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Hydroponics can be an incredibly efficient and effective way of growing plants at home without the need for soil. While this has many advantages, there are several additional considerations with hydroponics that traditional growers don’t have. One of the most important differences is the use of electricity, which is required for most types of hydroponics systems to function.
Electricity is a significant expense when it comes to hydroponics, especially in today’s climate, so understanding how much your system will contribute to your monthly bills is an important step.
How much electricity a hydroponics system uses depends on the type and size of the system, as well as the cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) in your area. The cost of running a hydroponics system can therefore vary from around $10 per month for small systems to well over $200 per month for larger ones.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how much electricity a hydroponics system uses, how you can calculate your energy costs, as well as a few tips and tricks for reducing them. Let’s dive right in.
How much electricity does a hydroponics system use?
The use of electricity in hydroponics is primarily associated with light and heat. Additional energy can be spent on various accessories like air and water pumps or fans to provide airflow and ventilation. All of these components are necessary to ensure that your plants get the right amount of light, air, and water needed to grow, but each comes with a cost.
Electricity usage in hydroponics
Let’s take a more detailed look at each of the electrical components used by the majority of hydroponics systems and explore the energy requirements of each.
Lighting is one of the most significant contributors to hydroponics growers’ electricity bills. Plants require a lot of light to grow, and the lighting system must be able to provide it at the right intensity and consistency throughout the day. This is especially true for indoor hydroponics systems without access to natural light.
I wrote an article about starting a hydroponics system in a room with no windows. Please, read it if you like.
LEDs are the most popular choice for most growers as they are more energy efficient, last longer and provide the right spectrum of light needed by most plants.
2. Air and water pumps
Pumps are another electrical component that’s present in most active hydroponics systems. Water pumps are used to circulate the nutrient-rich solution through the hydroponics system and the roots of plants. Air pumps distribute oxygen to the reservoir, which aids growth and plant health.
As a general rule, air pumps should run 24/7, whereas water pumps can be staggered using a plug timer.
You can also read my article on how long a hydroponics air pump should run for more info on pumps generally.
Ventilation is essential in hydroponics and helps to regulate the oxygen, as well as the air temperature and humidity around the plants, which is essential for healthy growth. A ventilation system can consist of anything from simple oscillating fans and humidifiers to complete air conditioning systems and environmental control systems. The energy requirements can therefore vary significantly by system.
Heating isn’t always a factor, especially for hobbyist growers who’ve placed their hydroponics system within their centrally heated home. However, growers that locate their hydroponics system in rooms without central heating may need to install electrical heaters, which can incur a substantial energy cost.
How can you calculate the energy cost of your hydroponics system?
Now that we have a broad understanding of the different electrical components that contribute to energy usage within your hydrponics system, let’s look at how you can estimate the costs. As a general rule, follow this simple equation to estimate your total electricity costs for your hydroponics system:
Step 1: Calculate your system’s total wattage
To calculate your hydroponics system’s electricity cost, you first need to know the combined wattage of the system. To do this, you’ll need to multiply the wattage for each individual electrical component the system uses. Wattage refers to the amount of power used by each electrical component and is measured in watts. You can usually find the number of watts each component uses on the component itself or in the factory manual.
For example, if you have the following components in your hydroponics system:
- LED light (150 watts)
- Water pump (50 watts)
- Oscillating fan (50 watts)
The total wattage for your hydroponics system is 250 watts.
Step 2: Determine the usage time
Next, you need to establish the average run time for each of these components. For example, if you’re using LED lights, you need to determine how many hours per day the lights are switched on. To continue this example, the average use time for each component is:
- LED light (14 hours)
- Water Pump (5 hours)
- Oscillating fan (18 hours)
Step 3: Calculate the total energy consumption
Now you’ve understood the wattage for each component, as well as how long that component is in use each day you can calculate the total energy consumption for each component. To do this, multiply the wattage by the use time.
