Hydroponic Gardening For Beginners

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You’ve always had an interest in gardening. You may have a small garden of your own at home, or you could spend time at community gardens helping other people develop green thumb. You’ve spent more time outside than you can count weeding, harvesting, and doing pest control, and you’re more than proud of the farmer’s tan you’ve earned from it. There’s no doubt that you love gardening, but recently you’ve felt like something has been missing. It’s not that you’re bored of gardening; it just feels like you need a change. If you really want to try something new, maybe you should consider moving your garden indoors.

Hydroponic gardening is the garden of the future. Hydroponic gardening takes up much less space than traditional gardens and some even argue that the setup is better for the environment. You don’t need an entire laboratory to have a hydroponic garden, your basement and some equipment will do just fine.  If you’re ready to enter the world of hydroponics, make sure you follow these tips.

Get good lighting

Plants need sunlight to grow, and you’re going to have to replicate the sun’s nourishing rays with proper lighting.  You’re going to need lamps that can get the job done, but you should shy away from super high wattage lamps. They could overheat, or potentially cause a fire if they’re left unattended. Do some research into to what you want to plant before you run out to get your lamps. Certain wattages are recommended for certain plant species, and if you get a lamp that’s too strong or too weak you can have a failed hydro garden on your hands.

Keep nutrients simple

Some people that are new to hydroponic growing are quick to overload their system with a variety of nutrients, and they end up with plants that can’t thrive. It is possible to have too much of a good thing when you’re hydro gardening.  Don’t feel the need to add a lot of additives to your nutrient mix when you’re first starting out. Vitamin B1, silica, and liquid seaweed can be excellent additives when you’re a bit more of a seasoned hydroponic gardener. If you use too much too fast you’ll doom your plants to nutrients overload.

Pay attention to your water

Regular old tap water isn’t ideal for hydroponic gardens. Some local water may not have the right pH balance, or have too many minerals that can harm your plants. Make sure that you’re using the cleanest water possible, and don’t be afraid to refresh it. You should also make sure that your water is always at a good temperature. You can always rent a chiller to keep the water cold and crisp during the heat of summer.

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4 Potential Problems to Avoid with Ice Rink Chillers

ice rink

Ice rink chillers are the heart of an ice rink. They’re also expensive. If you’re investing in renting or owning ice rink chillers, you need to make sure they’re worth it and that everything will operate smoothly. Here are four potential problems and how to avoid them:

  1. Refrigerant leaks. Refrigerant leaks are costly for an ice rink because ice rink chillers depend entirely on maintaining a strong charge of refrigerant to keep operating. Even a small refrigerant leak can lead to decreased efficiency, higher energy bills and eventually a lack of performance. There are two main ways to avoid refrigerant leaks in an ice rink chilling system. The first is to use indirect chilling whenever possible. With indirect chilling, the refrigerant stays in the chiller instead of running through the tubes under the rink, so it’s more contained. There are less opportunities for a leak. The second is to use chillers that are in good condition and inspected and maintained regularly.

 

  1. Can’t handle warm climates. If you operate an ice rink during summer months or anywhere that isn’t as cold as, say, Canada and the upper Midwest, your chiller is fighting against nature to keep your ice rink cold. That means that there is no one-size-fits-all chiller for the job. Ice rink chillers have been developed that effectively keep ice rinks ice cold even in a California summer—and you need to get these units. If you use a unit that doesn’t have the capacity and design for your typical temperatures, you’re going to see massive energy bills and quite possibly a decline in the quality of your ice surface.

 

  1. Humidity problems. Humidity problems are also primarily a warm-climate issue, at least for ice rinks. It’s also a problem that primarily plagues indoor rinks. When a rink is enclosed, the temperature inside the rink building is different than that outside, and air can hold more moisture if it’s warmer. In a warm climate, warm humid air drifts in through the doors and then cools over the rink. The result is water condensation on surfaces throughout the ice rink building, which can cause damage and safety hazards. The correct solution is to first of all track humidity in the building, and use a dehumidification system as needed to control it.

 

  1. Doesn’t freeze fast enough. Your ice rink should not take days to freeze. If the freeze time is slow, consider whether you have sufficient chiller capacity. It may be worthwhile to inspect your chiller units and also test their refrigerant charge.

 

What do you look for in ice rink chillers?

