Tools For Indoor Growers

After choosing an indoor area to start the grow, it is time to convert it into a grow space.

Enclosing a Grow Space

There are three common ways to enclose a grow space: using a space that is already enclosed, like a walk-in closet; using a prebuilt enclosure, like a grow tent; or building a DIY enclosure with things such as buckets or storage totes.

A closet grow is the first go-to space for most people because a lot of the initial work is already done. The area is enclosed, the grow space is concealed, and if you have white paint and solid floors, the walls already reflect light and the floors are semi water-resistant. For most closet grow setups, the issues come from what it does not provide: mobility, fresh airflow, mounting bars, and a way to control the odor. The question now is how hard is it to add on what is missing from the grow space, and depending on things such as where the nearest window is, a closet could be your ideal grow space or extremely hard to use. Another thing to consider for long-term growing is that the interior of a house is not meant to handle high humidities and water spills, so peeling paint and mold are both possibilities that could occur with a lack of planning.

A grow tent is one of the most popular choices because of the low price point, ease of setup and high versatility. Grow tents come in multiple shapes and sizes, with the smallest viable option we recommend being 2’x2’x4’ and the largest ones able to fill a whole room. For a home grower, anything larger than 4’x4’x8’ is probably more than you will need if you are growing for personal use. Built with metal bars that click together, these tents are a breeze to put together and take apart, making them easier to put together than basically any other option. The biggest benefit of a grow tent, though, is the ease of use; all the necessary features of a good indoor grow setup are already built into the tent. The holes for wires, reflective Mylar throughout the interior, support beams for lighting and air carbon filters, waterproofing, light proofing, intake and exhaust holes are all there for a hassle-free setup. In fact, one of the simple ways to solve most of the issues that complicate a closet setup is to place a grow tent inside the closet.

A DIY enclosure such as a space bucket, brute bucket, or space tote, makes sense for growers with a limited space that require a custom fit. Otherwise, you might be better off starting with a grow tent as they cost about the same and require a lot less work to set up. Space buckets are the most common DIY grow setup; they are 5-gallon buckets stacked on top of each other with a grow light at the top of it to house and grow a plant. The space-saving, lightweight durability from the hard shells of the buckets make this type of setup very mobile and able to fit in places grow tents can not, making these common as a go-to option when it comes to micro and stealth grows. The cons, though, are that because of its shape and size, a typical space bucket will only be able to grow one very small plant at a time and require the grower to have a good understanding of a few different grow techniques to keep the plant short since a space bucket can only stack so high. The larger versions of a space bucket, using trash cans (brute bucket) or plastic storage containers (space tote), can grow more plants at once but require more space to do to so, so they are not as common, as they can usually be interchanged with a grow tent for the same cost. For how to build a space bucket, brute bucket or space tote, https://www.spacebuckets.com has the most comprehensive guides and tutorials on how to build each from scratch.

Finally, a standalone grow cabinet is another popular DIY enclosure, taking a normal storage cabinet and retrofitting it so that it has all of the tools a grow space needs, making it essentially a customizable but costly grow tent. For people looking to grow long term who want something more durable, this is a good alternative. When compared with the rest of the options, this one has the hardest initial setup, since everything a grow tent automatically has built in will need to be added  manually.

LED Grow Lights

HPS Grow Lights

Grow Lights

Now that your grow space is enclosed, we can take a look at grow light options. In the crowded field of different grow light technologies, there are 3 main types that make the most sense for a grower starting out: light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting, and fluorescent lighting.

LED grow lights are a great starting point for a new grower due to their low cost, ease of setup, and high efficiency, while producing very little heat. The problem is that these lights are also the most confusing of the bunch as they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but we will be focusing on the two most common types available. Blue/red LED grow lights, also known as blurple grow lights, are the most common grow light on the market with hundreds, if not thousands, of variations. Generally the cheapest grow light available, these work surprisingly decent for their price point as long as you know what to look for and do not get scammed by marketing ploys. Most, if not all of these type of grow lights will have a fake wattage in the name of the light but will have their actual wattage in the description — you want to use the actual wattage rating when choosing the correct grow light size and completely disregard the wattage in the name. Blurple LEDs have a lot going for them as they are cheap, energy efficient, bright, and produce little heat, but the light they produce is not very intense and will not penetrate far past the first layer of growth, so the lower layers of growth will drop considerably. Even with this drawback, blurple grow lights are a great choice for any new grower looking to start on a budget.

The newer LED technology, chip on board or COB grow lights condenses the LEDs into a smaller area, which produces a stronger penetrating light that can reach further down a plant. These generally are full spectrum, creating a more natural light for your grow space, and they are usually more correctly labeled to match their actual wattage, although be sure to check the descriptions to make sure. Able to grow more well-rounded plants when compared with their blurple counterparts, these lights are slightly more expensive but are well worth the additional costs considering the results they produce.

Now, as for what size of LED grow light you will need, you generally want around 6-10w of LED lighting for every cubic foot of your grow space with the low end of the wattage for partial tent coverage and the high end of the wattage if you are filling the entire tent. For example, a 2’x2’x4’ grow space that has 16 cubic feet could use a LED grow light that produces 96−160 actual watts. A 3’x3’x6’ grow space that has 54 cubic feet of usable space could use between 324−540 actual watts either from one big light or multiple smaller lights. Also due to the intensity of the LED lights, if you are using blurple LED lights, you will need to hang them at least a foot away from your plants, and if using a COB grow light, you will need at least a 1-2 feet of clearance.

