, the GroBot injects the exact ratio of nutrients you set.
So there you have it – a solid foundation on which to build and operate your own freshwater recovery system from your indoor garden, as pioneered by urban growers looking to grow healthier plants and perhaps leave a lighter footprint behind.
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Friday, 18 January 2013