How to grow cannabis and its grow gear is a very big topic as I’m sure your already aware. I’m also sure you have read numerous articles online about how to grow cannabis and cannabis grow gear. But you may have also noticed that it was generally repetitive information; there was no perfect step by step way to do things. Well, there is no step by step and no perfect way to perfect your first grow-this is where your growing pains begin.
Growing cannabis above ground is very different than growing in a basement; different challenges persist such as moving air for heating & cooling. In this article you will not only receive the general information but actual learn valuable growing techniques that a real grower will face; this is not a copy and paste article nor is this written by a undergraduate collage student hiding behind a big editor name such as High-Times magazine. Your going to learn how to grow cannabis from the ground up and learn how to address realistic challenges.
Picking a location to grow cannabis my be the hardest part about growing. Generally, you want to construct a grow room that works for all seasons of growing as well as, all types of cannabis plants. You want to also really consider what options you have if growing above or below ground. Above ground is easier for ventilation but has a few more downsides IMO. People can generally see your grow building and attack the sides with portable skill saws etc making growing above ground less secure.
Weather and location
The weather plays a large role as it effects your grow room environment and how you grow cannabis. Ideally, flower rooms should not be located on the South or South West rooms of the building if possible. An attic space must also be insulated to help heat and cool the rooms. Location plays a critical role in your success not just buying the best grow gear.
How to grow cannabis in a basement is simple-growing in a basement or below ground adds security, privacy and better environmental controls. The biggest challenge is ventilation: moving air in and out as venting holes are generally harder to hide or manufacture. How to grow cannabis below ground is easier as it helps stabilize your grow room temperature, thus minimizing day/night temperature swings. The perfect grow room will not swing greater than 5degrees-good luck with that. I love how magazines boast about the 5 degree temperature swing but have no growing experience and are generally writing about cooperation’s with multi million dollar HVAC systems!
Avoid learning how to growing cannabis on second floors such as condos or apartment buildings. Heat will always be an issue and will be very difficult to cool your room. Also, walls in apartment buildings are generally concrete making it hard to move air. Try to not to grow with a neighbor next to your walls- they will smell it occasionally and wonder if your smoking cannabis in your home, that is until they learn the difference between fresh pot and smoking pot. They will start to learn your grow room schedule and notice your lights go out at 9pm exactly when they start to smell your plants; they will assume your growing soon enough.
Your location to grow cannabis must consider the possibility of power outages. Power outages are a nightmare for growers.There are many negative effects from power outages and growing cannabis. Here is a short list I believe effect every grower:
- odor control; the outside of your shop/home will smell after a few minutes with no carbon filters working. If you share a wall with a neighbor or grow in your own home you better hope no one else is home. You should plan to have a back up portable generator to keep your grow gear working.
- grow room temperatures; you want your grow room temperatures to be as stable and consistent as possible. If your growing during winter months you could freeze out your plants as well as kill your baby clones. Get a portable generator, it will save your ass and your cannabis plants many times over.
- feminized seeds; feminized seeds are a nightmare to begin with and thank God the majority of growers do not use feminized seed. The plant will hermaphrodite if you mess up their light cycle, even by a few hours! Everything must remain perfect when using feminized seeds. Even then you will still get a hermaphrodite at the rates of 1 or 2 out of 10 plants. They will never be stable because stress was used as part of the creation. Please read my blog on how to make feminized seeds like the pro’s, just so you can learn how its done.
- flip flop lighting system; When using flip flops you must pay attention to power outages. When the power goes out, the timer will stop and not be synchronized; therefore, you 12/12 light schedule will be messed up and your plants will not receive the correct amount of light and darkness. You must respond fast and make the corrections to reverse plant signals and correct the timer/trigger. Also, the flop relays may become confused between its own synchronization. Extra care must be taken and double checks must be done when growing with flip flops.
How many plants do I grow?
How many plants to grow is pretty easy questions; It ultimarly boils down to your grow gear limitation. Try to break it down too two simple facts: what wattage of bulbs are you going to use and how many bulbs can you hang? For example) If you are new to growing and decided to hang 2x600watt HPS bulbs @ 5.5 feet apart on center over a 4×8 foot table, you can grow anywhere from 8-16 plants, depending on growing style. This configuration gives your plants a very good 3.5×3.5 growing foot print for each bulb as well as a little bit extra growing room between bulbs as they share lighting lumans, in which, total PPFD rating.