 

HID grow lights such as metal halide (MH) and high-pressure sodium (HPS), are extremely popular due to their dominance in the grow light market before LEDs came on the market. Both MH and HPS lighting are used throughout a plant’s life cycle because MH lights emit more blue lighting, which promotes growth in the vegetative stage, while HPS lights are used in the flowering stage, as they emit more red lighting, which helps with flowering. If on a budget, HPS lighting can also be used in the vegetative stage to cut down on the number of setups needed.

While HID lights are more complex to set up, draws more electricity, takes some time to reach full brightness, outputs a lot of heat, and has a high maintenance cost of having to replace the light bulbs once or twice a year, if you are able to deal with all these additional hurdles, the one big benefit with HID lighting is that the light it produces is very intense and can penetrate a plant canopy just as well if not better than COB grow lights. So, if you want to go with the old tried and true lighting solution and can manage the heat output (or, better yet, live in an environment that could use a little more heat), then you will want to get a HID light that outputs 8−12w per cubic foot of grow space. For example, a 150−200-watt MH/HPS light will work fine in a 2'x2'x4' grow tent, and for a 3'x3'x6' grow tent, go with a 400-600-watt MH/HPS. With HID lights, due to their intense lighting and heat output, you will want to hang them at least 1-2 feet away from your plants.

Fluorescent lights, while not as commonly used as HID and LED grow lights, have a few unique features that give them a niche role. Fluorescent lighting generates very little heat and produces a low-intensity light. Because of these two characteristics, fluorescent lighting will need to be placed in close proximity, inches away from a plant, to be effective. There are 2 types that are commonly used: T5 grow lights and compact fluorescent lights (CFL). T5 lights utilize long, low-wattage bulbs that cover a wide area and are most often used in commercial setups to nurture multiple seedlings or for creating clones in bulk, as both require little lighting to thrive so the wide coverage area and space saving-design can be fully utilized. CFLs are used as an extremely cheap alternative to grow lights since they are practically free everywhere due to their more common application of being used as an energy saving light bulb.

Air(flow)

When it comes to an exhaust fan, to keep the plants happy, you want to be able to refresh all the air in your grow space every minute. To determine this, you will just need to multiply the length, width, and height of your grow space. For example, a 3’x3’x6’ grow tent will need to move 54 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM), so any fan rated 54 CFM or higher will work. Unfortunately most basic fans do not come with a CFM rating, so to give you an example, a small 120mm fan in a personal computer can easily move 100 CFM. This means that basically any small fan that can fit in your exhaust vent will work as an exhaust fan. Exhaust fans also have another role of removing the hot air generated from the grow lights, so when installing one, you will need to position it as high up as possible since heat rises.

If you need to direct the air somewhere specific like through a carbon filter or outside, then you will need an inline fan with ducting. The CFM rating will also need to be raised, because if you are using ducting and/or a carbon filter, it will make the airflow less efficient. Therefore, to be safe, you will want to multiply the CFM by 2 if you are using a carbon filter with relatively short ducting and by 3 if there are a lot of twist and turns in the ducting. Taking a look again at the 3’x3’x6’ grow tent example, if a lot of ducting is used, you will need an inline fan with a CFM rating of 54 x 3 = 162 or higher.

Intake fans are generally not necessary since an exhaust fan will naturally pull in fresh air as it removes air from the grow space  — just be sure fresh air can come into the grow space, ideally near the bottom, so the fresh air travels through the entire grow space before it exits via the exhaust fan at the top.

As for creating airflow through the plants any small fan will do. For a small grow space, a clip-on fan is a popular choice.

Carbon Filter and Other Optional Tools

A carbon filter is by far the best solution available to remove the cannabis odor from an indoor grow area, and while it looks intimidating, a carbon filter is actually very easy to setup and requires no real management once installed. All you need to do is to place the carbon filter on one of the 2 ends of the exhaust fan setup: either attached to the exhaust fan inside the grow tent so that all the air pulled in goes through the carbon filter first, or at the end of the ducting outside the grow tent so all of the air is pushed out of the carbon filter. Either way works, and as long as the exhaust air passes through a carbon filter at some point, it will completely scrub the cannabis smell from the grow space. Be sure to check periodically to make sure the smell is being scrubbed, as a carbon filter needs to be replaced every 6−24 months, depending on the level of use.

A relative humidity and temperature reader is also very useful for all indoor setups to monitor the grow space. For changing the environment of your grow space, a humidifier or dehumidifier, as well as a space heater or portable AC unit, are all handy tools, depending on what part of the environment you need to adjust. Finally, a mechanical timer for the grow light maintain a consistent light cycle is great to automate the process.

Did this guide help? This article was taken directly from The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Growing Cannabis book, so if you like the advice above you'll love the rest of the book, which includes a lot of exclusive content not found anywhere else. You can find both the e-book and paperback copy on Amazon, and it's free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription!