CO2 levels: Good for Growing, Dangerous for Growers
Carbon dioxide, otherwise referred to as "CO2", is critical when it comes to promoting and enhancing plant yields. Hence, the reason that many indoor growers and cultivators all utilize the inert gas as a key component to their "growth recipe".
You see, CO2, along with water and light are all necessary parts of photosynthesis. A process used by plants in order to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the plants metabolic activities.
However, what indoor growers may not realize is that high levels of CO2 can also be dangerous. It's true. A sealed, closed indoor grow room can trap dangerous levels of carbon dioxide that can lead to severe negative health effects, such as dizziness, unconsciousness, and even fatality.
CO2 Generator Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
For decades, greenhouses and grow rooms have used CO2 generators that burn fossil fuels to generate carbon dioxide. Recent studies have shown that CO2 enrichment on plants at two, three, or four times the natural CO2 concentration will cause plants to grow at yields much faster and in turn promote further productivity and quality to the crop.
Additionally, growers tend to lean away from using generators and look towards CO2 enrichment because burning fossil fuels is an incomplete process leaving residue in the plants, and, the low cost of carbon dioxide makes the gas cost-effective and easier to control in facilities.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Enrichment
Indoor cannabis growers have solved the problem of burners by switching to compressed cylinders or bulk tanks of liquid CO2. One thing to note however, is that CO2 enrichment will not be as effective for your crops if your grow area or facility is not indoors. This is because the CO2 will be exhausted before the plants actually can utilize it. Furthermore, air should never be exchanged in and out of your grow environment.
For those that are working in indoor greenhouses, grow rooms, or cultivation facilities - an entry level CO2 monitor and controller will maintain the required CO2 levels - typically between 800-1,500ppm. When CO2 levels also drop below a specified level, a tank regulator with a solenoid valve is opened and releases CO2 to enrich the grow space. When the controller senses that the ppm level is at or above the prescribed high set point the controller triggers the valve to closes shutting off the supply of CO2.
This process is repeated continuously as the plants absorb the CO2 and deplete the levels inside the room. Because the CO2 level is precisely measured and maintained, a well-designed system can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in gas costs. For example, one CO2Meter customer reported a 30-40% reduction in gas usage when they moved to a liquid based CO2 system.
Utilizing Carbon Dioxide in Grow Rooms
First, in order to introduce CO2 it must be done in a precise, controlled, calculated, and well-planned manner. Simply opening a valve on a CO2 tank at one end of the room and hoping that the gas will evenly disperse throughout your grow room, is not an ideal scenario.
Additionally, it is as important to also recognize during what times to supplement with carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis normally occurs only during daylight, and CO2 addition is never recommended nor required during the night hours. Some controllers are designed with integrated light sensors so that the CO2 enrichment only occurs if the lights are on.
If you are getting into indoor growing you should find an experienced HVAC contractor with specific experience in commercial growing and indoor facilities to design a system for you. Simply installing fans or standard commercial HVAC systems will not result in the desired effects.
HVAC contractors with experience in this market can help design a system that will regulate temperatures, find a correct balance for fresh vs. returned air, and ensure that the CO2 is evenly dispersed in the space removing hot and cold spots inside. Finding an experienced HVAC contractor will reduce the ramp-up time for that service provider to design and implement the necessary systems.
Installing a system with correct CFM air flows, pressures, valves, and safety devices is critical to success.
Another source for the proper design, construction, and operation of a successful CO2 enrichment system is your local, independent CO2 supplier or draft beer technician. Their experience with CO2 systems for soda and beer is nearly identical to the systems used for CO2 enrichment in grow spaces. If you contact your local CO2 provider, we ask that you request what their experience is for installing commercial grow facilities. And, finally you can always contact CO2Meter.com for assistance in finding a reputable partner in your area.
Sealed Grow Rooms and CO2 Safety
Unlike greenhouses used for flowers and vegetable growing, the majority of cannabis growers and cultivators, are moving to sealed grow environments.
The advantages are:
- Individualized plant strains
- Better control of temperature, water, nutrients
- Tighter control of plant diseases, molds, pests
- Regulated CO2 levels
- Minimized CO2 costs
The downside however to a sealed and secure grow room is that it creates a potential safety hazard for growers working in these conditions. A leak in the CO2 enrichment system is no different than a leak in any bar or restaurant keg cooler that uses CO2 to carbonate beverages. Unfortunately, there have been far too many incidents in keg coolers and growers must realize the same potential hazards exist in these sealed spaces.
Because CO2 is heavier than air or oxygen it will “settle” at the floor first, then rise up until it fills a room. This drives down the oxygen level in an enclosed space to levels that can cause an individual to pass out or even experience fatality, due to the heavy percentage of CO2 that is being utilized.
Humans can also be asphyxiated in these situations or even contract CO2 poisoning if the CO2 levels are excessively high. As 100% concentration CO2 is being used, even a small leak in a supply hose or a faulty regulator can cause CO2 levels to quickly rise to the point that the air in the room becomes deadly. As a result, local fire marshals and inspectors have begun to require the monitoring of CO2 for safety in all cannabis or cultivation growing operations.
For example, in states like Michigan and California, local fire marshals are now requiring licensed cannabis operations to install CO2 monitors for safety in each grow room. A similar CO2 safety monitoring device is the Remote CO2 Storage Safety 3 Alarm. Their requirement is that the device be mounted at levels that will ensure that asphyxiation does not occur. Other localities have begun requiring the addition of strobe lights, exhaust fan activation, and even having safety monitors which can trigger automatic supervisory notifications to the local fire department.
In almost every state and municipality there are new laws regulating the use of stored CO2. However, even if you are growing and use compressed CO2 in an enclosed space - it makes sense to invest in a CO2 safety monitor.
Grow Room CO2 Safety Monitor
For cannabis growers who use liquid CO2 enrichment, we recommend the Remote CO2 Storage Safety 3 Alarm.
- Wired CO2 Monitor & Remote Display
- Designed to Meet All Local Fire Codes
- Meets NFPA, IFC, and NBIC Requirements
- Meets OSHA and NIOSH TWA Standard
- UL listed for compliance
It meets all local codes, installs in minutes, and provides protection for you and any staff around stored CO2.
Carbon Dioxide continues to remain a coveted solution for many farmers, growers, and cultivators for supporting growth and productivity in plant life, while also saving energy consumption.
The ultimate goal in any growers mind is procuring high-quality strands that produce maximized yields, why not add in a bit of CO2 to get one step ahead of the others?
For more information on carbon dioxide (CO2) solutions for indoor grow and cultivation applications, speak to an expert today: Sales@CO2Meter.com