Reverse Osmosis system for expanding hydroponics setup...

vivaciouswomanNovember 2, 2008

I'm a lifelong gardener, but I'm just a beginner with hydroponics. Right now, I'm doing just a few small items in my basement, but I have dreams of my own greenhouse (attached to house) dedicated to hydroponic crops when my hubby and I build our dream home in a few years.

Right now, I'm sick of hauling home RO water from grocery stores. Rain water is a good source of water in the summer, but winter in Michigan will mean no source of (liquid) water again. I want a RO system. And my hubby is willing to buy one for me (and install it) for the holidays. Lucky me!!!!

I need advice. I *think* I want low/zero waste RO system if it is to be placed in the basement, because there's no plumbing down there--no drain (just a walk-out basement, so I can toss used water outdoors). We would have to hook into the pipes servicing the first floor.

Those of you who have looked into RO systems:

--What type do you recommend, and why?

--What is the smallest reasonable size for a storage tank if I'm going to be growing into about 200 sq ft of hydro-only growing (eventually)?

--Is this something we can install in our current home and then take with us to the new house, or should I just get something cheap and be prepared to leave it here?

--Should I just commit to tramping up and down the stairs with gallon jugs and putting the RO system in the kitchen (where we would have--bonus--good drinking water from it)?

Any bits of wisdom are GREATLY appreciated! It takes a village... :)

(I seem to have rotten luck getting my queries to stay on the Forum. Are they getting deleted by a moderator? I have no idea why they would! This is my last shot. Wish me luck!!)

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, I'm sure my message made it through the initial posting. Hopefully it won't get subsequently deleted! :)

Advice on RO systems, please!!!! :D

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 7:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
greystoke(South Africa(11))

If there isn't anything wrong with your tap water, then I can't see why you want an RO-unit. Nothing wrong with decent tap water. But . . . if you really want one (and I think you do) then put it where it's of most use, ie: in the kitchen under the sink.
Most units are simple bolt-on units. All you need is a T-off from the cold tap and an entry to waste. You also need a bit of water pressure (±4 bar?)
I have a 50 gallon/day unit, but it's mostly for drinking. My tap water is undrinkable (Africa!), but perfect for hydro.

PS: Can't understand your posting problems. Remember to click the "Preview Message" button when you've done your post, then give it a moment and check your message for spelling etc. When happy click: "Submit Message", and away it goes...

Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 11:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)

I'm a plumbing contractor posing as a hydroponic gardener. As such, I'd like to throw in my two cent's worth of advise concerning the R/O unit:

Rent one. I have rented one for about 35 years and even though I've paid for a very good unit probably 50 times, I still say rent one. The reason is: the membrane filter is really, really costly and finicky! My first R/O was a $1,400 Culligan unit and it lasted a whopping 6 months. Seems as though the membrane was the only part not covered by the guarantee. Go figure!

Secondly, installing one can be a real hassle. I know; I'v installed many.

Thirdly, there's no such thing as a zero-waste R/O. The membrane needs to be constantly bathed in a cleansing rinse. By the way, the water MUST be chlorinated. Them's the rules!

Just put the waste down the drain. If you're really into conserving it, pipe it to a flower bed or storage tank. If you want to use the unit in your basement, get a condensate pump (like for an air conditioner unit) and pump it up to a house drain.

Before you spend the rent money on one, check out my entry at or near the top of the pile called Nutrient Fabrication or something to that effect.

If it were me, I'd spend the money for an R/O on a good Bluelab truncheon and a quality pH meter instead and use tap water!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 12:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

After going back and forth with Freeman on this in private e-mails, I am becoming disenchanted with R/O for plants, too. My biggest concern was the chlorine because of falling for marketing hype in the hydro publications. I normally don't take magazines to heart because the authors are always writing to promote their own self interest. You'll notice all the "experts" are coincidentally reps or owners of R/O system companies. But, I also read it in commonly recommended book. Anyway, Freeman pointed out that chlorine evaporates pretty quickly. I dug a little deeper to find it to be quite true (spoke with the lab at our waste water treatment plant like he suggested). The minerals in water that will keep your EC high are actually good for you plants. Especially the calcium. The only good thing about the R/O system is that you can get water for drinking that doesn't contain a bunch of drug residues that treatment plants don't remove. I just wanted to put that out there because I thought you might be hearing some of the same R/O hype I've heard. So, even if you feel R/O is a must, you might find it more cost effective to go with a small unit and mix it with tap. Then the stuff you might find bad is at least being diluted.