If your growing in soil-less medium such as Sunshine Mix #4, in 2 gallon pots, you can grow 9 plants under the 600HPS with 2 week VEG time. You can space them out, remember your growing over a 4×8 table with adequate luman output on 3.5×3.5 growing fingerprint. If your going in 3 gallon pots than you should reduce a row of plants making 6 plants per bulb. I would recommend growing in 2 gallon pots under 600HPS and 3 gallons under 1000HPS. It all depends on growing technique, such as, Sea of Green, ScrOfGreen or Deep Water Culture.
How many plants-Again?
How many plants can you grow and what else must you consider? It also all depends on how much power you can dedicate to your flower room. This brings use back to the technical side to growing once again. If you only focused on how cannabis plants grow and their growing needs than you will miss the other most important factors: your grow gear!
Try to always run a pair of bulbs rather than a solo single bulb. The best growing practice I found is not growing in tables but in sections such as 8×8 rooms with 4 bulbs, using the full square footage. This allows for the maximum overlap between bulbs and a free row of plants down the middle. I have seen many commercial growers using 4×8 tables down long rows with low yields. I always wonder how they can afford to be in operation; but wait, I know- legal growers have the protection of the Government and a monopoly on the market. They can always sell there garbage weed.
If your following the law, than you grow to your License agreement or your legal grow limit of 4 plants in Canada per house hold. Let me repeat myself; you can only grow 4 plants per household not per person. The plants cannot be within reach under the legal age and out secure from possible theft. There is no legal limit on how much cannabis can be store as of 2019; you cannot posses more than 30gram in a public space or within a vehicle at one time.
Lighting is my favorite topic because I like the technical side of growing. First off, don’t let any magazine or idiot tell you not to use HPS grow lights for flower. I am hearing this more and more and WHY? My response is: do not use LED lights for flower at this movement; this article is written in 2019. Here is why, first you probably cannot afford the $2000.00 dollar Spyder LED system that has a 4×4 grow foot print and will give you yields equal to a 600HPS which draws 500Watts of power but promoting longer flowering times to ripen.
So, save yourself the money, get yourself a good digital ballast with a quality built shade and mid-line bulb for around $400 dollars. You can definitely find 600HPS lighting system cheaper such as vivosun 600HPS combination package for $189.00, which is a great deal really. Buying vivosun is that’s fine but you might run into limitation such as striking distance from ballast to bulb greater than 29 feet. Cheap shades will give you poor light reflection and reflection is incredibly important.
The 600HPS lighting systems are more expensive than 1000HPS lighting systems. This is because they are in high demand and less common on the industrial applications. When I worked as an Electrician we would mostly see 400HID or 1000HID systems from interior lights to yard lights. 600HPS create less heat and when paired, create a better lighting foot print. A 1000HPS flowers a 4×4 footprint and VEGS a 5×5 foot print but with must more heat. I will not waste my time on metal halide bulbs- just use them for vegging mother with a MH conversion bulb.
Common lighting ballasts
When you buy a ballast, it will be an electronic ballast with smart volt technology. This is good for the new grower as it allows you to plug into your wall or timer board without any worries about 120Volt or 240Volt. Here’s a easy way of thinking, if you plug something into a 120volt plug that was wired for 240, it will operate with less brilliance or low speed. If you plug something wired for 120volt into a 240volt outlet it will blow within seconds; a fire may start.
Back in the day, growers had coil over core ballast with all sorts of colorful wires dangling everywhere. You had to know how to wire a ballast for the correct voltage. Changing the voltage on your ballast was simple and easy but a much added stress for a new grower. Image if you bought grow gear from a store and they asked you if you wanted it wired 120Volt or 240volt and you had no idea what they where talking about. You would look like a major idiot that had some learning to do.
Or if you bought some used grow gear and it was wired for its own configuration, how does one fix that if you are a new grower? Simple fix, buy an electronic ballast, its light weight, can work on a flip flop lighting system, generator, produces little heat and comes with smart volt technology.
