Imagine coming home on a frigid, damp, rainy winter day, and stepping into electric sunshine, tropical breezes, clean air — and the aroma of live marijuana plants.
I live in a three-bedroom suburban home, but during winter I spend almost all my time in my marijuana grow room. The only time I spend in the rest of the house is when I’m using the kitchen or bathroom.
My grow room used to be a 270 square-foot master bedroom, but I converted it into an indoor grow op.
This space has its own air conditioning; an exhaust port attached to a high-CFM exhaust fan attached to a carbon scrubber; a standalone, non-vented in-room scrubber and fan; several aeration fans; a Quest dehumidifier; and 3,600 watts of high intensity discharge (HID) and LED grow lights.
My three main lights are 1000-watt HID single-ended fixtures that I rotate metal halide and high-pressure sodium bulbs into and out of. I use a 600-watt LED grow light for side lighting and UV resin-boosting light wavelengths.
So why do I live in my grow room?
One big reason is I’m a committed environmentalist. An authentic environmentalist is more than someone who merely says they like nature and want a clean environment. It’s someone who arranges their lifestyle to decrease environmental impact to the absolutely lowest amount possible. This creates a painful dilemma for a cannabis grower, because indoor marijuana grow-room energy consumption isn’t environmentally friendly. Indeed, your energy consumption is off the charts.
Growing outdoors isn’t an option because I need the safety, security and cultivation benefits indoor growing provides.
Where I live, electricity is produced by a coal-fired facility. When the wind blows from the facility’s direction, coal smoke coats everything with black soot. Kids cough and have a high probability of developing asthma. We have high rates of emphysema here, too. You can’t leave your windows open because everything in your house will be covered in coal dust. You better keep your car covered or in your garage. Every time I see hazy air and smell coal smoke, I feel guilty about burning lots of watts to grow my cannabis plants.
I looked into installing solar panels and even windmills, but I can’t afford them and they’re not going to provide the energy I need. I have no choice but to purchase electricity from the coal-fired grid. However, I still desperately wanted to mitigate my environmental impact by offsetting the approximately 4,100 watts worth of hydroponics grow-room equipment I run for 12–18 hours a day.
Decreasing Your Electronic Footprint
My initial step was to decrease all other electricity use. I got rid of my big-screen television and other nonessential electronic toys, like my blender and PlayStation. In summer, I set my air conditioning at 84°F daytime and 77°F night. Yes, this is barely tolerable; I often feel scuzzy sweating in bed, but I use less electricity than if I had my thermostat set to cool the house to 68°F like my neighbors do.
I ride my bicycle way more and drive less, limiting my car travel to family emergencies. I stopped traveling on airplanes. I grow a vegetable garden and planted fruit trees. Whenever I have an activity-based decision to make — should I travel? Buy things? Put up Christmas lights? — my main concern is whether the activity is really necessary, and how much of an environmental impact it will have.
Part of my ecological impact reduction strategy was to only grow cannabis during cold months, from September through April. I’d long been unhappy about the high cost and energy consumption of cooling my grow room during hot months.
During cold months, before I started living in my grow room, I used electricity to heat my house to 71°F. The heating costs averaged $145 a month. My calculations showed that running 4,100 watts of grow lights and other grow-room equipment cost an additional $150 a month.
By living in the grow room and shutting off the rest of the house all winter, I offset my environmental impact and enjoy the pleasant marijuana grow-room environment, where it’s 74–78°F whenever the lights are on, and rarely drops below 65°F when the lights are off. Running my grow op and keeping the house closed off, I can shut down my whole-house heating and still have a very comfortable winter refuge.
Living Among Marijuana Plants
Other growers may choose to circulate their grow-room heat into other parts of the house during cold months, channeling warmth into the return of their central heating system. Or they hook up the room exhaust fan to a duct hose and blast the heat into the rest of their home or basement.
I didn’t want to undertake the engineering that would make those heat transfer options possible in my house. Instead, I chose to live in the grow room, surrounded by bright, beautiful light and filtered air, the white noise of the fans, the oxygen manufactured and exuded by my plants.
There was no toilet, kitchen or shower in the grow room. When I had to bathe, shave, use the toilet or make food, I took with me a small space heater for temporary warmth.
In the grow room, the area taken up by my marijuana plants and ancillary grow op equipment occupied about 110 square feet of the 270 available. In the unoccupied area, I installed an inflatable mattress, chair, and a lamp with a green light bulb. The green light bulb allows me to have light during dark phase — green light doesn’t upset the cannabis photoperiod cycle. For reading during lights off, I use a green miner’s light that fits on my head.
Sleeping in the grow room is like sleeping in a cocoon. Such a serene sleeping chamber. The total darkness, the armored, insulated, soundproofed walls and ceiling, the smell of marijuana plants, the carbon-filtered air, the total quiet (other than when the dehumidifier is on) are all exceptionally healing and restful.
During bloom phase, I adapt my schedule to that of the plants’ light cycles. Before humans discovered fire, and made light from oils and later from bulbs and tubes, we went to sleep when the sun went down, waking at sunrise. Our brains evolved to follow this natural rhythm of the sun and the moon.
