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Homegrower’s Guide 101: Should you grow?

Many cannabis consumers consider growing their own product.  I wonder if it is the high cost of commercial cannabis, undesired quality, or a combination of the two that pushes individuals over the edge?  What may seem like a great idea for a project can quickly turn into a die-hard passion, career opportunity, or an absolute nightmare.  The number one question an individual should ask themselves when considering starting a homegrow is: what is my goal? 

The most common goal amongst prospective homegrowers is to produce a superior product for a lesser cost than typical retail prices.  The good news is, this goal is achievable.  The problem is that investment in cost and time/labor will vary per grow setup, and it typically takes a learning curve with a lot of trial and error before a home grow is seemingly worthwhile. Some prospective growers are more focused on a relaxing hobby.  This lower expectation is great, but keep in mind homegrows can become a stressful situation to install and maintain.

Considerations that will increase the likelihood of a successful homegrow: 

Space: A majority of homegrows can take place within a 10’x10’ area but the size of is not as important as the location being secure, sealed, insulated and consistent. Typically, a space that can maintain a temperature of 65F-85F and humidity of 40%RH-70%RH is ideal.  Both space heaters and air conditioner units, as well as humidifiers and dehumidifiers, can be utilized, but add to the running electrical cost.  Another consideration associated with the designated grow space is access to water and drainage. Many homegrowers prefer a spare bedroom, basement, or garage. More important questions: Do you own or rent the space?  Do you have permission to grow?  Do you have permission to make changes to the space?  These are all considerations that can limit a potential homegrower. 

A typical “plant-count”, whether medical or adult-use, is often separated into vegetative and flower plants.  Due to this, it is not uncommon to see two separate spaces, each with a different light cycle.  The standard flowering light cycle is 12 hours of uninterrupted lights on followed by 12 hours of uninterpreted lights off.  Vegetative light cycles are typically 16 hours (or more) of uninterrupted lights on followed by 8 hours (or less) of uninterrupted lights off.  

Electrical:  The main running electrical cost will come from the grow lights and the HVAC.  A typical household will have a 100A or 200A service.  This load can then be distributed to individual circuits, typically 15A or 20A at 110-120V.  There are typically also 220-240V breakers for larger appliances such as stoves and driers.  Any grow equipment that consumes a lot of energy that could be run on 220-240V would ideally not be run on 110-120V as this would require more amperage, and potentially a service upgrade on the home.  It is important to note that this would not lower a monthly electrical bill because the equipment still uses the same amount of wattage, but less amperage.   

An example of electrical calculation of a 600 watt grow light with a 7,000 BTU air conditioner on a flower cycle (12 hours lights on followed by 12 hours lights off): 

600-watt grow light * 12 hours per day = 7200 watts per day 

7,0000 BTU air conditioner averaging 500 watts during lights on * 12 hours per day = 6000 watts per day 

7,0000 BTU air conditioner averaging 200 watts during lights off * 12 hours per day = 2400 watts per day 

Miscellaneous equipment such as fans and pumps 50 watts * 24 hours per day = 1200 watts 

Total: 16,8000 watts or 16.8 kWh per day 

16.8 kWh per day * 30 days = 504 kWh per month 

504 kWh per month * $0.15 per kWH = $75.60 per month 

HVAC: A quick solution to maintaining temperatures depending on grow location within the house could be a space heater or air conditioner.  This solution is not typically energy efficient, and therefore a longer solution would be a mini-split air conditioner that can both heat and cool the space while maintaining a closed-loop environment. 

Seeds/Clones: If you do ultimately choose to start, you will need either seeds or a clone from someone else to begin.  Seeds can be found occasionally in purchased flower, bought online, or acquired at cannabis events.  Clones can be purchased in states in which commercial retail locations can, and choose to sell them.  Be cautious about claims of yield, flowering time, and potency on seed and clone packages.  These variables are susceptible to change with each different cultivator and cultivation methods.  Scroll down below to learn more about lab testing and how to get quantitative data to better understand the quality of the cannabis products you produce.   

Where/what to buy equipment?  Traditionally, hydroponic stores or “grow stores” have been a great source of getting equipment on the same day.  Over time, online sales for growing equipment have become more popular.   Lighting tends to be an area that new growers really struggle with and it can be a large portion of the overall grow expenses.  Electricity from lighting fixtures is only converted into light or heat which is why one approach is to buy higher efficiency and overall quality light fixtures.  This ensures that the electricity allocated toward lighting is as low as possible, and ultimately the least amount of heat is produced from that lighting.  These savings on running costs will eventually offset the initial expense of the light fixtures.  This is especially true if the grow continues to produce long term.   

How long does a cannabis grow take? The lifecycle of photoperiod cannabis plants is controlled by two distinct stages known as the vegetative stage and flowering stage.  In an indoor setting, a cultivator has the ability to change the light cycle between these two stages.  Majority of cannabis cultivars should flower in between 8-12 weeks.  A cultivator will typically transition or “flip” photoperiod from a vegetative cycle to a flowering cycle once they feel the vegetative plants are at a desired size and maturity.  The challenge here for cultivators is estimating the future growth during the flower cycle, and still making a decision on when to transition.  Photoperiod cannabis plants can be kept in a vegetative cycle for long periods of time which is often seen with “mother plants”. 

Auto-flowering cannabis seeds are not controlled by a photoperiod, and thus have a limited life cycle.   Some auto-flowering cannabis seeds can be harvested in as little as 50-60 days from seed, but always have a limited vegetative window.     For more information on stages of cannabis cultivations please click here to check out our blog post on the topic.   

How do I test my cannabis products/ how do I utilize a cannabis testing lab? 

Whether you are curious about potency, or concerned about safety, having access to a credible cannabis testing lab is key. If you are sharing your homegrown cannabis with others, it is especially important to be sure your cannabis is free of mold, mycotoxins, heavy metals, and pesticides. It is also helpful to know potency for proper dosing when using product. Different genetics produce various chemotypes, and also respond to changing variables within the grow. Testing periodically as you switch genetics and cultivation practices is a good way to see which direction you are heading.   To view a list of the testing services we offer at SafeTiva Labs and to learn more about submitting samples, please click here. To schedule an appointment with SafeTiva Labs, please click the button below.

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