Basic Electrical Laws
Here is a must needed rule to remember: OHMS Law. With OHMS Law you can figure out wattage, volts, power or amps with any of the two given information. Example:
To find the Voltage, ( V )
[ V = I x R ] V (volts) = I (amps) x R (Ω)
To find the Current, ( I )
[ I = V ÷ R ] I (amps) = V (volts) ÷ R (Ω)
To find the Resistance, ( R )
[ R = V ÷ I ] R (Ω) = V (volts) ÷ I (amps)
To find Power, ( P )
[ P = V x I ] P (watts) = V (volts) x I (amps)
Okay, that is a lot of WTF in your face. So here is a few examples to help you understand. Lets say you wanted to run 2x600HPS in a bedroom. Your bedroom is probably on its own circuit but maybe shared with a hall plug or something dumb like that. Overall, you still have only 15amp at 120volt accessible in that room. Can you run 2x600HPS in that room? Are you going to guess? Are you going to learn trial by error? Or, are you going to try and figure out the simple math and have all your answers at your finger tips. Lets try with the simple math:
We have 2x600HPS so that is 600watts + 600watts=1200 watts of continuous draw. To keep things simple we will not account for 15% load draw since we are not talking about coil over core magnetic ballast. To be fair you have about 1250 watts of draw power for the first 2-3 minutes and 1200 watts continuous. Breakers are designed to pop at 1300watts for safety reasons. But what about the amps?
According to ohms law you take your wattage / volts = amps. So we take 1200Watts/120Volts= 10amps. Now we know we have 10amps and 1200 watts continuous (power) on the circuit. We did not need to figure out 120Volt because that is your standard house hold voltage, at least in Canada; were things are normal!
The real question now is: can you run 10amps, 1200 watts on a single circuit? Yes you can. Should you? Not for perpetual harvesting. As breakers become weaker over time, they will start to trip as they get worn out. It would be best practice to stagger your start times approx 15 minutes apart to produce less stress on your circuit. A better configuration would be a small time board, if at all possible. I would run a 20amp, 2 pole breaker with 12 AWG wire to a time board that allows for several 600HPS timed circuit. Than use your 15amp, 120volt wall circuit for fans.
Ideal Small Electrical Configuration
If you have to run any wire, run copper, 30amp rated,10AWG wire to a dryer plug at 240Volt. This will be used to power a time board that powers 4x1000HPS timed with 120Volt continuous receptacle. This configuration allows your grow room to expand without touching your bedroom, bathroom or hall wires. IF you want to get really creative Iv seen people tap into the house hardwired smoke detectors near, the bedrooms so now they can add 15amps, 120volt of power to their grow room. That is a easy way to get free 15amps, but pretty greasy IMO.
Single or Double End HPS BULB
Should you buy a double for single HPS lighting system? I am not talking about 1 or 2 lights but rather a single mounted bulb that is double ended. The double ended bulb actually attaches to the specific shade by both ends; were as, a traditional HPS bulb will screw in at the mogul at one end.
The double ended HPS creates more heat as it does not have the specific vapor gas the outlines the tradition HPS bulb when arching. The double ended HPS does have more arcing points which offers better light output but at the cost of heat! The bulbs do get very hot, with in seconds and cannot be touched for approx 30 mins after lights turn off. The bulbs are susceptible to finger prints and may cause the bulb to burn up if not free from finger prints.
The cost is incredible compared to traditional being about 200 dollars more and life expectancy of bulbs are less. So, is it worth it? Maybe for bragging rights, and if you don’t have any heat issues plus have extra money, try one out. You cannot use air cooled shades with DE bulbs as they will become less efficient during operation. DE bulbs become more efficient at converting usable light for plants when operating at higher temperatures.I have zero experience with them other than the traditional industry knowledge I just shared; now I sound like a shitty magazine editor!
Specialized Grow Gear
When learning how to grow cannabis, you will learn quickly that you must rely solely on your own ingenuity. You will learn specific ways to solve problems that no one else can help. Some grow gear modifications that have helped me out is my fresh make-up air duct damper as seen blow.
The motorized duct damper natural ‘closed’ and when the thermostat calls for ‘open’ the motor will open the damper; in which, fresh air is now allowed to flow into the grow room. The duct damper is a growers ‘must’ and perfect tool to help control the grow room environment during cold winter days. Remember, you must use a low voltage thermostat with heat/cool function as well as auto/on mode for wiring
To order a motorized duct damper wired to a thermostat please use our CONTACT page and place your order there. Some customization is possible so please provide the size of duct damper required and length of wire required from damper placement to thermostat in grow room.
Learning ventilation requirements and tricks is essential to a successful year round growing. Learning how to grow cannabis and ventilation is a large topic and requires basic principles to follow. The rest of your learning is very specific to each grow room and requires tweaking to achieve the optimum grow environment. You can separate your venting into two sections: intake and exhaust.
