When building out a cannabis grow room, electrical safety should be top of mind. With so many electrical devices needed for optimal climate control and plant production, you are going to need the proper electrical setup to keep everyone safe and your plants healthy.
Our guide on grow room electrical safety covers the most important electrical safety precautions for setting up your marijuana garden, including hiring a professional electrician to ensure your setup is safe for use. While some tips may be common sense, others may be commonly overlooked.
Preventing an Electric Circuit Overload
One of the biggest and deadliest mistakes amateur electricians make is plugging in too many cables and causing a circuit overload. An electrical circuit is designed to handle a certain amount of electricity, but a grow room can easily exceed these limits.
Circuits consist of wiring, a breaker, and electrical devices that plug into an outlet. When these devices exceed the rated load for the circuit, the circuit breaker box can trip and shut off the power to the entire circuit. A breaker prevents overloads to overheat circuit wiring, increasing the risk of a fire. Keep in mind, load ratings vary by circuit.
The electrical outlets in your home are on a circuit and each outlet in your grow space is attached to a circuit. Your circuit breaker box should have labels showing which outlets they belong to, although sometimes they do not, meaning you need to figure out which circuit belongs to which outlet.
Most standard American outlets use 120 volts (V). Circuit breakers with “15” breakers are rated for 15 amps. For standard circuits, your circuit can handle about 1,800 watts (15 amps x 120 volts =1,800 watts). Going over the 1,800-watt limit will overload the system.
Circuits with “20” breakers are rated for 20 amps and have a maximum load rating of 2,400 watts. Circuits with “30” breakers are rated for 30 amps and have a maximum load rating of 3,600 watts.
If you want to prevent a circuit overload, you must compare the energy usage (wattage) you will be using and the load rating for each circuit.
However, if you will be using continuous loads (or even if you are not), your load capacity should ideally be 20% lower than its maximum load rating. A continuous load means something you’ll be using for 3 hours or more. In this case, you will want to divide your power usage between circuits when necessary and provide the necessary load buffer for continuous loads.
If necessary, you may need to move your equipment to a circuit that is not commonly used and has more than enough available wattage. In addition, you should avoid plugging in an excessive amount of electrical devices at once.
We recommend investing in the most energy-efficient equipment such as LED lights or even CFL (for home growers) over HID bulbs. If your equipment has a high demand for energy, you may need to install a new circuit with a higher load rating and additional outlets for your devices.
Generally, grow rooms need about 1,000 amps for every 10,000 square feet. In most cases, commercial facilities will not have enough power for cannabis cultivation operations, so growers will need to increase the load rating while meeting electrical codes.
Electrical Safety Around Irrigation Equipment
While water and electricity are a deadly combination, they are two of the most important aspects of running a cannabis grow room. In a grow room environment, you need to set up an irrigation system that is properly grounded. It should be able to coexist with your electrical supplies while making sure to keep the two apart at all times.
One way you can prevent electrical damage is by setting up an irrigation system that keeps the surge protectors and extension cords away from the irrigation. You may need to hang these devices and cables up on the wall to avoid drenching them in puddles of water. Make sure to run your system to check where puddles may form and place your cables away from them.
When dealing with bubbleponics or aeroponics, the risk for getting your cables wet is high. Since they are running from water to an outlet, the best thing to do is to make a loop in the cable. This allows the water to drip off before it reaches the outlet. In addition, you can place the plug higher than the pump to avoid water running down the cable and into the outlet.
Above all, keeping your extension cords, surge protectors, and outlets completely dry is critical to your safety and reduces the risk of electrical shock or fire.
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Lights
In terms of lighting systems, high-intensity discharge (HID) grow lights such as high pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide (MH) lights are favorites among commercial growers for their intensity and power. However, with so much power, they tend to produce a lot of heat and use up a lot of energy, meaning high electricity costs.
In order to reduce the risk of fire or explosion due to your hot lights, we recommend keeping the ballasts for HID lights away from the lights themselves. In addition, you want to avoid handling the lights with your bare hands since the oils on your skin can cause the bulb to crack and possibly explode. Instead, wear gloves for your protection when handling these bulbs.
For more advanced grow rooms, automated systems may be necessary to maintain the optimal climate indoors. Everything from irrigation to light cycles to temperature and humidity can be managed through automated systems.
