Most hydroponic systems require electricity for smooth operation. But what if there’s a power outage? When I first experienced this, my plants started withering. Are you wondering why that suddenly happened? I’ve got the answers you’re looking for!
In general, power outages deprive hydroponic plants of optimal oxygen, light, water circulation, and temperature control. As a solution, one could transfer the system to a sunny location, lower water levels in the reservoir, transfer the plants to other containers, or water them conventionally.
Aside from these measures, are there other ways to prevent the negative effects of power outages in hydroponic systems? The quick answer is yes! Before you finish reading this article, I will reveal optional—but worthy—investments that you can make to help your hydroponic plants thrive even when the electricity goes out.
Power outages can negatively affect the hydroponic plants, water reservoirs, and the surrounding temperature, depending on the system’s usage of electricity-reliant equipment. Examples of this equipment are aerators, water pumps, water chillers or heaters, and grow lights.
For hydroponic systems such as active deep water culture, nutrient film technique, and ebb and flow, instances of power outage would challenge and stress out hydroponic veggies and herbs. Why? This is because these systems use aerators to provide oxygen to their nutrient water.
They also use water pumps to circulate the hydroponic solution throughout the entire system.
In cold and warm climates, they use water chillers or heaters which are also electricity-driven. Most importantly, they are usually grown indoors—requiring light-emitting diode (LED) grow lights as the source of energy.
Considering these scenarios, we can clearly say that a power outage will not benefit your hydroponic system! Now, let us dive into the specifics.
Hydroponic plants may experience abiotic stress during power outages due to oxygen deprivation.
What do I mean when I say abiotic? The term “abiotic” there means that the stressors are not living, rather, they are environmental.
Let us go back to the four hydroponic equipment that will be gone in the case of power interruption. I will discuss them one by one in the next sections.
First, we have the aerator which is responsible for providing oxygen to your plant roots. When roots are deprived of oxygen, they start to slow down their biological processes.
One important process for plant survival is respiration—or in layman’s terms, breathing. Yes, your vegetables and herbs also breathe! Without oxygen, the plant’s roots may also experience drowning, which can result in the softening of your plant—in the worst case, death.
Since nutrient water is mobilized using pumps, losing a stable power source will prevent proper circulation of the hydroponic solution through the system.
The water pump is another hydroponic apparatus that will stop functioning during a power outage.
Remember that in hydroponic systems such as ebb and flow and nutrient film technique, tubes play a vital role in the water supply.
Equipment such as water chillers and heaters will be rendered useless in the case of a power outage. This can cause a significant increase or decrease in the hydroponic solution’s temperature which can adversely affect plant processes.
Undesirably hot nutrient water temperatures, specifically those over 75°F, facilitate microbial development. This can be especially problematic for gardeners living in warm areas without a stable source of electricity to power a water chiller.
In places with warm climates, using water chillers for hydroponic gardening might be a key to a successful harvest.
However, during long power outages, hydroponic plants could experience a water temperature shift. This gradual change in the water temperature is a stressful phenomenon for your plants.
When they are further exposed to high temperatures above 75°F, the possibility of microbial growth heightens. Remember that a hot hydroponic solution is a breeding ground for bad bacteria, and we do not want that for our plants!
Cold water temperatures, specifically below 60°F, generally result in slower plant growth. This could affect gardeners who do not have room insulation and a water heater.
For hydroponic growers in cold climates, water heaters can help balance out the temperature. But during power interruptions, this piece of equipment also shut down; thereby cooling the water down once again.
When plants are exposed to very low temperatures, the roots are deprived of oxygen access. In this case, the roots will not function anymore, leading to slower biological processes. As a direct result, plant growth slows down as well.
Explore more on this essential hydroponics factor in our article about temperature.
Light-emitting diode (LED) grow lights are key components of indoor hydroponic systems. Thus, power outages can deprive plants of essential light that is required for the facilitation of key biological processes (i.e., photosynthesis).
Perhaps, you have heard the term “photosynthesis” at least once in your life.
Today, let us have a quick review. Photosynthesis is also known as the food-making process in plants. When I say food for plants, I am referring to sugars. One of the products of photosynthesis is sugar.
As a real-life scenario, let me ask. Have you ever felt a sugar rush? Personally, whenever I consume foods with high sugar, like a slushie, I can feel so much energy!
The same thing happens in plants. When the cells have enough sugar, it is converted to energy that powers biological processes—making your plants grow bigger and taller!
Now, why am I saying this? How is this related to grow lights?
Well, you must not forget about the first 5 letters of photosynthesis, which spell photo. Photo means light. Thus, this process will not happen without light. In short, plants need light to make food.
Without electricity grow lights won’t work. Without lights, hydroponic plants can not make their own food. Without food, plants will not grow and develop.
