In a perfect world, large-scale cannabis grows would use sunlight. Sunlight is clean, renewable and, best of all, it’s free. Grows could be housed in greenhouses or outside in wide, open fields. However, due to pressure from federal laws, state-regulated grows typically require all plants to be grown inside a locked building with no transparency.
A 2016 report from New Frontier titled “Illuminating Cannabis” found that 1% of our nation’s energy goes into cannabis cultivation. To give you some idea of just how massive that 1% is, it’s enough to power almost 2 million homes in the U.S. And that number is rising as more states legalize cannabis.
Hopefully, these indoor grow requirements will be temporary, as will this alarming rise in our electricity use. One day, we’ll see cannabis proudly and publicly grown alongside corn and apples. Until that day comes, it’s in our best interests – environmentally and financially – to keep electricity costs down.
Invest in an Electricity Usage Monitor
Knowledge is power, and before you can really start to trim your bill, you need to know what your equipment is costing you. Electricity usage monitors are simple, affordable devices that let you know how much wattage your particular piece of equipment is using at any given time. Kill-a-Watt products go for $20 to $40. Using some math, you can calculate how much energy your light or other electronic equipment is using per month, then convert that into a dollar amount. Keep track of these amounts on a spreadsheet or in a notebook.
Switch to a Gas Lantern Routine
The conventional thinking for vegetative lighting is either 18/6 or 24/0. Unknown to most novice growers, flowering is not triggered by the light itself. Rather, flowering happens when the dark periods become longer and uninterrupted. This is because cannabis is a short-day plant, and the hormones necessary for flowering only happen when it sits under darkness for a prolonged period of time.
To minimize the amount of light used during the vegetative step, simply readjust the timer settings so there’s an interruption during the darkness period. One way to do this is to keep the lights on for 12 hours, off for 5.5 hours, on again for 1 hour, then off again for 5.5 hours. Cycle this lighting regimen until you’re ready to bloom flowers. This gas lantern trick should shave about 5 to 9 hours per day from your lighting use.
Install Solar Panels
Today, solar panels are available for most commercial and residential buildings. These panels collect sunlight during the day and can store the energy in batteries or generators for use throughout the night time. The one major downside to solar is that the installation itself can be pricey, and in most cases may not pay for itself for months, if not years, after the initial setup. Additionally, if you happen to live someplace where sunlight may not be prevalent year-round (e.g., Alaska or Washington), solar panels may not be as efficient as they would be elsewhere (e.g., Arizona or Colorado).
Try Induction or LED Lights
HID lights pump out the most power per bulb. There’s no debate there. But if you’re trying to save on your electricity bill, however, LED lights may be the way to go. They may not cast as much illumination as HIDs, but they’re more cost effective all around.
Get Creative with Reflectors
Most light that beams from an artificial source is wasted. The light travels in a straight line, absorbed by any matter in its path. Any light that does not cross paths with the plants’ leaves ends up going into the soil, the floor or the walls.
To maximize the amount of light absorbed by the plants, construct or revamp a grow area for maximum reflectivity. Simply painting the walls and other surfaces white can dramatically increase the amount of light being reflected. Surfaces can also be lined with a reflective plastic wrap or foil, like mylar, which can reflect as much as 98% of any light touching it.
However, avoid aluminum foil. This type of foil is notorious for causing burns on plants, not to mention its electrical and heat conductivity can make it a dangerous alternative to plastic sheets.
We just gave you a short, non-exhaustive list of strategies for lowering your grow’s electricity use. There are other strategies, and you may come up with your own in the process of managing a grow. Just remember that small savings add up over time. A 1% reduction in energy use for even a single piece of equipment can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year or two.
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