Aquaponic Gardening

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Well, I think I hit the wall with energy costs here.   Just adding a post let people know who are thinking about indoor setup. 

Over 2 years, I have grown my basement system to 175 gallons of water and three 2' x 3' x 9" deep grow beds. 

I recently upgraded my grow lights and that put me on the list of people the power company calls out and shames with nastygrams. 

I currently have:

1000w grow light on a light mover ( accepts halide and hps bulbs )

400w grow light stationary over the tomatoes

Not running my two, 250w HPS lights. 

2 x 400watt aquarium heaters in main FT ( 125 gallon aquarium ) 

2 x 100watt aquarium heaters in fingerling tank ( 30 gallon aquarium ) 

Plus pump, airstones, and a few powerheads. 

25 white nile tilapia.  ( 2 months old and about 6" already! ) 

Well, I'm using 3100 kWh of electricity which I was just told is 221% more than anyone the neighborhood. Granted I have 5 computers and kid with game systems plus an old house with inefficient insulation.   But I'm feeling kinda sick over this. 

I love my garden.  With my current setup, we have full time lettuce. basil, and tomatoes.  My sweet peppers are looking very good too.      I was planning on adding a grow-out FT perhaps an IBC and a couple more grow beds as I am putting out more nitrogen than I am taking in.  

But the cost seems to finally be a significant hurdle.  Sure it is a freezing winter and my energy costs will be up but I am not sure I can justify 220% of my neighborhood average.   

Sad

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Hmm, I'm not sure yet David. The initial cost is really the only drawback to the LED setups. I'm running an LED that's the equivalent of somewhere between a 600-1000w HID light (sorry, that's a broad range. I get different answers from different websites). My 400 watt HID light fixtures were costing me about $1 a day to run. I just tested the power draw on my LED fixtures and they're costing me $.40 per day. I don't have to replace the bulbs every 6 months or so. And I'm getting waaaay better results.

I think things are getting there. If the tech becomes more mainstream and reasonably priced, it could be something we can rely on in the future. But you're right, who knows how long that could take?

I have been in the LED industry for 14 years.  I am an inventor of many LED systems... but I have to say - LEDs are not for all applications.  The more I read about aquaponics the more I realize that it is less about the intensity of light and high power bulbs but more about identifying the wavelength or color of light that matches the chlorophyl synthesis in the plants you are trying to grow.  For example - you can use a 8500 Kelvin White Fluorescent light - cheap and low power - mixed together with a 680nm Red LED (you may not see much red but the plants do!).  What I am discovering is that plants are fooled by infrared light making them believe that it is warm outside and full sunshine... it then looks for the 470nm blue index in white fluorescent.  Keep in mind people use blue because it is the precise color the plants usually want - however the intensity is low compared to white LED systems made with Blue LED chips.

What I keep coming back to is the strong belief that most of effectiveness of colored lighting has to do with ambient temperature control (consistent) and a pulsating frequency... a scientist here in Mallorca island Spain told me "the plants grow when there is no light...they seek the light...." it made sense...but was totally counter intuitive to what we have all learned.

So pulsating frequencies of light spur the plant to accelerate growth. A man in Czech Republic did a study on this that I will find and post.

Think infrared lighting... it is the equivalent to the high power HPS lights you are using - they are creating a lot of heat and consuming a lot of power!

This study is really fascinating: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110608MurphyDarwin.html


Manuel Lynch said:

What I keep coming back to is the strong belief that most of effectiveness of colored lighting has to do with ambient temperature control (consistent) and a pulsating frequency... a scientist here in Mallorca island Spain told me "the plants grow when there is no light...they seek the light...." it made sense...but was totally counter intuitive to what we have all learned.

I'm currently getting ready to put together my first system. As I live in Utah with no greenhouse I'm forced to do an I door setup as well. After much deliberation I am opting for a "v tower" design that will fit inside of a window. I'm crossing my fingers that this will offer enough lighting that I don't have to supplement. I really couldn't justify the added cost of lights. :/

I'm no expert but I think you're using way to big of a light for a 3x6 area especially with a light mover. Put your 2 250w lights on the move for 8-10 hours a day, should be plenty. You could insulate your fish tank(at least 3 sides) with 1/2" to 1" Styrofoam and that would also help heat loss. That would cut your power by at least half. There are other things you could do but those are the biggest.

The way I look at it is that it is a hobby and it's educational. Spending a few dollars a month on a hobby is justified in my book. Invite people over, share and educate - you'll feel better. Also, look at your energy company's mix of fuels to see if coal is a big contributor... if your lucky it's nuclear and your power and your conscience is clean. If it's coal, then put up a 5k solar system or find a way to offset your carbon footprint. This year I reduced the amount of CO2 my home emitted by 10,000 lbs by installing a wood burning stove.

I agree that for me it is a hobby. My bell peppers probably cost me $5 each and the tilapia is probably $30 lb. lol. But that's probably because I keep making changes to my GH. For a lot of people part of the "hobby" is to see how economically it can be done or how it could be done if the SHTF. It is educational and I wish I had started a long time ago.
 
Jonathan Kadish NYC AA Chair said:

The way I look at it is that it is a hobby and it's educational. Spending a few dollars a month on a hobby is justified in my book. Invite people over, share and educate - you'll feel better. Also, look at your energy company's mix of fuels to see if coal is a big contributor... if your lucky it's nuclear and your power and your conscience is clean. If it's coal, then put up a 5k solar system or find a way to offset your carbon footprint. This year I reduced the amount of CO2 my home emitted by 10,000 lbs by installing a wood burning stove.

My household electric bill is almost 300.00/Mo. and it hurts the wallet but it is so relaxing  to sit next to the FT and listen to the water and then to see lush green inside when it is single digits outside makes it all kind of worth it. I have different Goldfish and they're big enough to make a splashing sound when you feed them. It's all good. I'm thinking of keeping my indoor FT to eventually start Tilapia early and then put them out in my future GH to bring them to maturity. I want my GH to be attached to my house and if needed to heat it with mass and a hot water coil from my woodstove. Hopefully it will be worth it. If not, then I guess I could dress up in a police uniform and confiscate salad from you guys...LOL...

My water heating for my FT is over $100 a month but in the spirit of saving I'm going to insulate the tank this week just to prove it helps.

How much room do you have in your yard?

I built a 8 foot by 10 foot GH and facing the south I get sun all day long with grow lights 3 hours before sun comes up and goes down my plants do well.

Would save your money during the day time hours anyway, its an option.

Good luck

I typically don't heat anything other than the water but we've hit 9&10 below at  night lately with highs in the single digits so I have been supplementing some with wood, gas too if I'm not around to stoke the fire.

Do I need to heat the water if the room is between 45 and 65 degrees?

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