Why a master controller is better than a thermostat for your greenhouse operation.
Ceres’ patented solar design and innovative climate control technologies enable us to build year round greenhouses in any climate. Depending on geographic location, crop application, and specific client needs our greenhouses might operate with different types of ventilation, HVAC and other greenhouse growing systems. To manage our vented greenhouse designs and the different growing systems within, we’ve partnered with Atom Controllers to provide an easy-to-use automation system for monitoring and adjusting the greenhouse environment as one complete unit.
If you’re wondering what our automated greenhouse control systems can do that a thermostat can’t, you’ve come to the right place. We will discuss the benefits of using a Ceres master controller to automate your greenhouse growing systems and why you shouldn’t rely on a thermostat to create an optimal growing environment.
Total system control in one place
A good controller manipulates every aspect of the greenhouse effortlessly to help the grower achieve maximum yields with minimal labor and the lowest energy cost. With a Ceres fully integrated controller you can connect and automate the following hardware:
- Exhaust fans, ridge fans and louvers
- HAF and VAF fans
- Heaters and dehumidifiers
- Ridge and side vents
- Wet walls
- CO2 burners and injectors
- Blackout and shading curtains
- GAHT™ & Transition Manifold
When all your mechanical and greenhouse environmental control systems can be automated through one interface, your greenhouse can function efficiently as one cohesive unit. A controller allows your greenhouse growing systems to work together rather than operating as completely independent entities.
In comparison, a thermostat is much simpler and can only control the temperature in your greenhouse via two direct connections to your heating and cooling systems. All other greenhouse growing systems, such as your vents, lights and dehumidifiers must be controlled separately, requiring a lot more guesswork from you as the grower.
Precise Environmental Control
Our automated greenhouse controllers are equipped with temperature, humidity, CO2 and PAR light sensors to allow you to have more precise environmental control over your grow environment. You can also get very granular when it comes to system control.
For instance, if you’re trying to cool your greenhouse to a desired temperature setpoint, you can program your controller to solely turn on your GAHT™ (ground to air heat transfer) system if this is all the power needed to drop the temperature of your environment. If your GAHT™ system is not enough to cool your greenhouse, you can program your controller to turn on your smallest exhaust fan to assist the GAHT™. If even more cooling is needed you can turn on your bigger exhaust fans or your wet wall independently until you’ve achieved optimal temperature and humidity levels.
The same goes for heating your greenhouse. If your GAHT™ system isn’t sufficient, you can turn your gas heaters on and your GAHT™ off. This ensures that you aren’t sucking the warm air from your heaters into the ground and instead warm air stays in your greenhouse. We size our heaters at ⅓ and ⅔ heating loads (instead of ½ and ½) so if you need a little bit of heat, your controller will turn on ⅓ of your heat at a higher efficiency for a longer amount of time. If this is not enough, your controller will turn the first heater off and turn on the ⅔ heater at a higher efficiency for longer. This is more efficient than having two heaters at ½ heating loads and running them for shorter periods of time at low efficiency. This mechanical design means you have more granular control of the same number of heaters.
This environmental automation can be programmed in advance through a series of climate stages. Setting climate stages on your controller allows for a precise sequence of operations to occur in your greenhouse which creates a more stable environment. The photo below demonstrates the simplicity of programming your climate stages through your controller. It also demonstrates how precise and detailed you can get with your climate stages to allow for more efficiency in your greenhouse. If you’re only using the heating and cooling you need, you’re lowering your energy usage and operational costs.
A thermostat is not precise or accurate. In order to reach temperature setpoints, a thermostat will turn on your heating or cooling system in its entirety until the desired temperature is reached and then it will shut everything off. This creates big temperature swings that create an unstable growing environment. Also, this all or nothing functionality of a thermostat wastes a lot of energy and is a very inefficient way to regulate the temperature of your greenhouse.
With a Ceres controller you can record all your greenhouse growing systems’ data and analyze it for further optimization of your grow operation. For instance, if your plants aren’t achieving expected yield, you can go back and look at the run times to see where you might have gone wrong with your setpoints or stages.
Through Atom’s reporting software you can see your data in the form of graph overlays in order to note correlations between equipment run time and environmental parameters. For instance you can see how fast your wet wall changes the temperature and relative humidity so you can decide whether or not you need to turn it on sooner.
Ceres also offers analytical support which means we will collect and analyze your data and give you strategic feedback on setpoint adjustments and system run times. From your data, we can also delineate your energy consumption which will help you better understand your operating costs and payback periods.
Thermostats do not come with reporting software. If you choose to buy a thermostat you will have a more difficult time configuring your climate recipes with no hard data to analyze.
Grow on the Go
Our controllers have cloud software that allow you to set stages, make changes or pull reports from anywhere. By downloading the Atom app on any smart device you have real-time control of all your modules and hardware. This is especially helpful if you travel a lot or manage multiple grow operations. With a thermostat, you must be physically present in your greenhouse to make adjustments to your setpoints.
While the upfront cost of a controller is considerably more than a thermostat, expect savings with a reduction in operational costs, as well as increased yield. Whether you’re trying to save time or money, adding a Ceres smart controller to your operation will do both while also making you a more informed grower. If you’re interested to learn more or to request a demo from a Ceres greenhouse designer, contact us today!