Even the keenest hydroponic gardener is unlikely to take care of their garden 24/7 on-site (ie, all day, every day). However, part of the art of successful growth depends on certain events happening in the growth room at the right time. For example, electric lights and/or heaters need to be turned on and off at the right time. Another example is a hydroponic system, where watering needs to be done regularly and reliably.
Because these events need to happen even if the gardener is not there, it is usually necessary to use a time switch to automate the conversion process. There are several different types. In this article, we will look at what tools are available.
For a long time, the favourite of growers everywhere is the standard analog time switch. Alion is super reliable. In fact, no one in the one-stop planting shop remembers which car was returned to us! Although Alion has stopped producing their timers, they can still get the best OP-TIP1000 plug-in time The switch obtains the same bulletproof reliability, the switch is designed and manufactured according to ALION’s specifications. Only the external cosmetics, names and production locations have changed.
The most common type of time switch is a standard 24-hour mechanical (sometimes called an analog or segmented timer), such as those manufactured by optimal or Maxibright. These types of time switches are plugged directly into the power outlet and the switch and off of the device are plugged into the front of the timer. A rotating 24-hour clock (also on the front) is set to the correct time, and the required time is set by the position of the segments around the clock face. Each segment usually represents and controls a 15-minute turn-on or turn-off time.
To set a time, the appropriate part(s) is/is clicked towards the outside of the surface (outside position). The time segment indicating that you want the device to remain off is set to the internal position. Multiple sections (duty hours) can be set as needed. For sections with a duty time of more than 15 minutes, several adjacent sections can be set to external locations as needed. Once set, the timer will switch the pump etc. at the same time every day. Usually, a manual override switch is provided so that the user can choose to always turn off the output, time it, or always turn on:
Most standard time switches of this type are not designed for switching high-power devices, especially when they generate large inrush currents when switching. They are very good at switching most items such as energy-saving lamps, water pumps and fans, but any item that draws a large instantaneous current connection, such as a hidden lamp (HPS, MH CDM, etc.), will soon be destroyed by the contact switch, Usually welded together, making it impossible to turn off the power and come back.
In order to turn on and off the HID light, the timer needs to be assisted by adding a relay or contactor switch (such as Smart Gro). With this configuration, the contactor switches power to the ballast when the timer clicks. The actual power for the ballast comes from a different socket, and the timer is plugged in.
The heavy-duty segmented timer from Lumii will switch a 600-watt HID growth lamp so that you can start growing on a very tight budget or just start out. Although this timer is very valuable and will serve its purpose, we always recommend upgrading to a higher quality HID light switch system (as above), as long as funds allow.
There are many multi-socket contactor boxes, such as the GreenPower brand, that conveniently includes an integral timer switch, so you don’t need to obtain one separately. They are available in different numbers of sockets and rated power:
1. Plan a whole week for your growth
Some growers like to grow their plants in the soil, but also like to have an automatic watering system, such as the Wilma drip irrigation system. The soil retains a lot of water, and the plants in the soil rarely need to be watered every day (unless, possible, large plants grow at the peak of flowering or in small pots). Plants that grow in the soil may only need to be watered 2-3 times a week. For this, you ideally need a 7-day timer, which can be programmed, such as time-r time switch, which is very flexible and can be set every 4 days:
One of the most recent innovations of Optimal Corporation (the time switch manufacturer of Alion is a digital time switch with a Wi-Fi facility called Optimal Connection. It can be connected to your home wi-fi router, and then you can monitor and program the time switch anywhere through the app on your smartphone. Just like other electronic programmable time switches, the best connection can be turned on for 1 minute or as many minutes as you like. As long as you like, the app can control these time switches. The factors that limit how many devices you can use usually depend on how many devices your router can connect to (usually 15).
The most advanced encryption technology can prevent wi-fi security issues. Imagine the possibilities! With a little creative thinking, almost your entire growth can be controlled, no matter where you are in the world. However, keep in mind that each of your computers, tablets and smartphones connected to your Wi-Fi router will occupy one of the connections, reducing the number of these time switches that can be controlled through it. The feature of the best connection is that there is an on-off manual override switch on the front, which can switch a 13-amp resistive load or a 2-amp inductive load, which is similar to an analog segmented time switch. (For any load larger than this, use a contactor like smart-gro).
2. Take greater control!
In some cases, 15 minutes is too long for equipment. The second/minute timer satisfies growers who want to be more precise in the feeding time of the dropper. It can be set in seconds or minutes through the control. Every time an on-time is triggered by the integral segmented timer, it will turn on the device, no matter how many minutes or seconds the user has set. Unlike the segmented direct control output on the Alion timer (which means a 15-minute period), the Alion timer is only used to trigger a period, the length of which depends on the content set on the second/minute control:
These special timers are designed to allow precise cycle lengths as short as 1 second or as long as 15 minutes. This means that the watering cycle can only last when absolutely necessary. This reduces the chance of excess water to an absolute minimum. The switching of the second/minute timer segment depends on the built-in timer moving from the segment in the closed position to the segment in the open (external) position. It is this change that triggers the on-period (and then continues until the time set on the minute-second knob). After that, the timer must pass a segment in the off position before it can trigger another on cycle.
There is also a remote timer in the product line, which is directly connected to the brain. It has a dedicated connection for this purpose. The remote timer allows the user to set a time flood/drain cycle through the integration optimization timer. The user can set the time length of the feed pump through the knob on the front panel. By pressing the knob, the user can set the time of the drain pump.
In short, there is a time switch solution for almost any purpose that growers will encounter. We all stock up in one-stop planting shops!