In the cannabis industry, water conservation has become a critical concern for reducing expenses at grow facilities, protecting the environment, and complying with state regulations. Nowadays, more and more commercial grow facilities are investing in water reclamation systems to remain competitive.
Whether you want to recycle and reuse your water at your cultivation facility or grow space at home, our condensate reclamation guide shows you how you can obtain a fresh water supply from your condensate water.
Reclaiming Condensate From Dehumidifiers and HVAC
Many professional and home growers use dehumidification equipment and air conditioning to maintain an optimal environment for cannabis plants. Dehumidifiers are critical to keep moisture levels in check and reduce the risk of mold and mildew formation. Air conditioners regulate temperature to offset any high heat from lights and other devices.
While a home grow may not produce a lot of condensate water, commercial facilities can produce hundreds or thousands of gallons of water, depending on the size of the operation. The condensate water can be distilled but does not keep the water clean from airborne contaminants and pathogens. Some growers do not want to risk using the water and dispose of it.
Some jurisdictions enforce regulations on discharges and can require growers to pay a premium for exceeding these limitations or penalize a company for going over a daily limit. Short of cutting back on the throughput, using a condensate reclamation system can prevent sewer discharge issues and result in reduced water bills.
Instead of being thrown away, the water can be collected and reused. Recycling the water reduces the associated costs of getting fresh water. It also reduces the amount of waste produced, especially in an industry where regulations could become more strict around waste and discharge. Reusing condensate water can be accomplished with the proper water treatment to reduce its risks to the grow operation.
Contaminants in Condensate Water
Condensate water quality varies by HVAC system. However, the most common contaminants include dust, dirt, and other solid particles that build up in the air ducts or other components and end up in the water. The distilled water can come in contact with various contaminants, including corroded metals and oils used during the manufacturing process.
Heavy metal contamination can occur from heavy metals such as aluminum, zinc, copper, and lead can leach from the HVAC equipment. If the coils or other components inside the system develop mold or other pathogens, they can be distributed throughout and into the HVAC and dehumidifier condensate water.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can come in contact with the water and provide food for microbial growth, especially if the condensate water is left standing for long periods. Condensate water can be contaminated from organic pesticides and foliar sprays, among other debris that can end up in condensate water.
Condensate water has a low mineral concentration that results in an acidic pH. The condensate water absorbs carbon dioxide as it tries to reach equilibrium with the atmosphere. The acidic condensate water can leach metals from the coils, vents, and other metal parts. Leaching of metals usually occurs with aged devices. Cannabis thrives in a pH ranging from 6.0 to 6.5. Condensate water ph levels tend to be around 5.0.
Water Reclamation Systems for Condensation Water
Condensate reclamation is becoming increasingly popular among home and commercial cannabis growers. Reclamation can be performed with a specially designed filtration system. Generally, reclamation systems feature:
- Ultraviolet (UV) sterilization to eliminate harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and pathogens.
- Remineralization to give the water a sufficient amount of minerals and balance pH.
- A filter to remove dust and other suspended solids.
How do water reclamation systems work? A condensate reclaim system is relatively affordable and simple to set up. Instead of draining the condensate down the floor drain, it is distributed through piping that empties into a collection tank. The collection tank uses an overflow level control that enables the extra condensate to drain if the system is full.
The condensate water is moved out of the collection tank and into a strainer to remove the large suspended particles that collect in the system. Then, the water is pushed through a filtration system to remove pathogens, bacteria, and other contaminants. Cannabis cultivators may also choose to send it through a remineralization/pH balancing filter. Then, the water is piped to the nutrient reservoir.
HydroLogic Mini ARCS Automated Reclaimed Condensate System
In our grow room, we went with the HydroLogic Mini ARCS Automated Reclaimed Condensate System. The benefits of the Mini ARCS include:
- Reclaiming and purifying condensate runoff from HVAC and dehumidifiers
- Supplies up to 80% of daily water needs
- Produces pure and clean water without any contaminants
- Removes pathogens and bacteria
- Balances pH
Condensate reclamation systems are available for small, medium-scale, commercial, and industrial cannabis operations. Systems can also filter rainwater into a pure and environmentally sustainable source of water for cannabis plants.
The Mini ARCS comes with:
- 4-stage filter unit
- 10-ft white ¼” tubing
- 10-ft blue ¼” tubing
- Filter wrench
- Instructions for UV and Mini ARCS
The manufacturer recommends replacing the sediment, heavy metal reduction, and pH neutralizing/remineralizing cartridge every 2,500 gallons or more if they get dirty quicker. The UV sterilizer bulb can last about a year.
Installing Your System
Once you have selected the right water reclamation system for your indoor garden, it is time to install it in your grow room. Condensate reclamation systems can be mounted on the wall or a floor stand.
The unit should be mounted below the outlets to keep any water from the electrical level if mounted on the wall. Mounting is as simple as drilling a few holes in the wall and ensuring the unit is level.
Before plumbing the system, turn off the HVAC system. Plumb the system by connecting the booster pump to the reservoir and turning it on. Connect the booster pump to the sediment filter. Check for leaks throughout the system before you pressurize it.
When installing new HVAC systems, you may need to dispose of the first 100 gallons of condensate water due to the higher amount of oils used during the manufacturing process. Then, the water reclamation system can be installed.
When you first turn the reclamation system on, you will need to run a flush of the filtration system with the condensate water or reverse osmosis water before using the filtered water. Lower quality water such as well or city water can reduce the life of the filter. When the initial flush is complete, you can distribute filtered water to the reservoir and use it to irrigate your plants.
A condensate reclamation system requires regular changes in filters. Without frequent changes in filters, the quality of the water will not be as good. Refer to your manufacturer’s guidance for replacement guidelines.
When handling the unit, use gloves. Do not stare directly at the UV lamp while in operation. Check the cord, lamp, plug, and other components for damage regularly. UV sterilization systems are designed for continuous use. Repeatedly turning the UV system on and off can reduce UV radiation and longevity.
You should test your system every month or with each use. UV lamp replacement varies by system. Always use gloves when handling the UV bulb since it can leave skin oils on the bulb’s surface.
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