5 things to look out for in indoor hydroponics
Indoor hydroponics is different from outdoor or greenhouse hydroponics because of the added challenges of growing indoors. Before you set up your indoor hydroponics system, read below for tips on where and how to set your system up to ensure your safety and success!
1) The area should be water-resistant
No matter how careful you are, you will inevitably spill and splash some water around your indoor hydroponics system. This means that the area should be clear of carpeting, electrical systems, and non-waterproof furniture. Typically a kitchen or basement would be good options.
Apart from minor splashes when mixing or distributing nutrient solution, there are the occasional accidents where an entire deep water culture bucket can be knocked over or bumped off of a shelf. Even if you think you'll be safe, plan for the absolute unexpected, and make sure that you plan for the worst and ensure that in a worst case scenario, a quick mop-up will fix the situation and will not cause long-term damage to your property or belongings.
If you are particularly concerned, you may want to add some additional protection such as plastic sheeting underneath your hydroponics system. An additional precaution you can take is to always keep your grow buckets on the floor (rather than elevated on a shelf) as this will reduce the chances of accidentally knocking something off the shelf.
Keep in mind that no matter how water-resistant your area, you will still be in a lot of trouble if enough nutrient solution or water is spilled. If you decide to grow in your kitchen, for example, spilling a 5 gallon bucket will still create a disaster because that amount of water will undoubtedly spill over to other areas. Most areas of your home are only designed to sustain minor spills, so you will want to keep this in mind before embarking on a larger-scale grow operation.
2) Stick with deep water culture
As mentioned above, in indoor hydroponics, you cannot afford to have a significant spill as this will cause a significant amount of damage to your home. Nutrient film, flood and drain, and other hydroponics techniques require the use of pumps, tubes and other transfers of water and nutrients that, if there is any leak or spill that goes undetected, could result in catastrophic water damage.
One of the great advantages of indoor hydroponics is the ability to "set it and forget it" - but with a complex piping and pump system, a failure or clog could occur at any moment, requiring you to check in on the system often. Deep water culture is a proven system, so we strongly recommend that you stick with it for indoor hydroponics.
3) The areas should be structurally sound
One thing that you will start to notice as you begin indoor hydroponics is the significant weight of the water that you will be introducing to the grow area. Because with a deep water culture system you will inevitably require sufficient amounts of nutrient solution in order to be able to "set it and forget it" a larger grow operation will inevitably require more water.
If you plan on growing on a shelf, the weight burden on your flooring will multiply quickly by the number of shelves you decide to install. A good rule of thumb to remember is that water weighs about 8.3 lbs per gallon. So if you have about 50 gallons worth of nutrient solution sitting on your shelf, that's 400 lbs!
We won't get into the specifics of whether the weight will be an issue for your particular home, but keep in mind that at this level, the amount of weight is similar to home aquariums, which are known to be concerns, particularly for 2nd floor locations. In general, the weight itself should not be an issue (400 lbs is just 2-3 people), but rather than concentration of so much weight in one location could potentially present a problem, particularly in the long run. See this link for more information.
This is unlikely to be an issue, but something to be aware of, since the results of inadvertently placing too much weight in one area could result in very expensive damage and repairs to your home.
4) Be close to a water source
Since you will be making a lot of nutrient solution, be as close as you can to a faucet and drainage system so that you do not have to carry water and nutrient solution a long way. Transporting buckets of water is one of the most likely times for a spill to occur, so reducing this as much as possible is an important priority. Of course, don't forget the physical strain that transporting large buckets of water will put on your body! Also be aware that you will also need to dump used nutrient solution as well, after they become too dirty or are used up by your plants.
5) Have enough ventilation, but stay away from sources of pests and contamination
During their growth, plants will transpire and release a significant amount of humidity into their environment. Having sufficient air circulation is important for encouraging growth and maintaining reasonable humidity levels. After all, plants evolved for growth outdoors where there is almost always a breeze or some wind, no matter how small. An indoor grow area typically has an artificially low amount of air movement, so making sure that the humid air has somewhere to go is very important. Typically, a small fan would be useful to encourage circulation.
That being said, make sure that your ventilation source does not create a contamination problem. If you place your indoor hydroponics system near a window, for example, this is great for ventilation, but without a sufficient window screen, insects and other pests can infect your plants. Keep in mind that some pests like aphids are very small and get through the holes in a window screen. Other pests such as mildew and fungus can also get carried through the wind.
The ideal set-up would be a room with a window, but placing the indoor hydroponics system away from the window itself. Then, by introducing a fan or other mechanism for circulation the air, you will be able to ensure sufficient ventilation for the area without risking contamination from the outside.
If you look out for these 5 things, you will have a much better chance of successfully growing plants hydroponically indoors!