Intake-fresh air return
Depending on your heat output and time of year adding fresh air return to your grow room is extremely beneficial and an absolute upgrade to any grow operation. I have met growers who use sealed room and supplement CO2 with ZERO fresh air. This application does work but does not allow for stale air to be removed; which is a must. Sealed grow rooms is a completely different growing class of its own and will not be covered. You can have either passive fresh air return or a powered fresh air return.
Passive fresh air return
Passive fresh air return is extremely simple way to grow and is an excellent option with small grow rooms and plants count under 100. How a passive air return works is simple, you rely on the power of your exhaust fan to passively draw fresh air from the fresh air return duct. The fresh air return duct should be connected outside rather than another location of your house. The goal with any fresh air return is to bring in new CO2 levels from outside. CO2 levels generally range around 200-400PPM; where as, indoor CO2 levels typically range from 50-100ppm. Adding fresh air return to your grow room is a simple concept and affordable upgrade option.
Powered fresh air return
Some people view having a powered fresh air return is pointless and amateurish. I disagree as myself and other with “commercial” (use the word loosely here) grow licensees, rely on powered fresh air returns to cool our grow rooms and reduce strain on our exhaust fan bearings. I watched a 10 minute rant about how stupid people are for using powered fresh air returns on Youtube from a hydroponic store owner.
Having a powered fresh air return helps ram your room full of C02, dilute the humid air and cool the growing environment. Its important to note that pulling hot air out with exhaust fans is a must and common practice but becomes impractical when growing in large square footage’s. Than a grower must rely on other forms of cooling such as air conditioning and fresh air being rammed into your grow environment.
One negative about ramming fresh air into your grow room is that it reduces the negative pressure and thus may allow odors to infiltrate the surrounding area. The more negative pressure, the better you have on your odor control.
When learning how to grow cannabis you will learn that buying an exhaust fan and filter is a must for grow gear. A very good friend of mine first started growing cannabis in an apartment in NYC. He was new, it was his first grow. He had no real exhaust system and used a simple house hold oscillating fan to blow out the window; cops where busting drug dealers just below his window on the streets.
I met him over ventilation problems and together he corrected his current grow configuration and become successful. He was never caught growing cannabis and sold all he grew- that sounds successful to me! The exhaust system allowed him to continue to grow, protected him from his neighbors and cooled his grow environment.
The deigns behind any exhaust system must follow basic principles. You want to try and remove the grow room air one time every minute. This is simple but can be hard to accomplish as it can become impractical on a larger growing scale. So how do you calculate the fan size and air volume per minute? Let me show you how.
- Calculate the grow room square foot and cubic volume. To calculate sq/ft you calculate length X width. To calculate cubic volume of your room, you must calculate length X width X height. This will give you the SUM of your room. Example a small grow room of 12x10x8=980 cubic feet. Your goal is to remove 980 cubic feet of air volume per 1 minute.
- Find a fan with good static pressure resistance rated for your desired cubic feet per minute. An 8inch fan would be acceptable since most 8 inch fans are rated for 720CFM. An 12X10=1440sq/ft grow room can handle 6 X 600HPS lights or comfortable 4 X 600watt HPS lights with an 8inch exhaust fan.
- Consider upgrading your fan to a Hyper Fan has the best static pressure rating amount all inline grow fans. Vortex fan series is an excellent choice and Can Fan MAX series is acceptable too. You would need to upgrade to a 10inch fan to exhaust 6 x 600watt HPS lights for all year around growing.
Fan Types and Designs
When learning how to grow cannabis their are many fans on the market to choose from. When researching, consider one major fact: if the fan is cheap in comparison to other fans the same size its probably a cheap fan. The fan will be louder, poor CFM rating and fail against static pressures. Its important not to cheap out when it comes to exhaust fans. You can buy fans that are designed for efficient and designed to be quite. High CFM will move more air and therefore will make more noise; but there is a lot of 8 inch fans that are quieter than 6 inch fans, plus move a lot more air! Here are some images of fans that I have personally worked with and can give detailed descriptions
Vortex has made the best fan for years and continues to lead the industry. Most of the inline fans you see today are new manufactures making a market entry during the legalization of cannabis and growing.