Today’s 24/7 pace has negative health effects because we don’t allow our bodies to follow their natural circadian rhythm, sleeping when our bodies need us to sleep. In bloom phase living in my grow op I get about 9–10 hours of blissful sleep per night, and my dreams are more lucid than any 3-D movie.
My plants appreciate that I’m exhaling CO2 in their grow room. My grow op is like a symbiotic spaceship where I feed my plants carbon dioxide from my lungs, and they feed me oxygen.
I lay on my back on the floor a lot, reading books and listening to music. I look up at the walls covered in reflective Mylar that reminds me of Christmas wrapping paper. I gaze up at the grow lights, the fans, ceiling, and of course my marijuana plants. I’m familiar with every inch of that room from a floor-level perspective most growers never appreciate, and my constant presence in close quarters with my plants helps me stop trouble before it starts.
Problem’s I’ve Stopped Due To Living In My Grow Op
I use column-type oscillating fans. I can easily see when they have dust and debris on them and need cleaning. I heard the bearings in one fan starting to go bad and swiftly replaced it. I noticed that one fan had a red “power on” light that would have disrupted my plants’ photoperiod orientation, so I put a piece of tape over the light.
I’m so familiar with my lighting that I can visually detect when my high intensity bulbs are wearing out. I know the light profile cast by each reflector and the intensity, so can see bulbs degrading in miniscule amounts as they age. I’ve detected a bulb that had an internal flaw and was set to explode. I heard an odd hum from one of my digital ballasts that indicated an impending electrical fault. These early warnings helped me avoid potentially catastrophic grow-room failures.
I’m very in tune to grow-room temperature and humidity and am able to accurately gauge both without consulting a measuring device. When the humidity or temperature are too high, I turn on the dehumidifier or open the grow-room door. Some growers have monitoring systems that control air conditioning, fans and dehumidifiers. I do it myself.
One of the sweetest benefits of living in the grow room is my ability to detect pests, molds and fungi. Even though my room is armored with a blockade of materials that seal windows and filter what comes in, ants somehow penetrate the grow room on a periodic basis. I suspect they come in with soilless mixes I use. I don’t want to ever use poison, so I set out shallow dishes with honey in them. When the ants march into the honey trap, I take the dishes outside and shake off the ones that aren’t trapped in a sticky death.
I see flying pests such as whiteflies and fungus gnats. I use lots of yellow sticky traps, but some flyers are adept at avoiding the traps. I spend many hours kneeling or sitting cross-legged in the plant area, playing hide and seek with insects. Tracking and killing them improves my hand-eye coordination and my eyesight, and has helped me totally eradicate pests without poison.
I gaze at my plants frequently, from above and below, so I instantly detect even the smallest sign of nutrient problems as soon as they arrive, such as burning leaf tips, and immediately research and remediate problems. Even if a plant’s leaves only slightly droop, curl or puff up, I see it as soon as it happens and sleuth for causes. In regular grow rooms where growers only look at their plants once a day if that, problems can flare up and get serious. In my grow room, I’m the constant gardener, and my alert presence stops problems almost as soon as they start.
I remember one particular day in the grow room, when I was looking up where the ceiling joins the wall and saw the ceiling plaster looked like it was bubbling. I thought I was hallucinating, but when I got on a stepladder and touched the plaster, it felt moist. I rushed outside and climbed onto the roof. It was where the slanted part of my roof joined a flatter part that I saw the water seeping in.
I rushed back inside and peeled away the Mylar in the area of the seep. A virulent colony of mold was living there. I sealed the roof, moved my marijuana plants to the open side of the room, removed the Mylar where the mold was, scrubbed the wall area with chlorine bleach, let it dry, removed the tainted Mylar and replaced it with a fresh roll. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t noticed the bubbling. Probably a mold outbreak that would have eaten my buds, that’s what.
My cold months’ electricity bill is the same if not lower now than before I started running a grow room in the house. I consider this an environmentalist’s victory. I haven’t increased my electricity usage by running a grow room, because I cut back so drastically on my electricity consumption in other ways.
I’m considering whether I should live in the grow room and grow cannabis in the summer, too. I gave up summer growing because the cost of running the grow op and keeping the rest of the house cool was just too high, meaning my profits took a hit. But I think I can adapt my winter tactics to summer and grow year-round.
My ultimate goal is to get land in a remote, natural, quiet, peaceful place and build a tiny house that’s a sealed grow room with an external food prep and bathroom area. I’d have solar panels and windmills. The spaceship analogy will be very accurate if I build what I envisage.
One final safety note: Professional marijuana grow lights send out UV wavelengths that can harm your eyes and skin, so you must be mindful of using protective eyewear and clothing that blocks UV.
It might not be practical for you to live in your grow room like I do. But the more time you spend in your grow room, the more you’ll enjoy its vibrant light, fresh and oxygenated air, beautiful green leaves, and fat, aromatic buds. Plus you’ll be able to sooner detect and correct any grow-room problems. In your marijuana grow room, every day is a beautiful summer’s day.