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Thread: Highland chamber design

  1. #1
    swords's Avatar
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    Highland chamber design

    I've been out of Neps for a couple years but after starting with Lithops and Cacti I've gotten the plants back in the blood! So this is the highland Nep/Orchid & CP chamber I want to setup, I will have 3 times the floor space of my old highland chamber with this design and mounted mini orchids can be hung the entire height as well.


    The shelf is 4 ft L x 2 ft W x 6 ft H - levels spaced 2 ft apart

    Braces/frame will be built of 1" x 4" pine

    The actual shelves will be egg crate to allow any hot air from the lamps to rise up and out at the top (the lid will have a gap on the side farthest from the air inputs. In my theory it should swirl up and out...

    Back and Side walls will be covered in reflective waterproof insulation sheeting which should help maintain the night temps once they drop after dark with the incoming night air.
    It should simulate a giant insulated lunch cooler!

    Fronts will be sliding glass panels with a reflective panel that can be put up with velcro when I'm not looking the plants or want to sleep. My bedroom is the coolest area of the condo (plus it has the proper window access for the intake fan) so the highland chamber always has to go in there.

    The grey tube going up the side is a 4" diameter dryer duct tube with a T elbow poking through the wall for fresh humidified air to be blown onto each shelf from a fan placed at the loose end at the window. An additional "vent booster fan" could be placed on the vertical portion if I don't get good air flow at the top with just the fan at the window.

    The Blue box is an ultrasonic humidifier which has the outlet hole plugged with a tube that directs the fog into the incoming cool air duct. It will run on a humidistat to keep the air moist but not soggy.

    Each shelf is 2 ft x 4 ft with a 20" vertical height to play in (lamps will be on chains for height appropriate setting). The top lamp will be kept out of the chamber to give the top shelf the most vertical space as well as help keep it as cool as possible but the lower two shelves will have the lamps inside in the 80% RH environment.

    What I need are some suggestions as to what lamps would be good for this setup?

    Is a single 32" long, 96 W / 6500K power compact fluorescent (the long U shaped ones used for saltwater reef tanks) in an angled reflector enough to light each shelf properly for Neps? The lamps of this size is seriously spanking my recent cacti/mesemb acquisitions on a couple 36" x 18" x 18" shelves. Even the ones who've been grown outside are coloring up within days under a single tube of these lamps hung at their farthest setting (!). I mention these lamps as my first choice for this setup because they have the heavy duty waterproof end caps for use over reef tanks compared to a shoplight or two over each shelf which may not hold up to the incoming cold, wet air. Or will they?

    Anyway, what do you guys think about the lighting situation for this setup?

    Any other areas of concern you can find in my design (like a fire having the lamps in a high RH environ)?

    I'd appreciate any info from today's Nepaholics! Esp. anyone growing on shelves.

  2. #2
    Carnivorous plant enthusiast vraev's Avatar
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    I personally found these enclousures very very useful for growing a wide range of nepenthes. Working with thermodynamics allows you to grow highlands, lowlands and intermediates all in the same setup. Based on the dimensions, you can clearly make a kick *** grow chamber with that. Of course, it won't be enough to handle a bicalcarata for more than a few years, but you can always cycle big ones for smaller ones. The inner lights for the lower shelves are actually very very useful. They help raise the temps sufficiently for the highlanders at the bottom such that the night temps when the lights go off significantly fall. All in all, you have a very good plan. I currently use the exact same setup (minus the ducting for the humidifier) on a smaller scale with reasonable success.

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    swords's Avatar
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    Thanks - I'm glad to hear it's a workable plan! I was very curious about the safety / feasibility of having the lamps inside the setup. Do you have all your pots in trays to contain any water drips from making it down to the lamps below?

    Do you think a single 96W power compact reef lamp over each shelf will be enough light considering the lamps can be adjusted to whatever height I need? My cactus and mesembs seem to think these lamps are good (blooming and coloring up under them) but I've never grown Neps with these I always used plain old 40 watt striplights for most things and a 400 W metal halide over my old shower stall / lowland chamber.

    I had about 40 species of Neps from 2000-2006/2007. I'm swearing myself off the lowlanders this time, they're so big and beautiful they grow themselves right out of a home. I hated having to get rid of them after getting them to the huge stage. I grew two huge N. bicals in those years. A number of Highlanders seemed to stay more compact even if their pitchers were large so I'm planning to concentrate on them

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    Tony Paroubek's Avatar
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    What did we decide the lumens were on those 96w power compacts?

    I really don't think the moisture will be a problem since they are designed to sit over aquariums with water proof endcaps and such. I would guess you would need them protected from drips with a reflector and have the ballasts outside the enclosure since they tend to not like moisture. My main concern is you are looking at 48" shelf and a 32" bulb... that will leave alot of shelf without the bulb over it.
    Is that a Nepenthes in your pocket or you just happy to see me?

