Indoor grow rooms provide multiple benefits to the grower. Namely, indoor environments increase control over the elements that aid plant growth—sunlight, air, water, and nutrients—while preventing harmful destruction from harsh weather, animals, and insects.
One element of indoor gardening, whether it be traditional soil-based or a hydroponic approach, has grown in popularity recently: air. And not just the air we breathe, but a very specific part of this life-sustaining gas, carbon dioxide or CO2.
Typical air composition is made up of mostly nitrogen and oxygen, then a number of trace elements like argon, pollutants, and carbon dioxide (which usually accounts for only 0.04% of total air composition). This same gas that is the largest scapegoat for climate change and the warming of our planet also provides increased plant growth.
Growers have taken this air composition into their own hands and increased the amount of CO2 in a grow room to aid optimal growing conditions. While favorable for plant growth, the amount of CO2 can quickly increase to unhealthy levels and proper precautions should be considered when introducing more CO2. To be specific, a CO2 meter should be properly installed beforehand to alert the grower of unhealthy levels. Thus lies the delicate balance of CO2 enrichment for indoor grow rooms.
What is CO2?
Carbon dioxide, made of one part carbon and two parts oxygen, surrounds us every day and is the byproduct of many common events such as breathing and driving our cars. Luckily, plants use this expelled carbon dioxide and give us back oxygen; but the rate of carbon dioxide creation has far outweighed the oxygen conversion by plants for many years now.
This imbalance is what contributes heavily to the greenhouse effect, in which excess gases like CO2 will linger in the atmosphere, trap heat, and warm the globe. Other gases and pollution contribute to this effect, but carbon dioxide is by far the most infamous of them all—creating a moral dilemma that increased CO2 levels can also increase plant growth.
Why is CO2 good for plant growth in a grow room?
It all stems from the wonderful process of photosynthesis. In this process, plants consume sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water and convert them into fuel. The byproduct of this reaction is oxygen. That’s the basic process flow and can become much more detailed, but one can see the importance of carbon dioxide in this equation.
Recently, scientists have been observing a “greening effect” of plants seemingly due to increased greenhouse gases (hence more carbon dioxide) in our atmosphere. The increased carbon dioxide allows plants to grow faster and, as a result, turn more green from the increased chlorophyll and photosynthesis.
It is estimated that some 70 percent of plants growing more green is attributed to carbon dioxide fertilization. Others argue that plants acclimate to this increased level of carbon dioxide, and should not attribute increased pollution to aiding plant growth. In either case, CO2 is an essential part of the photosynthesis equation that provides life to all plants, and in turn all living things.
In terms of a grow room scenario for your plants, whether it be cannabis, vegetables, whatever, the importance of having optimal levels of CO2 cannot be understated. Then the conversation shifts to what are the most optimal levels of CO2 for an indoor grow room?
What is CO2 enrichment?
CO2 enrichment is the process of having enough CO2 available in the grow room for plants to reach their photosynthetic potential. In other words, ensuring CO2 is not the limiting factor in the photosynthesis equation. This is assuming all other factors such as light, water, and nutrients are already effectively optimized in the grow room.
It is recommended to create grow room CO2 levels ranging from 800 to 1500 ppm, or 0.08% to 0.15% of the total air composition. As discussed previously, normal air usually contains 0.04% carbon dioxide; and on the other hand, plants will usually stop growing at around 0.02% CO2.
This small percentage difference between optimal levels, normal levels, and non-supporting levels of CO2 creates a strong need for an accurate and effective method to measure and introduce CO2 into a grow room.
Why do I need a CO2 meter for a grow room?
Safety Note: Grow room CO2 enrichment can be extremely dangerous if CO2 levels become too high. Severe drowsiness, headaches, nausea can occur even at relatively low levels between 1000 and 2000 ppm.
