If you would like to take your hydroponics crops to the next level and see better, more consistent yields then there may be one important step that you’re overlooking …
After all, you’ve probably invested a small fortune in your lighting system, the proper nutrients, lamps, and all the other technology hydro growers use—so why skimp out when it comes to the most important ingredient of all?
The truth is that to get the most out of the specialized nutrients that you buy, you need great water which means great water filtration.
Because if there’s other “stuff” in your water—then it can totally knock off the “balanced” nutrients you’re supposed to be feeding your plants even if you’re using the manufacturer’s instructions exactly!
What You MUST Know About Reverse Osmosis Water Benefits
In short, manufacturers of hydroponics nutrients have specifically designed their products to be used in exacting amounts for your plants, but if there’s other ingredients ALREADY in your water to start with, then you will end up with unbalanced nutrient solutions that harm your plants.
Take “Alkalinity” for example. The alkaline water contains high level of dissolved carbonates and bicarbonates of calcium and magnesium as ions. The alkalinity of water is the concentration of all sorts of ions in it, like calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and their carbonates and bicarbonates compounds. And bicarbonates are the worst offenders of the two.
The concentration of the ions is measured in PPM (parts-per-million). pH is a measure of intensity, not a quantity (concentration) of ions in the substrate.
What’s worse: alkalinity insidiously accumulates in your growing medium in a vicious cycle that will cause your growing medium pH to climb faster than a speeding bullet and give you pH stability problems in your reservoir and growing medium, substantially decreasing your yields.
To a lesser degree, there are other compounds whose concentrations are so low that we don’t even have to worry about them like hydroxide, sulfites and arsenates.
But still, that’s a lot of stuff in your water that you either don’t need, don’t want or that can potentially throw off your balanced feeding schedule which can lead to poor growth, smaller yields or even sick plants!
What You Should Know About “Hard” Water
And then there’s the subject of hardness. Shouldn’t you be concerned about that?
“Hardness” is the measure of the combined concentration of insoluble calcium and magnesium in the water.
When the amount of alkalinity in your source water hasn’t been measured and is then used to mix your nutrient solution – even with a properly pH balanced nutrient reservoir – your plants can suffer from a continuous build up of alkalinity that will silently sneak up on you and quickly raise your growing mediums pH, locking out your plants vital elements, and hijacking you from your crops true harvest potential.
Using a water softener to handle the hardness will only displace the calcium and magnesium ions and leave the carbonates and bicarbonates behind, which doesn’t change the alkalinity at all. So this is not the thing to do.
And a BIG WARNING, using a water softener will add unwanted sodium to your water severely decreasing your yields.
If you’re using well water it is almost guaranteed you will have alkalinity problems. In fact most municipalities have water that is poor quality and has alkalinity. We have personally seen municipal water that’s 900 PPM and chocked full of alkalinity.
Is There A Simple Measurement You Can Know For Sure If You Need RO Water?
You sure can! All you have to do is practice good ppm management. Here are two simple guidelines for you:
- The fact is, if your water is 10 PPM or below you’re safe.
- Anything over 10 PPM and you should invest in a reverse osmosis system
By now you may be asking, “how do we measure alkalinity?” Well, the way that alkalinity is measured is how much carbonate and bicarbonate is in the water.
So now we know that we have to test the water and there are several ways to test water alkalinity. One way is with an alkalinity meter (which measures it in ppm) which is quite different than an Electrical Conductivity meter (EC meter).
As an aside you can use an EC meter to do a quick check but it is not the same measurement. And the least expensive way to check your alkalinity is with a test kit where you add dilute acid until a color change occurs at a specific pH.
Now, you can get a digital meters online (and you should get one that uses titration which is actually the most accurate method of testing).
The Best Way To Measure PPM
One way people have measured the ppm is by measuring the electrical conductivity of water with TDS (total dissolved solids) but we would not advise this because TDS was intended for determining the acceptability of drinking water, not nutrient solutions.
Instead use a meter that measures EC (Electrical Conductivity) this type of meter was made specifically for measuring nutrient solutions.
Here is one of the biggest secrets the best growers in the world figured out a long time ago: if you want a world class crop you have to use really great water and really great water filtration methods.
And a very simple way to ensure that is get a reverse osmosis water system. It’s an absolute must for bigger yields. But first before we get into what is reverse osmosis water …
What is Osmosis?
Wikipedia defines osmosis as:
… used to describe a physical process in which any solvent moves across a semipermeable membrane (permeable to the solvent, but not the solute) separating two solutions of different concentrations
But that’s just the start.
When osmosis is used as a water filtration method, these same physical processes and semipermeable membranes are used, but a pressurized system is used to push the solvent (in our case the solvent is water) through the osmosis system.
So, how does reverse osmosis work?
At this point if you’re wondering what is RO (reverse osmosis), Wikipedia provides this reverse osmosis definition:
“Reverse osmosis (RO) is a water purification technology that uses a semipermeable membrane to remove ions, molecules, and larger particles from drinking water”.
… Reverse osmosis can remove many types of dissolved and suspended species from water, including bacteria, and is used in both industrial processes and the production of potable water. The result is that the solute is retained on the pressurized side of the membrane and the pure solvent is allowed to pass to the other side. To be “selective”, this membrane should not allow large molecules or ions through the pores (holes), but should allow smaller components of the solution (such as solvent molecules) to pass freely.”
So to recap what is reverse osmosis water?
As you are probably starting to see, the basic process is that you are forcing a solution (in this case water) to go through membrane filtration. For our uses, it goes through a multi-stage set of filters that are very fine, semi-permeable membranes—basically very, very fine filters.
This allows the water to pass through the filters, but all other molecules are trapped and kept from making it through. This is what purifies the water of all the dissolved minerals and other impurities.
In fact, one of the most widely-used applications for reverse osmosis is to produce pure drinking water from ocean water by filtering out all the salt that’s in the ocean water.
Most reverse osmosis systems that are used by hydroponics growers come in three stages.
- Stage 1 – Sediment Filter – this takes out all the big stuff that could damage the other fine filters. This would be the type of stuff you might see with the naked eye.
- Stage 2 – Carbon Filter – this takes out the chlorine and other organic elements.
- Stage 3 – Semi-Permeable Membrane – the final stage of the filter system is the most precise, removing the rest of the substances that didn’t get removed in stage 1 and 2.
How Do You Install A Reverse Osmosis (RO Water) System?
The good news is that most Reverse Osmosis systems are fairly simple to install. In fact, in the short video below you’ll see exactly how you can easily do it yourself:
Reverse osmosis systems are priced and rated by how many gallons or liters of water they produce in a 24 hour period. Because of this a lot of growers run theirs 24 hours a day into a separate reservoir. So to avoid over flowing your reverse osmosis water reservoir a float valve shut off should be installed.
Investing in a Reverse Osmosis System Is One of the Smartest Steps You Can Take to Get Better Results in Your Grow Room!
Think about it, you spent all that time and hard work building your grow room and then if the last thing you do is skimp on the water, it just doesn’t make sense.
They aren’t that expensive these day, prices start for under $100. A reverse osmosis system will take the impurities—including alkalinity—out of your water and give you bigger yields. It’s a no brainer really.
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