- LED light (150 watts x 14) = 2100 watts
- Water pump (50 watts x 5) = 250 watts
- Ossilating fan (50 watts x 18) = 900 watts
Add everything together to work out the total energy consumption for your hydroponics system. In this example, 2100 + 250 + 900 = a total energy consumption of 3250 watts.
Step 4: Convert to kilowatt hours
To convert the energy consumption into kilowatt hours (kWh), divide the total wattage of the system by 1000. Using the example above, this would mean the system uses 3.25 kWh per day (3250/1000).
Step 5: Calculate the energy cost for your system
Now (finally) it’s time for the fun bit. To calculate the total electricity cost for your hydroponics system all you need to do is multiply the kWh figure (in this example, 3.25) by the cost per kWh charged by your energy company (you can usually find this on your monthly bill).
So, if your energy company charges $0.20 per kWh, then the cost of electricity to run your hydroponics system will be $0.65 per day. That’s around $20 per month or $240 per year.
Techplant has a great video in which he calculates the electricity cost of a set of LED grows lights, but the same principles can be applied across all other electrical components.
Factors that affect energy use and cost
There are several factors that can influence how much electricity your hydroponics system will use. These range from the types of plants you are growing all the way through to your local climate.
The type and size of your hydroponics setup
One of the most obvious factors is the size of your hydroponics setup itself. It almost goes without saying, but the larger your hydroponics setup, the more electricity it will likely use. Larger systems generally require more electrical components like more lights and pumps. Additionally, your equipment may have to be more powerful to run the system effectively, therefore commanding a greater overall wattage.
The most power-hungry systems are those that require both a water and an air pump, in addition to lighting and other components like fans or ventilators. An example of this is Ebb & Flow (pictured above). Passive hydroponics systems – which do not require any sort of pump – use the least electricity. A good example of a passive system would be Wick Hydroponics.
Type of plants
The types of plants you grow can also affect the amount of energy needed by your hydroponics system. Crops that generally need a lot of light and water will require you to keep components like pumps and lights on for longer.
If you live in a very cold climate, you may need to invest in additional electrical components like heaters. Heaters are among the most expensive items to run and will drastically increase your system’s electricity use.
Top tips for reducing energy use in hydroponics
Thankfully, there are a few things everyone can do to optimize the efficiency of their hydroponics system and reduce the amount of electricity they need to run effectively.
1. Use more energy-efficient components
The electricity cost to run your system equates to the number of kWh used per day. Reducing this figure will help you to keep costs low when your monthly electric bill arrives. One of the best ways to do this is to invest in higher-quality, efficient components with lower watt usage. Decreasing the overall wattage of your system will help reduce the amount of electricity it uses.
I’ve found it’s usually better to buy better gear, which will save you money in the long run. Make sure to always use safety-checked components too.
Check out my post on hydroponics safety.
2. Optimizing the design of the system
Ensure you are using the correct level kit for the system you have. That is to say, there’s no point in spending $200 on a massive water pump if you only have to shift a 2-3 gallon reservoir. Selecting the correct pump size for the size of your system is key and can save a lot of electricity.
I’ve written a whole article about this topic here.
Additionally, using the natural environment to your advantage can also help. If you can take advantage of natural light, do so. This can allow you to turn off your artificial lights during the brightest part of the day.
3. Reduce usage time
Where possible, reducing the run time of the system will help to reduce electricity costs. One of the best ways of doing this is by using a plug timer to regulate the flow of electricity to the various components in your system so that they are only on when they need to be. Research exactly how much time your lights should be on, or how long your air pump should run for, and adjust accordingly, rather than leaving everything running 24/7.
Running a hydroponics system has many advantages over traditional soil-based growing. But, it also comes with a cost. While most systems use electrical components like pumps, lights, and event heaters, the amount of electricity they use is small and can be very manageable – especially for small-scale, hobbyist growers. There are plenty of steps you can take to understand and reduce your electricity use and therefore the costs associated with running your system.