CO2 enrichment in an indoor grow room, especially a sealed grow room, should be approached with caution and the goldilocks mentality: not too much CO2, not too little, just enough to make those plants grow at a high potential. This will also create the best value in managing your CO2 costs.
In this way, a CO2 meter is essential when aiming to increase levels of CO2 in an indoor grow room. Atlas Scientific provides an extremely accurate, gaseous CO2 meter that comes factory calibrated, meaning it can be used immediately upon purchase—it even has threads to screw directly into a piping setup for easier continuous monitoring.
By using a CO2 meter in the grow room you can be sure not to increase levels too high to cause human health concerns, and simultaneously monitor CO2 levels to ensure they stay in optimal photosynthesis ranges for the plants. Both of which are extremely important when tackling CO2 enrichment.
How do I increase CO2 in my grow room?
There are a few ways to introduce CO2 into a grow room:
CO2 generators burn fossil fuels (propane, butane) to create CO2
Bulk tanks of liquid CO2 – converted into gas upon controlled release
CO2 grow bags utilize a fungus to continually release CO2 for about 6 months
Choosing the CO2 enrichment method that is best for you will depend on the size, scale, and overall goal of your grow room production.
CO2 generators are increasingly becoming a solution of the past due to the unclean cycle that produces unwanted residue along with the CO2 creation. In the case of cannabis or other consumable plants, this poses a serious health risk and should be avoided at all costs.
Bulk tanks of CO2, provide a more sustainable, cleaner, and controllable approach to CO2 enrichment by introducing pure CO2 with no dirty byproducts. This approach, however, can become increasingly more complex and expensive with the correct valves, safety, and a potentially automated setup. It is recommended to seek the advice of local HVAC professionals or even craft brewers, as the CO2 setup is similar to that of draft taps.
The autonomous CO2 bulk tank approach that uses a CO2 meter and controller to measure and control CO2 release is the main draw of this approach. If set up correctly, the optimal CO2 levels will exist for plant growth automatically. Safety precautions with the CO2 meter should still be heavily enforced should any part of the system malfunction. However, a large-scale operation that requires much more CO2 will benefit greatly from this approach and save considerable amounts of gas compared to the CO2 generators.
On the other hand, for small to medium scale, even personal operations, the CO2 grow bags are a great and affordable option for CO2 enrichment. They utilize a permeable bag that houses a proprietary fungal mass that degrades and releases CO2 over a long period (depending on which size you buy, about 6 months). Note, CO2 is less dense than normal air so these grow bags should be hung above the plants that are receiving CO2 enrichment.
One important factor to consider while introducing supplemental carbon dioxide into a grow room is the natural process time of photosynthesis. Since photosynthesis requires sunlight, it can only happen during daytime hours (strict 9 to 5 for these green workers). Therefore, it is not recommended to increase CO2 levels during the nighttime and, quite frankly, not an effective use of your carbon dioxide supply. Some setups can include a light sensor to tell the automated system when day and night occur to release/stop the release of CO2.
Benefits of a sealed grow room
Again, safety is extremely important when approaching CO2 enrichment especially in a sealed grow room where any mistake can lead to harmful levels of CO2. Hence the importance of a CO2 meter for air quality monitoring.
At any rate, the benefits of a sealed grow room include but are not limited to:
Heightened control of the elements (temperature, water, nutrients)
Reduction of plant pests, diseases, and harmful weather
Individualized plant strains for quality and repeatability
Maintain optimal CO2 levels for growing
Reduce amount and cost of used CO2
Ultimately, the benefits boil down to creating a secure environment for growth to ensure optimal conditions and safety for the plants. The process of CO2 enrichment can significantly increase your plant growth but also poses a health risk if levels are improperly managed. Therefore, create peace of mind by purchasing a CO2 sensor to monitor the air quality and ensure healthy levels are maintained.
If you are unsure exactly sensor device will best suit your needs, do not hesitate to reach out to the world-class team at Atlas Scientific.
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