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CO2 for ‘Free’
We’ve all heard that there is no such thing as a “free lunch”; well, the process described in this article may be as close as you can get. Most of us already know the benefits of CO2 enrichment for photosynthesis. To maximize indoor growing and greenhouse potential, CO2 is added to maintain a level of approximately 1500 ppm. This may require frequent trips to the industrial gas supplier and/or a lot of propane or natural gas usage and associated costs. Ironically, many indoor farmers exhaust CO2 outdoors through home heaters and hot water heaters, while simultaneously releasing or creating CO2 into an indoor grow room or greenhouse.
Propane and natural gas burn cleanly enough that small, unvented gas appliances are permitted for indoor use. All of these gas burners use oxygen (found in the air) to burn the gas, resulting in CO2, H20 (moisture) and heat (Reusch) byproducts. Exhaust gases from gas appliances can provide 3 important conditions for maximum growth: humidity, temperature and CO2 levels. Most of the heat from the flue gas is removed using a furnace or water heater heat exchanger; resulting in a slightly warm exhaust gas. For many plants, including marijuana, photosynthesis in CO2-enriched environments is most efficient around 85 degrees F.
When exhaust from a large gas heater is directed into a growing area, there is a high potential for burning or displacing all oxygen, as well as CO (carbon monoxide build-up), resulting in toxic air conditions. With proper equipment, the CO2 from your gas furnace and/or water heater exhaust can be safely used to supplement the CO2 you use in your grow room. It saves time and money, makes plants look great, reduces fuel consumption and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. By using this technique, you help prevent global warming while optimizing growing conditions. The key to doing this safely and effectively is to direct enough exhaust from the gas unit into your grow area to maintain a CO2 level of 1500 ppm, and allow the additional exhaust to be directed outside.
“Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) have established workplace safety standards of 5,000 ppm” and very high levels of CO2 can cause undetectable asphyxiation when O2 is replaced by CO2 in the blood. Minnesota Department of Health). To be safe, keep a CO (carbon monoxide) sensor in the grow room in case the unit malfunctions! Do not attempt this project if you are using oil or kerosene heat that does not burn cleanly!
The trick to making use of this unused source of CO2 in gas furnaces and water heaters is dampers. A power damper is a duct part with a valve that opens and closes the flow through the duct and is electrically powered. Some dampers close with applied current and others are designed to open. Most dampers are low voltage, so a properly sized transformer must be connected to the damper. there are some 110 volt shock absorbers. Quality dampers seal much better than cheap dampers. This simple addition to a CO2 enrichment system will pay for itself many times over (especially with today’s fuel prices) and reduce your home or business emissions into the environment, making your project “greener”. The CO2 level monitor must be connected to a controller (sequencer) to tell the dampers (when power is applied) when CO2 is needed and when the threshold has been reached. You can still use your controller to operate a CO2 generator and/or regulator.
Locate the outlet of your gas furnace or hot water heater. These devices should already be properly vented. Turn off the gas appliance while you work on it. Disconnect (or cut) the portion of the duct where it is closest and with minimal bends to tap in and route the new duct to the growing area. The few necessary items can be found at most heating supply stores. If you cannot find dampers for your duct size and type, you may need to change the duct to a size or type that you can find dampers for. Using a Y-connector and a power damper that closes when power is applied, connect it to the duct running to the outside. For smooth flow, install the “Y” so the exhaust comes at the “bottom” of the “Y” duct section. Now take the damper that opens when the power is turned on, attach it to the second “Y” hole. Run the duct from this “power open” damper to the growing area above the plants since CO2 is heavier than air; but you probably already know that. Now it’s just a matter of connecting the dampers or using a multi-socket adapter and connecting them together with the CO2 generator or CO2 tank regulator using the 3 exhaust adapters.
Duct booster fans may be built in if the ducts are far from the exterior wall or roof. If the grow room cannot receive flow through the new duct, an internal duct booster fan may be required, especially if used in the original duct that exits the new Y section of the unit. If you add a duct amp fan, wire it, or wire it together with dampers, they will turn on and off together. Many furnaces have a sufficient exhaust fan so that an additional duct booster fan is not necessary. Keep an eye on any amp fans (if any) in the original duct between the Y-junction and the outside. If the outward-facing damper is closed, they can overheat.
Once set up, when your CO2 sequencer determines it’s time to add CO2 to the room and turns on the power, the outward exhaust damper will close and the growroom damper will open; as a result of which the exhaust gases of the furnace or hot water boiler are directed into the growing room. The CO2 generator or exhaust regulator also works, so the room is always guaranteed just the right amount of CO2, even when the furnace or boiler is not currently in use. When the correct level is reached and the sequencer turns off, the damper to the grow room closes and the damper to the channel to the outside opens again. At this point, all the exhaust goes outside until the room needs more CO2.
To ensure safety, ensure that all circuits and/or outlets are rated for no more than 80% of their rated wattage and are properly connected. Also, fasten the channel well. 200°F duct tape will hold up better than regular duct tape (for connecting duct sections).
By routing your hot water heater exhaust for this CO2 enrichment supplement, you can take advantage of this setup even more by timing your shower, dishes, and laundry when the lights come on (the time when the enrichment devices work the hardest) and during the light cycle. in general.
By using this system, farmers find that they make fewer trips to fill their propane or CO2 tanks and spend less money, while keeping grow room levels the same.
This addition of an enrichment system also reduces the amount of CO2 released into the environment from the house or business. The CO2 directed into the room is used by plants during photosynthesis, further reducing the CO2 release of the gas device into the environment. Using this system, the room reaches the desired CO2 level faster and fluctuates less, further increasing growth.
List of Works Cited:
Minnesota Department of Health
This page on the Minnesota Department of Health website is a good resource to show the adverse health effects that high C02 levels cause. As best as I can tell, the site is run by the state government. The information on this page is consistent with other sources that describe the adverse health effects of too much CO2 in the air. This page, although brief, clearly presents the numbers and dangers agreed upon by government scientists associated with high CO2 levels. Claim: “At very high levels, 30,000 ppm and above, CO2 can cause suffocation because it replaces oxygen in our blood.” clearly shows the potentially fatal condition that elevated CO2 levels can cause.
“Carbon Dioxide (CO2)” Minnesota Department of Health. march 2004
June 27, 2005 http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/co2/>
Reusch, William. “Reaction of Alkanes” Michigan State University
This page clearly describes the physical process of propane combustion. After reviewing a dozen propane and natural gas combustion sources, I found this page to have the most accurate, comprehensive, yet understandable descriptions of the possible reactions to propane combustion. Although the article does not refer to the information contained therein, the information is consistent with general knowledge and other reference materials and is available on the Michigan State University Department of Chemistry website. By showing the structural formulas for the reactions mentioned, along with clear reasoning showing why the reactions may differ, this resource allows the reader of my essay to understand what products can be produced when propane is burned. This article shows how CO2 and H2O are direct products of burning propane when there is enough O2.
Reusch, William. “Reactions of Alkanes” Michigan State University
Department of Chemistry 1999. rev. 2004. June 28, 2005
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