Hydroponics and Indoor Growing

Air Purification in Hydroponics and Indoor Growing

Air purification is one of the most overlooked variables of an indoor growing operation since most airborne pathogens are invisible, but ignoring this factor could invite all sorts of problems into the growing room.Indoor horticulturists spend a lot of time and money trying to provide ideal environmental conditions for their crops. Using various devices and equipment, growers are able to create artificial light energy, irrigation or hydroponic systems, and experiment with and fine-tune each variable that can affect a growing room’s performance until the optimal parameters are found.One variable that more gardeners are paying closer attention to is the air quality within the garden. Aside from temperature and humidity, there are other elements in the air that could impact a high-performance indoor garden. In fact, many of the pathogens that enter an indoor garden do so through the air. Without proper air purification, an indoor horticulturist could be inviting potential problems into the growing room and garden.

What could be in your air?

Moulds and Fungi Spores Most of the problematic moulds and fungi found in an indoor garden are transmitted through the air --- powdery mildew, black spot and botrytis are just three examples. Given the right conditions, these opportunistic fungi quickly wreak havoc on otherwise healthy plants and can decimate an entire crop in a short period of time. These spores are invisible to the naked eye and are often overlooked by novice growers. Once a crop is infected, it can take serious work to entirely eradicate the fungi. Eliminating airborne fungi and mould spores with an air purifier is by far the best defense against infection.

Bacteria Although not as common as moulds and fungi, airborne bacteria can also cause problems for certain indoor crops. Bacterial infections can cause a variety of symptoms, including blight, cankers, galls, leaf spots, over growths, specks, scabs or wilts, are usually hard to identify and many times they are misdiagnosed as a nutrient deficiency. Like many fungi spores, novice gardeners often overlook bacteria as a potential threat because they are invisible to the naked eye. In many cases, growers never properly protect their gardens from such a threat. Treating a bacterial infection in plants is rather difficult. As with pathogenic fungi, prevention by introducing a HEPA air purifier is an effective defense.

Pollen For some hydroponic growers, unwanted pollen in the air can cause problems. Cross contamination of species can ruin an entire crop,especially if the grower is attempting to perform controlled breeding. Many fast-growing annuals, peppers for example, can be cross pollinated, which creates unstable offspring. In fact, a hot pepper could pollinate a sweet pepper and the seeds can produce either hot or sweet peppers with no way of telling which will be which. For seed producers, it is imperative to keep similar species’ pollen separate from each other.

Pest Insects Some of the worst pest insects enter an indoor growing room through the air. Spider mites create a small strand of webbing that acts much like a parachute, allowing them to relocate via the wind.Unsuspecting growers can end up sucking these tiny pests into their growing rooms through their ventilation systems. A fix for this problem would be to install a filter over the ventilation intake to keep any pests out. An alternative and second line of defense would be to use a portable air purifier with multiple stages of filtration, including a large particle pre-filter to help catch any pests an keep them from floating around the growing room.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Odours Volatile organic compounds are chemical compounds (gases) found in the air. Although most VOCs affect the grower more than the plants themselves, they are still something any indoor horticulturist should consider when addressing the air purification of their indoor growing set up. Indoor gardens can produce a variety of odours,from fertilizer smells to plant odours. These are all types of VOCs. Although most odours are more of a nuisance than a detriment, some, like the ones like behind by chemical insecticides or fungicides, can be dangerous. Air purification devices that eliminate or reduce odours, such as the Austin Air HealthMate and HealthMate Plus, can be an effective way to destroy VOCs found in and around a hydroponic growing operation.

Air Purification Devices

 Once a horticulturist understands the potential dangers lurking in the air, he can take the precautions necessary to reduce or eliminate those threats. Indoor gardeners who implement advanced air purification techniques can decrease pathogens, pollens and VOCs founds in the air and create a healthier environment for both the plants and the grower.

Carbon filters Carbon filters are one of the most commonly used air purification devices by indoor hydroponic growers. Carbon filters use activated carbon – carbon treated with oxygen, which opens up millions of small pores in the carbon. This allows a large surface area to attract and neutralize VOCs, chemicals and fumes. A chemical reaction occurs in the carbon that, in turn, causes the carbon to absorb the airborne material. This makes carbon filters effective at reducing VOCs in an indoor growing operation. Air cleaners can be used to filter the air as well as to recirculate the air in an indoor growing space. Austin air cleaners have three speed settings to allow the grower to set his desired rate of air filtration and re-circulation. The activated carbon in the Austin filters is effective at reducing VOCs and odours but for pollen, fungal spores and bacteria the Austin units rely on HEPA filtration, which is also found inside the Austin filter cartridge. The Austin HealthMate Plus filters also contain potassium iodide that has been impregnated into the activated carbon to allow for even better absorption of VOCs.

HEPA Filters High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are paper-like filters that remove particles from the air down to 0.3 microns in size.Many mould spores are in the 1 to 20 microns size range, making HEPA filters a good choice for trapping mould spores.Every standard size Austin air cleaner includes 60 square feet of HEPA filtration medium. Our HEPA filters will filter out larger particulates from the air, including insects, which may also be captured by the two large particle pre-filters found in each Austin filter before the reach the HEPA medium.Since the Austin units are on rolling casters, they can easily be transported away from the growing room in order to change the filter and not release any fungi spores back into the growing room.

Ozone Generators – Steer CLEAR!  An effective way to destroy moulds, bacteria and VOCs is with an ozone generator. Ozone oxidizes any moulds, bacteria and VOCs that it comes in contact with. Unfortunately, ozone levels that are high enough to continually purify the air of an indoor growing space are also high enough to damage the grower’s lungs! High concentrations of ozone within an indoor garden can also be detrimental to the plants themselves because it can oxidize the essential oils on the plants, causing the plants to lose quality and vitality. Austin air purifiers do not contain an ozone generator and emit zero ozone. The only thing that our air purifiers emit is clean air.