Introduction: A Small DIY Home Hydroponics Setup

Picture of A Small DIY Home Hydroponics Setup

Here's my rendition of an inexpensive, successful little DIY Hydroponics system. I've no expertise or background in the area but thought this project info may be useful to others.

Having bought and enjoyed an AeroGarden Classic 6 LED system ($85 shipped Amazon Warehouse) wanted a higher volume setup but didn't want to pay too much for it. Combed the web for info and ideas, tossed in a few of my own and built this project. Very happy with the results. Though doing again I'd have gone a different way with the choice of lighting.

This Instructable just documents a project I built, through a BOM and photos, it does not cover basics or in-depth info available elsewhere and in other Instructables (e.g. "Hydroponics - at Home and for Beginners").

Step 1: Design and Accumulate Materials

So, again, not a conventional Instructable, more just for ideas to drive your own project.

The design and construction of this project is revealed through its photos (next steps).

Here's the Bill of Materials:

  • Opaque and/or painted plastic storage bin. 6” deep is enough, I wanted one about 1.5’ wide X 2’ long. I used Sterilite 28 Qt. Latch Box-16551010.

  • White paint for bin top and sides, want little or no light entering bin and white reflects/doesn’t get hot. The Sterilite’s sides are more or less clear so run a thin piece of masking tap down a side prior to paint (to pull for water level check sight).

  • Wood base for box to sit on, longer than box & thick/sturdy enough for right-angle bracket screws. I used an old shelf.

  • Couple/few lengths of 1” x 2”s for two side posts & light hood bar. You could suspend LED Grow Panel(s) from wire, I preferred clamps.

  • Four 90deg bend brackets for sides of 1" x 2" to wood base mounting.
  • Lighting for light hood. Mine was a wacky culmination of lights I’d bought over time, so a bit of a mess and LOTS of work & time. Doing again I’d go for two 45W or so high-quality LED Grow light panels. Probably $50(?) each or more, don’t skimp here you’re having the audacity to try to emulate the Sun!.

  • Timer for light rated for much more than your light draw. Will want light on like 12 - 16 hrs a day depending.
  • Two Clamp Light with Reflectors, you’ll be using their spring clamps for light hood.

  • Two “fender” washers large enough to cover clamp light springs with small enough holes for wood screws.

  • Aquarium Air Pump. I used $7 Walmart Aqua Culture 5-15 Gallon, Single Outlet Aquarium Air Pump

  • Several feet of clear air pump/stone tubing. Poke a hole in bin well above water line for entry.

  • One or more Air Stones, tiny ones may not be enough I used one long type.
    Note: Have to weight air stone down or do something to keep it on box bottom (the way I did it, old iPhone box + zip ties to lid & air stone, was a time waster).

  • You can choose to trust a cheap check valve (if power goes out), I chose to mount pump high on 1” x 2” support (using gravity instead)

  • TDS Meter, I got $9 “Frentaly® Digital TDS Meter with Temperature Monitor” from Amazon.

  • 3” Net cups / Mesh pots with good edge lips so they work with the 3” hole saw. I used 12 from a 24 pack (Amazon?)

  • 3” Hole Saw ($7 Amazon). And something to cut H2O / nutrient fill hole.

  • Some kind of hydroponics nutrients, I use Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Liquid Nutrients (1 Quart, $28 Amazon) because we’ve an AeroGarden, its PH buffered, seems to have nice nutrient coverage. It’s the only thing I use other than water. I shoot for maintaining 800ppm - 1000ppm.

  • Expanded Clay Aggregate Pebbles, 2lbs ($10) just did my 12 net cups.

  • Some way to suspend seeds until they root into Clay Aggregate Pebbles. I use Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Sponges, 50 for $18 from Amazon (again, we’ve an AeroGarden as well)

  • Sink stopper for water adding hole.

  • Zip Ties, screws, saw, drill, etc.

  • Aquarium Siphon Cleaner Water Change Vacuum ($5 eBay). Need to change H2O now & then.

  • Smoke alarm coverage above system.

Optional:

  • Black/white poly film surround to retain light & heat. You won't want to spend any time in the same room as this thing due to its bright, glaring light.:
    - More 1" x 2" for top crossbar, Duct tape
    - Small diameter PVC tubing for rectangular top frame (pipe clamps to mount, PVC glue, elbows, etc)
    - Black/white film (I used "HYDROPONICS B&W PANDA POLY FILM HEAVY 6 mil")
  • Little, low volume circulation fan. I used an old 12V PC fan and old 12V DC adapter. This helped circulate the heat from the light hood, raising the plant area temperature from basement's 55F/60F to about 70F.

Step 2: Construction

Picture of Construction

Lots of photos. Again doing over I'd go with large square/rectangular high-quality LED grow lights. My light hood was an iterative process representing way too much work, using mostly florescent bulbs that don't last forever and took some wiring (hence the dedicated smoke alarm above this thing:) but the plants do like it.

Comments

corradini (author)2017-03-08

Also, for lighting I bought 2 packs of 5 LED ribbons from Amazon - I think ~$15 w/ power brick- with a red/blue ratio (green wavelengths are wasted for reasons that become obvious with a few seconds' thought. ;-) I curved a sheet of thin plywood a bit - sprayed w/ warm water and tied loops of rope to hold the curve in place through more wettings until it stayed. Then spray-adhesive'd some mylar space blanket as a reflector, and stuck the led strips on. They're adhesive-backed but it's lousy adhesive and mylar's slick, so I used narrow strips of duct tape to help. Works great, really lightweight and low power per lumen, very little wasted as heat.

cfcubed (author)corradini2017-03-09

Thanks for your comments / suggestions. Yes, lots of ways to go here, lots of info on various forums WRT lighting, etc.

Though it depends on what you're growing (me: non-flowering greens) I learned the more light/lumens the better (to a point I guess). For kicks I'd bought a $13 Docooler light meter to see what my plants were getting, part of the reason for all the bulbs:) And comparing to the sun on a sunny day was interesting too:)

My lighting happened to work well lumen & heat-wise as I wanted 10-15 deg F rise anyway. Don't remember why I went white/black sheeting vs cheaper space blanket but the white seems reflective enough. Your curved reflector sounds neat, I've never been one to work with wood hence my bent up metal sheet.

Thanks again for tips, others may benefit from 'em. I've spent enough time & $$$ on this setup as it is, esp. for my category of crops (salad stuff, basil, etc).

corradini (author)2017-03-08

Nice improv - very Macguyver! I'd suggest lining the walls with reflective film. I used a mylar "space blanket" - they're like 3-5 bucks in the camping section of a Target or Walmart! Huge sq.ft., cheap, and very lightweight - so easy to stick on with spray adhesive, glue stick, etc. Helps with both light and heat retention - the heat's key for my super hot Carolina Reaper peppers. Helps with germination, too, and can signal many plants that frost is past and it's time to flower/fruit (or bud - I'm not judging. Hey, that's legal here in CA now anyway. :-)

Fuzzy Monkey (author)2017-03-05

Great work!

cfcubed (author)Fuzzy Monkey2017-03-06

Thanks!

A bit about my light hood debacle, started with the two Apollo Horticulture 24W (13W actual) LED Grow Lights and they weren't enough for the 1.5'+ X 2'+ grow area. Then added four 40W flourescents w/Westinghouse 22259 2-Lamp sockets then the four little 13Ws on ends for edge fill.

Knowing what I know now would consider 1 or 2 good 45W LED panels (e.g. maybe HIGROW KB-GL45A) or one good 200W-300W one (maybe Roleadro, 125w-175w actual).