Is there research out there concerning how much of the pharmaceuticals in the water are being taken up by plants? Am I eating estrogen laced tomatoes and peppers?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 7:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

RO water systems are a waste of money if the municipal water is good.

Have your water tested before you buy an RO system.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 11:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As others have mentioned, RO is a waste of money.

In 99.99% of cases, plain old tap water will be just fine for use in hobby hydroponics systems.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 11:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow! I'm surprised! Well, a little more info: we have very hard well water that is softened. I'm pretty sure the resultant sodium content isn't good for the plants. I'm not sure how hard it would be to tap into the water pre-softening...that might be pretty easy. But how stable is the makeup of the water? Sure, I have TDS and pH meters, but will the calcium, lime, etc., levels be stable over time?

Also, I'm not careful enough to put together my own nutrient solutions. I'm going to need to purchase premade solution powders/liquids for different crops (tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, blueberries, lettuce...). I'm thinking it's easier to start with low TDS water and add these presumably balanced solutions in than start with high TDS water and make adjustments.


Thanks for all your help!!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 7:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)

Here's my thought:

You keep adding more variables to the system. Just stick with one thing at a time. If you have a well and you're already using that water to drink and bathe in after it's been "softened" just use the raw water (before you run it through either sodium or potassium chloride salts) and see what works. Just have your plumber install a bypass loop with isolation valves and a hose bib so you can draw off some raw well water before you nuke it with chemicals.

All of us "experts" are in the same boat. We just have to try this or that and see what works, then publish the results so some other poor shmuck doesn't have to reinvent THAT wheel!

Whether or not you make your own nutrients is only a matter of the degree of "purism" you perceive yourself as. I could easily buy everything off the shelf, but I prefer the excitement of going it alone. Sometimes that means failure. That's part of the equation, but once you're willing to accept falling down, getting back up becomes easier and easier as you go the distance.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 8:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
greystoke(South Africa(11))

Well said freemangreens!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 11:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, freemangreens, I don't trust myself to make my own nutrient solution. I'm afraid I'll do it the way I cook--with great love and high degree of freedom, and never able to do the same thing twice. I *never* follow a recipe in the kitchen; too boring. It isn't that I am incapable of measuring; it's that I am incapable of *not innovating*. When it comes to hydroponics, it's all I can do just to throw in the recommended amount of premade nutrients and leave it be.

I'm a physicist and a very inexact, passionate cook. I am not a chemist. I'm afraid my plants will much prefer a chemist. :(

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 7:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Quote: "I'm afraid my plants will much prefer a chemist."

Try to remember that plants of all shapes/sizes/and varieties have been growing outside under less-than-ideal conditions without any help from chemists for millions of years.

While it is important to understand what plants need and try to provide it to them- "a little too much of this" or "not quite enough of that" generally won't result in epic failure of the entire crop. Plants are hardy and a lot more forgiving than we give them credit for.

A lot of people run successful hobby level hydroponic systems without ever measuring the pH, EC, or TDS simply by buying nutrients, following label mixing directions, and changing the solution every couple weeks of if the plants look like they need it. This may not be the most scientific approach to it, but it goes to show that just because your solution gets off by a few hundred PPM or the pH is half a point too high it generally won't kill all your plants.

Good luck and happy growing.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 10:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would say make a small system and experiment with raw and softened water and see what happens. try to keep detailed records so later on you know what to do to make the plants grow in your larger system(s).
here is a link to my small simple system that may (or may not) work for you.
A simple recipe for a quick and inexpensive nutrient solution is this:
make a concentrate of 2 TBSP 15-30-15 general purpose miracle grow + 1 TBSP epsom salts in 1 C of water.
for you hydroponic solution add 1 tsp of this concentrate for each cup of water in your system. just so you know. there are 16 cups in a gallon of water.

I have personally grown basil and italian parsley using this mix until I simply cut it down, tired of tending it. I never tested the pH or EC. I simply diluted the solution when I observed tip burn on the leaves. That's not to say you shouldn't test your water. We are talking about experimentation here. Just saying that so you know, as a fertilizer, it does work.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 1:22PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Blooms dropping on Red Robin tomato in my Aerogarden, no new blooms.
I'm new to Hydroponics, I bought an Aerogarden a few...
wertach zone 7-B SC
Floating Raft system
i am interesting to build a green house with Floating...
organic hydroponic ferilizer
I am looking for a good source for organic hydroponic...
little sur farm
Questions on passive hydro
Hello guys, I currently own a big sansevieria and want...
Non-profit sustainable farm needs help to re-plumb hydro-system
We had two old hydroponics grow tables both about 4x4...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™