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    grumpus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swords View Post
    I mention these lamps as my first choice for this setup because they have the heavy duty waterproof end caps for use over reef tanks compared to a shoplight or two over each shelf which may not hold up to the incoming cold, wet air. Or will they?

    Anyway, what do you guys think about the lighting situation for this setup?

    Any other areas of concern you can find in my design (like a fire having the lamps in a high RH environ)?
    I have no experience at all with CP cabinets, but I've had aquariums in the past and engaged in all manner of hobbies and seat-of-the-pants home construction of similar things.

    I don't know the specific fixtures you mention but I'd be VERY concerned about having any 120 volt electronics inside a homemade cabinet which had large amounts of standing water on shelves above.

    Those fixtures might be rated for mist and high humidity, but unless they can withstand total immersion I would think very hard about my design. Unless you have completely waterproof electronics you are one cracked Rubbermaid or loose shelf away from a potential catastrophe.

    Also, even if you remove the ballasts from the cabinet and seal the lights, if a shelf collapses it could smash the housing of the lights below, rendering waterproofing irrelevant.

    Again, I have no experience with something exactly like this - and I don't think it's impossible to make what you want - I just know that homemade gadgetry involving lethal voltage and lots of water should be thought out very very carefully.

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    Carnivorous plant enthusiast vraev's Avatar
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    Swords...the only concern I would say with the lights is the heat man. Those reef fixtures put out a lot of heat AFAIK. Also...so far in my setup, I use only 3 lights inside but 2 outside. THis way I keep some of the heat out. Light inside really heats up the shelf. THe heat is intense right near the bulb. SO highlanders under the fixture don't really like it. The first thing you have to do is get one of those fixtures (don't worry....u probably won't waste it....those fixtures can be used in some other way if your plan changes). Or even...try checking the temperature of a working fixture in store. Try a reasonable assesment of temp and add a few degrees ( I say 5-10F) for safe bet. That way you can get a reasonable idea of temps you are looking at.

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    grumpus's Avatar
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    A couple more random thoughts:

    - might want to mount it to the wall to avoid any danger of getting jostled (or toppled!)

    - make sure it's perfectly level

    - if you're worried about more air flow or heat buildup, as the above post discusses, I'd suggest putting a small exhaust fan in the top of the case. If you're pushing the hot air out there, cold air will come in from the bottom if you have the vents. Better to exhaust heat at the source than try to let it waft out on its own or push it out with forced air from down low (unless you want it hot, of course).

    That's a 48 cubic foot case, so even a small PC fan could turn over the air in there more than once a minute. I have no idea what kind of air flow those plants need...

    Anyway, cool idea. I like stuff like this. Just don't electrocute yourself!

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    swords's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input guys. Here are the lights I am using over my mesemb / cacti shelves and propose to use in the Nep chamber:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/2-x-96-Watt-Powe...742.m153.l1262
    The cacti shelves are 30*C with the lights on but I have no fans or air circulation setup (I should), just one end of the shelf is uncovered for fresh air exchange as there is a fan always going in the room itself.

    I certainly could use two of these bulbs over each shelf (over lapping side by side in the center) but in a homemade, angled reflector they're very bright and have turned my greenhouse grown cacti / mesemb plants all sorts of colors and initiated blooming since I got them. If not these lamps what would you guys suggest that would be intense, long and cool enough for this setup? Since I haven't started building yet or cleared the area where the thing will go I can easily alter my plans at this stage.

    There's no law against using a 6 or 8" diameter air input, so cooling the heat from the bulbs "shouldn't" be too hard I don't think. These aren't like a halide, you can rest your hand on the bulb without burning yourself. The fresh air will be directed across the top of the pots (under the lights to help keep the heat off the leaves and bulbs). My old Nep highland chamber had a 4" diameter intake fan and tube but after thinking about it I am feeding 2 extra shelves in this design and extra wind doesn't hurt as long as it's plenty moist and the ultrasonic makes a fantastic scene by filling the chamber with thick fog!

    I've found this device which looks like it would be an easy way to control humidity and air intake fans all in one unit:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/Zoo-Med-Hygro-Therm-Thermostat-and-Humidistat-in-one_W0QQitemZ130287191086QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item130287191086&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A1199|66%3A2|65%3A12|39%3A1|240%3A1318|301%3A1|293%3A1|294%3A50

    I've contacted the seller to find out how the devices are controlled, if they plug into this thing with just a power cord (whereby any device could be used) or if they have a special hookup so only Zoomed stuff can be used with it. Anyone else using this controller?

    A 4" exhaust fan on top wouldn't be a bad idea either so long as the chamber could say moist enough.

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