Is it safe to use CO2 in my grow room?
What indoor growers may not realize is that high levels of CO2 while vital to plants, are dangerous to individuals. It’s true. A sealed, closed indoor grow room can trap dangerous levels of carbon dioxide that can lead to severe negative health effects, such as dizziness, unconsciousness, and even fatality.
While being exposed to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide can be fatal, using CO2 in your grow room can be safe – if the equipment is setup correctly and a carbon dioxide safety monitor, is installed.
If you find yourself in any confined space, without a CO2 safety monitor, you may experience CO2 toxicity or oxygen deprivation. This is because as CO2 levels rise above 5,000 ppm toxicity can occur due to the increase in CO2 exposure that a human body is not used too. And, because carbon dioxide is odorless, colorless, and tasteless – you will not be able to tell its presence until you feel dizzy or lose consciousness.
As a rule of thumb, invest in a safety monitor and remember to turn off your CO2 system while your plants are “sleeping”. During the night, your plants will stop breathing in CO2 and this will save you money and overall protection.
What is a CO2 generator used for?
For decades, indoor grow rooms have used CO2 generators that burn fossil fuels to generate carbon dioxide. What these CO2 generators are used for primarily is to enhance CO2 levels in order to initiate plant growth and promote crop productivity.
Recent studies have even shown that CO2 concentrations at two, three, or four times the natural concentration will cause plants to grow at yields much faster and promote further productivity to the crop – sometimes up to 30% higher.
However in modern day, growers tend to lean away from using generators and look towards CO2 enrichment as an alternative. This is because burning fossil fuels is an incomplete process which can leave carbon residue in the plants as well as creating potentially harmful carbon monoxide levels. And, the low cost of CO2 makes it more economical and easier to control in facilities.
What is Carbon Dioxide Enrichment?
CO2 enrichment in indoor grow spaces, allows growers to solve the problem of burners by switching to compressed cylinders or tanks of CO2. In doing so, the air can be enriched by carbon dioxide and this can allow the crop to meet its fullest photosynthetic potential and yield.
For those that are working in indoor greenhouses, grow rooms, or cultivation facilities – an entry level CO2 monitor and controller will maintain the required CO2 levels – typically between 800-1,500ppm.
When CO2 levels drop below a specified level, the controller triggers a tank regulator with a solenoid valve which opens and releases CO2 to enrich the grow space. When the controller senses that the ppm level is at or above the prescribed high set point the controller triggers the valve to close, shutting off the CO2 supply.
This process is repeated continuously as the plants absorb the CO2 and deplete the levels inside the room. Because the CO2 level is precisely measured and maintained, a well-designed system can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in gas costs.
For example, one CO2Meter customer reported a 30-40% reduction in gas usage when they moved to a liquid based CO2 system.
Adding CO2 to your Grow Room
In order to introduce CO2 to your grow space, it must be done in a precise, controlled, calculated, and well-planned manner. Simply opening a valve on a CO2 tank at one end of the room and hoping that the gas will evenly disperse throughout your grow room, is not an ideal scenario.
Additionally, it is as important, to also recognize during what times to supplement with carbon dioxide. As photosynthesis normally occurs only during daylight and CO2 is never recommended during the night hours. Some controllers are designed with integrated light sensors so that the CO2 enrichment only occurs if the lights are on.
If you are getting into indoor growing you should find an experienced HVAC contractor with specific experience in commercial growing and indoor facilities to design a system for you. Simply installing fans or standard commercial HVAC systems will not result in the desired effects.
HVAC contractors with experience in this market can help design a system that will regulate temperatures, find a correct balance for fresh vs. returned air, and ensure that the CO2 is evenly dispersed in the space removing hot and cold spots inside. Finding an experienced HVAC contractor will reduce the ramp-up time for that service provider to design and implement the necessary systems.
Overall, installing a system with correct CFM air flows, pressures, valves, and safety devices is critical to success.
Another source for the proper design, construction, and operation of a successful CO2 enrichment system is your local, independent CO2 supplier or draft beer technician. Their experience with CO2 systems for soda and beer is nearly identical to the systems used for CO2 enrichment in grow spaces. If you contact your local CO2 provider, we ask that you request what their experience is for installing in commercial grow facilities. And, finally you can always contact CO2Meter.com for assistance in finding a reputable partner in your area.
As a reminder, when introducing CO2 to your crops aim at keeping CO2 levels around 800ppm-1500ppm. While this is the “sweet spot” for most indoor grow spaces, if you have higher CO2 levels in the environment you should keep your temperatures higher.
Sealed Grow Rooms and CO2 Safety
Unlike greenhouses used for flowers and vegetable growing, the majority of cannabis growers and cultivators, are moving to sealed grow environments. In fact, almost every expert or commercial grower prefers sealed grow rooms as opposed to open-loop grow spaces.
This is in part due to the overall environmental control that the grower will gain in having a sealed space where environmental conditions can be adjusted.
Advantages of a Sealed Grow Room Include:
- Individualized approach of plant strains
- Better control of temperature, water, nutrients
- Tighter control of plant diseases, molds, pests
- Regulated CO2 levels
- Minimized CO2 costs
However, the downside to a sealed grow room is that it creates a potential safety hazard for growers working in these conditions.
Because CO2 is heavier than air or oxygen it will “settle” at the floor first, then rise up until it fills a room. This drives down the oxygen level in an enclosed space to levels that can cause an individual to pass out or even experience fatality, due to the heavy percentage of CO2 that is being utilized.
Humans can also easily become asphyxiated in these situations or even contract CO2 poisoning if the CO2 levels are excessively high. As 100% concentration CO2 is being used, even a small leak in a supply hose or a faulty regulator can cause CO2 levels to quickly rise to the point that the air in the room becomes deadly.
As a result, local fire marshals and inspectors have created codes which require the monitoring of CO2 for safety in all cannabis or cultivation growing operations.
For example, in states like Michigan and California, local fire marshals are now requiring licensed cannabis operations to install CO2 monitors for safety in each grow room. A similar CO2 safety monitoring device is the Remote CO2 Storage Safety 3 Alarm. Their requirement is that the device be mounted at levels that will ensure that asphyxiation does not occur. Other localities have begun requiring the addition of strobe lights, exhaust fan activation, and even require safety monitors to trigger automatic notifications to the local fire department.
In almost every state and municipality there are new laws regulating the use of stored CO2. However, even if you are growing and using compressed CO2 in an enclosed space it makes sense to invest in a CO2 safety monitor.
CO2 Safety Monitors for Grow Rooms
For cannabis growers who use liquid CO2 enrichment, we recommend the Remote CO2 Storage Safety 3 Alarm.
- Wired CO2 Monitor & Remote Display
- Designed to Meet All Local Fire Codes
- Meets NFPA, IFC, and NBIC Requirements
- Meets OSHA and NIOSH TWA Standard
- UL listed for compliance
It meets all local codes, installs in minutes, and provides protection for you and any staff around stored CO2.
Carbon Dioxide continues to remain a coveted solution for many farmers, growers, and cultivators for supporting growth and productivity, while also saving energy consumption. The ultimate goal in any growers mind is procuring high-quality strands that produce maximized yields and why not add in CO2 to get one step ahead?
If you are looking to maximize yields or meet CO2 safety standards and need more information, speak to an expert today: [email protected]
Director of Marketing, CO2Meter.com