 

Should You Use Direct or Indirect Ice Rink Refrigeration?

ice rink refrigeration

Ice rinks are a major business now. Once a niche industry confined largely to northern areas, ice sports in all their forms have now gone global and you’ll find hockey teams, professional ice skaters, and casual skating enthusiasts everywhere from Hawaii to Miami to Saudi Arabia. That means more businesses are considering opening an ice rink as either part of an existing property or as a business unto itself. But that means getting the right ice rink chillers and choosing the best setup for your property: a direct refrigeration or indirect refrigeration ice rink. Here is our guide to the difference between these two types of systems, the advantages of each, and our recommendation on which way to go.

What they Have in Common

Both types of rinks use similar ice rink chillers. These chillers use a refrigerant, most commonly a form of ammonia or else Freon gas. The refrigerant is what actually does the chilling in either type of system. That is where the similarities end, however: direct versus indirect refrigeration uses the ice rink chiller very differently, and requires different amounts of refrigerant.

Direct Refrigeration

Direct refrigeration means that the refrigerant itself is pumped out underneath the rink floor in a series of tubes. This makes the rink floor cold and causes the water layer to become ice. This is the most efficient way of chilling an ice rink.

There are drawbacks, however. Direct refrigeration systems typically cost more to install, because they use more refrigerant. At the same time, because the refrigerant is being circulated through miles of pipes, there’s more risk of a leak. This can be problematic both because refrigerant is expensive to replace, and because Freon, which is odorless, is a toxic guess.

The main reason businesses choose direct systems is to reduce operating costs and improve energy efficiency.

Indirect Refrigeration

With indirect refrigeration, the refrigerant never leaves the chiller machines themselves. Instead, it us used to chill brine—a simple mixture of water and salt—that passes through tubes in the chiller. This brine is then what’s pumped out underneath the rink floor, causing it to freeze over.

Indirect systems are less efficient than direct systems, because heat has to be transferred between the brine and refrigerant to keep the brine cool. It will always take more energy to run an indirect system than an equivalent direct one. However, the substance going out under the rink is harmless and cheap to replace, so leaks are less of an issue.

Which is Right?

Which type of ice rink chiller system is right for your business depends a lot on your setup. In general, we would err toward an indirect system. There is less risk of losing refrigerant and having to pay to replace it later. The added energy cost may not be significant, especially compared to the price of a Freon charge.

If you have a small, modern, well maintained facility, however, or if energy costs are extremely high in your area, then direct may be the way to go. If this is the case, simply make sure the system is checked regularly for leaks to minimize losses.

What kind of ice rink system are you considering?

 

 

The 4 Main Types of Ice Rinks

ice rink

You may not be aware of this, but there are many types of ice rinks, each with its own specific requirements and uses. Here are the four main kinds, what they’re used for, and what to expect from each one:

Indoor rinks

Indoor rinks are the most commonly used for major sporting events and ice shows. This is because they are the most controlled and efficient of all ice rink setups. They also tend to be in use year-round. One of their major advantages is their energy efficiency—the ice rink chillers do not have to fight against ambient outdoor temperatures to keep the ice smooth and solid. Most indoor rinks can be thawed and used instead as solid, dry sporting arenas—frequently doubling as the venue for multiple types of sports. The chillers are usually located out of sight underneath the bleachers or in a separate equipment room. Because of their reliability, they are commonly used as training areas for skaters and hockey players.

Outdoor rinks

When we refer to outdoor rinks, we don’t mean lakes or ponds that have frozen over for winter. We mean controlled man-made settings that let you enjoy ice skating in the outdoors. Large-scale outdoor rinks use the same technology as indoor rinks, but are clearly more at the mercy of the weather. Their chillers can deliver a consistent icy surface for up to five months of the year in temperate areas, but they are usually shut down when spring arrives. The chillers may be in an equipment house or may be fenced off beside the rink. When the ice is thawed, the same space can be used as a track, basketball court or other sporting space.

Permanent residential rinks

Residential rinks are becoming more common, especially with the surge in popularity of ice hockey. Many professional NHL players grew up with access to a residential rink, and this extra ice time contributed to their skills in the game. When a permanent residential rink is installed, the setup is similar to a larger outdoor rink: pipes are laid under a permanent pad. Generally, the chillers are smaller and use less energy because of the smaller square footage, and the pad can be used for other activities in the summer.

Temporary residential rinks

Temporary rinks are the only ones that do not require piping and a fixed surface. Instead, the rink is rolled out like a mat over any flat surface, and the chilled fluid runs through tubing inside the mat itself. This allows for recreational use of a rink without the commitment of a permanent year-round arena.

What kind of ice rink is best for your needs?