Vortex fans has several series such as VTX, Power-fan and S-line fans; they are all in lines fans. VTX is the older model that provides excellent CFM but with a more powerful motor than the Power-fan series. The Power-fan is designed with lower RPM, weaker motor therefore quieter operations. And finely, the S-line series; its big, its bulky it moves a lot of air but is designed to be quite with fans. It is not quite as you hope and is not cheap at all but the fan is worth every penny in because its performs and extremely reliable!
Max fans are made by canfilters, which I must admit dominate almost every grow room in BC, Canada. Canfilters are the carbon filters that everyone uses. The Can Fan MAX are ideal for growers but are loud and use a lot of power with high RPM. These fans are a bit cheaper than Vortex. They are also very heavy and must be secured to the filter. Good fan if you can find one on sale otherwise be prepared to see an increase in hydro bill.
Hyper fan is newer to me considered the best fan on the market, It still does not compete with sales compared to cheap fans or Vortex the industry leader. The fan does boost the best static pressure resistant and moves the same CFM as the vortex fan. Also, the hyper fan is the first fan with a digital motor that can truly be speed controlled at all settings. Possible the best aspect of hyper fans is that the wattage output is reflect towards to speed of the fan! If you using 20% of the fan speed, than you are using only 20% of the power required to run; therefore making it the most efficient and powerful fan on the market! You may want to consider reviewing this link about Hyper fans!
Vivosun fans are affordable for every grower. You can purchase a 6inch fan and filter combo with ducting for under $200 CAD; were as, a good 6inch fan will cost you $200 CAD. With my experience with the fan, I bought the fan to filter a 4×4 breeding grow tent. The fan does work but is very loud, the speed controller is a joke. The 6inch fan is not any better than a vortex 4 inch inline fan. I would highly recommend buying Vivosun IF you must because of money. If you can afford a 4 inch fan by Can Fan or Vortex and a carbon filter for addition cost than that is the best option.
Vivosun products appear to be very cheap but do work for short periods. The fan does work but makes odd humming noises. The filter does filter VEG but not very good with flower odors. The ballast by Vivosun I have zero problem with and does strict bulbs 25 feet away. The ballast does run cooler than traditional Lumatek digital ballast.
Okay, your goal is to have some negative pressure; otherwise, you grow room odors will leak outside the growing environment. This can be offensive to some people and in every case impose a major security risk. How do you get a negative pressure in your grow environment? Simple, you make sure your exhaust is greater than your fresh air return size.
You can calculate by your cubic feet per minute fresh air in VS exhaust or you compare passive VS powered system. Either way, it will be easy to accomplish. Just make sure your grow room is sealed the best you can and make sure you have control over the all air movement.
Learning how to grow cannabis means you must understand why a carbon filter is important and its relationship to your inline fan. You will always use a carbon filter for your exhaust but can also be used as a filter for pest and pollutants for your fresh air return. When you attach your inline exhaust fan onto your filter you will loose approx 20-30% of your CFM due to static resistance. Your inline fan will only work as hard as the transformer allows the fan to work, it cannot pull more power to compensate the resistance its pulling against.
You must size your fan appropriately to your carbon filter; this is easily done with help from your hydroponic shop as well as match the series numbers together from fan and filter manufacture. Ideally pick the largest filter you can accommodate and afford as this will allow better air flow for your exhaust system.
For your carbon filter to be efficient at removing odors, the grow room must be under 50% humidity. When the RH is higher the filter is unable to scrub properly.
Coefficient of Friction
Okay without become overly confusing, lets put it simply: coefficient of friction is the relationship between two objects and resistance. Some growers over look this important variable. Coefficient of friction is a law of physics that apply’s to the relationship between ducting material and the output of the inline fans. This can apply for fresh air return or exhaust.
How does coefficient of friction apply to to growing cannabis? When air moves along your duct work it meets resistance. The efficiency of air movement is less with longer duct work as well as duct work with ridged walls. Ideally, smooth duct work such as fabric duct work or PVC is ideal. Large ducting can be supplemented with sonotubes but its costly. Remember, carbon filters creates resistance and so does your duct work; therefore, your inline fan is not blowing the CFM as you calculated; always monitor your grow room temperature and remember everyone is always learning how to grow cannabis!
Okay, by now you should understand the basics of how to grow cannabis and its related grow gear. The location is very important for security as well as the important environmental controls. You should understand the difference between lighting wattage and their growing foot prints. Both passive and powered ventilation has been explained as well as some variables that should be considered. Additional reading material is also noted under cannabis-growing-tips If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or if you require some specific help, use our CONTACT page.
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