What is ventilation and how does it affect my plants?
The ability to successfully navigate through a crop from early propagation up to the final push of flowering depends upon good ventilation being present along the way. It refers to the process of controlling airflow in and out of your grow room and has a direct effect on the management of key factors including heat and humidity, air quality and CO2 levels and anti-insect measures.
To guarantee that your plants get a good supply of CO2 rich fresh air whilst ensuring warm, stale air is efficiently removed, you need to create a reliable ventilation/extraction system. On top of this we also recommend introducing a few items that will play a supporting role, like air circulators.
What is in a ventilation/extraction system and where does it go?
A ventilation/extraction system consists of the following components:
Essential to every grow room
(+ Carbon Filter + Ducting + Connection Parts)
Takes away hot and stale air from the top of the growing area whilst fresh supplies enter from an open vent/intake fan located at the bottom of it. Complete extraction kits can be found here.
Fan Speed Controller
Automatically maintains and adjusts fan speeds based on settings predetermined by you to preserve optimum growing conditions. View our entire range of fan speed controllers here.
These should be used to create air movement, prevent stale pockets of air forming and help with temperature control. The fantastic Hortiline 6 inch Clip Fan is great for this job, particularly in those hard to reach spots.
Vital in some grow rooms
(+ Ducting + Connection Parts)
Often required for complimenting larger extraction systems because passive intake may not prove sufficient in multi-light set ups.
An essential purchase if you plan on using an intake fan which effectively stops bugs from entering your growing area. Check out Bug Blockers here.
In small areas you will be both actively extracting and filtering stale air using an extractor fan, carbon filter, ducting and connection parts, and also passively drawing in fresh air through vents or holes in your growing area/tent. In larger areas, the active extraction/filtration described above should be accompanied by the active intake of air via another fan at the bottom of the room/tent and ideally a small piece of ducting and the necessary connection parts.
Your ventilation/extraction system will typically hang high up towards the back of the grow room or tent. Please refer to the article 'Master the Art of Ventilation - Setting Up A Complete System' for advice on installing all of the components.
So how does having a ventilation system installed let you gain control over the aforementioned key factors? Let’s see…
Beating the Heat
If you are growing plants under High Intensity Discharge lamps (SOLAAR, Grolux, Sunmaster, Sodium, Halide, etc) then the heat output of these products will have inevitably been noticed. Leaving this heat to build up without any kind of forced air exchange in your grow room can be hazardous for your plants, causing weakened structures, poor development and ultimately reduced yields. Extracting the hot air out of your grow room using an extractor fan combined with a carbon filter, ducting and connection parts helps create a much friendlier environment – ideally aim to establish a lights-on grow room temperature of 24oC – 27oC and a lights-off grow room temperature of 21oC – 24oC for optimum plant performance.
To help keep temperatures at a suitable level, try drawing in air from another room indoors (i.e. another room). This usually has more CO2 and less bugs, and in wintertime won’t be as shocking for your plants as the cold air from outside. When freezing cold weather does hit home, we also suggest investing in a grow room heater.
A reliable temperature and humidity meter is also absolutely essential for monitoring the grow room setting. With one glance you need to be able to tell how hot it is inside and whether or not there’s too much water vapour in the air.
Harnessing the Power of Humidity
An effective ventilation system lets you virtually eliminate the chances of any serious issues developing that relate to humidity.
Over the course of the propagation process the humidity reading needs to register somewhere between 70-80% RH – although this is easy to achieve with or without a ventilation system through use of a Hi-Top, Aeroponic, Jumbo Aeroponic or Budget Propagator. Your plants won’t yet have developed a large enough root system to absorb sufficient amounts of water and nutrients so the leaves must do most of the work.
However, for vegetative growth you should be operating a ventilation system and aiming to maintain a humidity of around 50-80% RH. If the level drops below 40% RH you will find that the young leaves of your plants become smaller whilst the older ones curl at the margins, appear burnt and fall off. To correct low humidity at this point and take closer control of environmental conditions we recommend that you install a suitable humidifier - see our range here.
Regularly misting plants with a good quality sprayer will also help increase humidity and actually strengthens plants as the leaves and stem are subjected to short bursts of intense spray action. The Nebuliser Foliar Fogger represents our most professional option.
The flowering stage requires a reduced humidity of 35-60% RH – anything above this figure and the threat of rotting fruits is high. By extracting away hot and humid air and replacing it with cooler less humid air from outside your grow room, high humidity will automatically become less of a problem.
As a precautionary measure, we recommend using Bud Rot Stop. Just apply in the first few weeks of flowering to build up plant immunity and protect fruits up until harvest.
Improving air quality with CO2
Good ventilation ensures that you get a regular supply of CO2 rich air in your grow room, which plants need for photosynthesis, energy creation and growth. Since there is only a small percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere (normal air contains just 0.03%), a frequent exchange of old air for new must be facilitated to keep the gas readily available to your plants. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to replace the air in your grow room at least 20-30 times per hour to maintain a reasonable air quality.
An intake fan will help bring fresh CO2 rich air into your grow room. One of our small inline duct models are perfect if you've got a relatively compact growing area (do not try to use them as extraction fans or with air cooled lights).
Likewise, introducing an air circulator proves to be a highly effective way of achieving a more even distribution of carbon dioxide, humidity and temperature. By using one in conjunction with a ventilation system, you encourage the colder air that’s brought inside to mix evenly with the already present warmer air. They are relatively cheap to run and will help move air where there a typically dead spots - as was said earlier, we highly recommend the fantastic Hortiline 6 inch Clip Fan.
Fighting back against the bugs
Inadequate ventilation and stale stagnant air provide airborne pests such as fungus gnats or sciarid flies a greater opportunity to invade your grow room. By keeping the air constantly moving using oscillating fans or air circulators whilst also creating a constant flow of fresh air with a ventilation/extraction system, you can provide a less hospitable environment for these pests and reduce your chances of infestation.
To prevent insects from accessing your grow room via the intake fan, simply place an appropriately sized Horti-Shield Bug Blocker over the inlet and secure it with the handy drawstring. Spraying Neem Repel all over your growing area and plants before and during a crop will act as added insurance against the threat of unwanted pests including Spider Mites.
Now you know the reasons for ensuring that your grow room benefits from good ventilation, take a look through our guides on choosing the right ventilation products and installing a ventilation/extraction system to turn theory into practice. Also be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a follow up article outlining other ways that you can improve the process of airflow control.