However, keep in mind that not all grow lamps can give your plants the light they need to grow and produce flowers and fruits.
Find out more about grow light in our article on plant-usable (PAR) lights.
Of course, after discussing these horrible effects of the power outage, I will not leave you hanging! I will discuss what to do with your hydroponic system during a power outage in the next section.
Moving the plants outside to have sunlight access is the first thing to do during a power outage. In deep water culture, one should lower the water level. Transferring the plants to another container is the best choice for nutrient film technique. While in ebb and flow systems, watering the plants using a sprinkler will do.
One of the major concerns during long power outages is sunlight access. Thus, it will be a great help for your plant to be exposed to sunlight. This is necessary because the sunlight will provide energy that the plant can use to continue its biological processes.
The next concern to address would be oxygen and water access.
In deep water culture systems, you can just lower the water level. Doing this will provide the root zone with some space to breathe. In this gap, gas exchange (oxygen goes to the roots and carbon dioxide is released) could happen. This principle is also the same with the Kratky hydroponics system, which uses no electricity.
Learn more about this in our article deep water culture secrets for massive harvest.
Then, in nutrient film technique hydroponic systems, it is best to temporarily transfer the plant to another container that can house the net pots while roots dangle in the water. You can use a styrofoam box or a big basin for this!
Lastly, for ebb and flow hydroponics, you can just take the plant pots outside and water them like typical soil-grown plants.
Hydroponic gardeners should consider investing in equipment that will counter the adverse effects of a power outage. Such investments include using a 1) solar panel, 2) gas generator, 3) power bank, and 4) room insulators.
Solar panels are effective, environmentally friendly, and a clean way to harness energy to power hydroponic systems in cases of a power outage.
Considering the current state of our world due to climate change, shifting to renewable sources of energy will be a great help. Making your home and your hydroponic garden solar-powered is a good first step.
Below is one of the available solar panels on Amazon.
With solar power, you do not have to rely on utility companies to keep your hydroponic garden running smoothly.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about paying monthly electricity bills if you are off the grid!
A fuel-operated generator can also sustain a hydroponic system during a power outage. This could power the aerators, water pumps, water chillers or heaters, and grow lights.
The product below is an example of a gas generator available on Amazon.
One of the biggest advantages of this product is its quietness. It produces minimal sound at 51 decibels at quarter load— which can be compared to the sound of two people talking to each other.
Typical phone power banks can be used to make LED grow lights with USB ports function during a power outage.
LED grow lights like the one below on Amazon can be plugged into power banks. This option would be a great initial plan for short power outages.
Below is another great option from Amazon. Due to its versatile and powerful ports, this is a wise choice for more power-demanding systems such as nutrient film technique and ebb and flow systems.
In cold and warm climates, it is a wise decision to insulate the hydroponics grow room. This is because a fluctuation in temperature could negatively impact the sanitation of the nutrient water and growth of hydroponic plants.
Insulators can prevent cold objects from warming up, and vice versa.
Materials such as plastic, rubber, and styrofoam boxes are good insulators that can be installed in grow rooms located in places with warm or cold climates.
Can you do hydroponics without electricity?
Yes, hydroponics can be done without power through the Kratky method. In this technique, you only need a reservoir, net cup, nutrient water, growing medium, and your seedling. It is a passive system, meaning, air pumps are not needed. Furthermore, plants grown in this system are usually situated outside to provide natural light.
What containers can I use for a Kratky system?
Mason jars are usually used in Kratky hydroponics. However, you can also reuse plastic bottles or buckets! You just need to make sure that the plastic products you will use are food-grade. These are plastics with the numbers 2 or 5 below it. Learn how to do a DIY kratky system in our article DIY deep water culture hydroponics.
How long should an air pump run for hydroponics?
Hydroponic systems generally require 30-minute intervals of on and off. The exemption to this rule is DWC because it requires continuous aeration. For aeroponics, drip systems, ebb and flow,and nutrient film technique systems, air pumps come with a timer that will circulate the water for the specific time interval you set.
Most hydroponic systems run on electricity. Thus, power outages are detrimental to a hydroponic plant’s growth and development. When the power goes out, hydroponic plants are deprived of oxygen, water is not circulated, the water temperature may rise or fall, and artificial light sources are unusable.
However, one can resolve these problems by 1) transferring the system to a location with sunlight access, 2) lowering the water level in deep water culture systems, 3) transferring the plants to another container for nutrient film technique, and 4) watering the plants using a sprinkler in the ebb and flow systems.
Furthermore, investing in power-generating equipment for hydroponics is a wise decision. One can install solar panels, use gas generators, utilize power banks, and insulate the grow room to control the temperature.