However, improper setup and maintenance of these systems can lead to trouble when it comes to the electrical safety in your grow room. Keeping them maintained can help you achieve a more optimal grow environment for your cannabis plants.
In most cases involving automated systems, hiring a professional electrician is the best choice for safety. A professional company can help with the installation of the system and ensure the facility can handle the electrical load.
Fireproofing Your Grow Room
In the event of an electrical malfunction, fire is an ever-present danger in grow rooms. It is critical to have a fire extinguisher readily accessible in your grow room area. In addition to a fire extinguisher, you should install a smoke alarm in your grow room to detect fires.
For a larger operation, a fully automated fire protection system, which includes a fire sprinkler system, can keep your plants and workers safe in the event that it detects high temperatures.
Equipment Selection and Maintenance
Even before setting up your grow room, you need to research your electrical equipment and ensure that it is UL listed. While UL listed devices have a higher upfront cost then unlisted devices, building inspectors require this listing to get your grow room approved. Ideally, it is critical to start off with the most energy-efficient equipment you can afford.
We recommend using 220 volt equipment when possible to increase the amount of wattage you can send through the panel. Keep in mind, 220 volt equipment needs more careful handling since it only requires contact with one side of the plug to get jolted, while 110 volt plugs require you to touch both prongs to get shocked. Having a different plug shape on the 220 volt can help workers differentiate between the 110 volt equipment.
Part of maintaining a safe electrical system is keeping your electrical equipment and cables in proper working order. If you notice your cables start to strip, it is time to replace them to reduce the risk of short-circuiting or electrocution.
In addition, avoid twisting or bending the cables to keep a good flow of electricity and prevent overheating. The electrical current in the cable generates heat. If it gets too hot, the cable’s insulation can melt over time. When you place a lot of cables together or have multiple loops on a single cable, the dissipation of heat is reduced, which can increase the temperatures of your current.
Regularly check your electrical panels, lighting, connections, and outlets. Look for wires that have damage such as chewing from mice or excess dust and spiderwebs. If you have any damaged or loose wires, you must first turn off the power as a safety measure and then repair the damage. Clean the dust with an air hose before turning it all back on.
In terms of the plug area, you want to keep the area where you plug in all your cables clean and organized. If they are tangled and tied, it is a recipe for disaster. You can keep your plug area dry by mounting up the cables and surge protectors on the wall to keep them out of the way and avoid contact with water.
Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) can potentially save your life. A GFCI stops the current of power from running through a plug if it detects a current leakage. Ultimately, it could be the difference between a fire (or worse) and safety. GFCIs can be installed in outlets and surge protectors can also have these built-in.
When using extension cords, keep them out of foot traffic. If they are regularly stepped on they can be damaged and affect the internal wires. This damaged wire can create a point of high resistance and a hotspot.
Always keep extension cables out of the way and avoid running them through walls or ceiling since then can cause overheating and a fire hazard. Avoid nailing or stapling them to walls or baseboards or pinching them in doors, windows, or under heavy equipment. Do not place them under carpets or rugs since this can also cause overheating.
Above all, only use extension cords with the least length possible, not any longer than necessary.
Multi-Outlet Power Strips
Generally, using a power strip is not recommended but when you need to use multiple plugs, it is a necessity to use one.
When using one, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Avoid running high-wattage appliances such as your HID grow lights through these boards.
- Ensure they have overload and surge protection.
- Only use ones with safety switches/circuit breakers.
- Always ensure that your plugs are firmly connected to the boards. When plugs are not fully plugged in they do not have as good contact and can generate heat.
- Always avoid plugging in one surge protector into another.
Hire a Professional
Hiring a professional electrician can be the most cost-effective way to install your electrical system and determine your maximum power capacity. For more advanced indoor grow rooms and for the utmost safety, hiring a professional can save you time, money, and heartache later down the road.
Ideally, you want to request service from a professional who has experience setting up cannabis grow rooms. As always, check for valid licensing and certification, and insurance. Also, check customer reviews and ask them about any guarantees they may offer.
A professional can help you accurately assess your load calculation and energy consumption to prevent an electrical overload and fire.
Essentially, you want to see how much power is available from your home. After you have determined your load capacity, then, you can subtract the power you are using, which can include a washer, dryer, fridge, etc, and use all of this to come up with power left over for your garden equipment.
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