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Best material for walls of custom enclosure, etc...

Posted by geoff_hon Baltimore Hon (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 23, 08 at 22:01

I'm having a space constructed in my basement to start growing orchids (mostly phal). Grew them with my dad as a hobby growing up but didn't pay atention to details. To get started I'll be mounting 2 Sunblaze 8-tube 4' T5 units over a 7.5' x 3' growing area. My plan is a basic enclosure framed with pressure treated 2 x 4 with Durabench Ultra plastic grid for the pots to sit on. A "drawer" shelf directly below that will hold 3 30"x30"x2.5" plastic washing machine drainage pans placed side by side with coarse Perlite for humidity. Lights will be supported by Sunlift adjustable height supports and will be mounted on a slide to allow lateral movement so that I can adjust light concentration. But what I'd like advice about is what to make the walls out of. I understand its good to get as much reflection as possible and all options are open. My contractor found a white foam board normally used for mounting ceramic tile. It's white and quite sturdy but heavily textured (to help bond tile adhesive) and it would be an easy wall material to work with but I'm worried about whether stuff will grow on it (mold or algae or whatever). I've seen foam insulation with a mylar (or something silver) coating that's smooth and would be easy to clean but appears fragile (like you bump it with a pot, it tears, insulation absorbs water, nightmare ensues). Would treated plywood be better, painted with some high gloss reflective paint? Open to all suggestions? Also, what about draining the drain pans? Is it critical (read: I'd rather not have to deal with that)? I figure water will mostly evaporate and I can pull the pans every few months and bleach the Perlite if algae starts growing. I've ordered a small circulating fan, thermometer/hygrometer. Front of unit will be enclosed by sliding plexiglas "doors". I'll have plumbing set up to water in place with a hose but wonder what else I'm forgetting. He's building next week so any and all suggestions over the next few days welcome and much appreciated!!! Thanks.
-geoff


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Best material for walls of custom enclosure, etc...

Hey Geoff,

Sounds like a sweet setup :) Your phals will love it - how high above them are you planning on mounting in the T5s? I'm in the process of converting a 95 gallon aquarium into an orchidarium, so I've had similar questions - in particular I'd also be interested in knowing what kind of moisture resistant materials are good for this kind of thing.

I don't know how reflective the walls will be with the texturing but to be honest, I don't think the phals will need it if your T5s are close enough to the leaves. The only thing is you should probably in addition to having a fan inside the enclosure, also have something that will circulate the air with the outside. Not sure whether the humidity will be high enough with just hte pans and evaporation, especially since I don't think the T5s will get that hot...I have a 10 gallon aquarium that's completely enclosed under CFLs and I don't get sufficient humidity to keep my mounted chids happy...so you might want to invest in a cheap ultrasonic mist maker, or a misting system (I hear mistking is good - no affiliation with them).

Good luck! You may want to post this by the orchid side of the site - I know several people over there who have similar enclosed setups.

-Calvin


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RE: Best material for walls of custom enclosure, etc...

Hi Calvin,

Thanks for the tip to cross-post, will do. And thanks for the ventilation suggestion. The height of lights will be totally adjustable and independent for the two units. I'll have a maximum of about 36" for tall phal spikes but can keep at least one of the units practically on top of the plants that aren't in spike.

Best,
-geoff


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RE: Best material for walls of custom enclosure, etc...

The T5's put out a surprising amount of heat, especially if they are high output. The temperature at the top of my high output four foot four tube fixture is 95 degrees (someone who understand this stuff wrote that the ballasts are actually designed to operate at 95 degrees). Consider adding a humidifer if you find you need it. I like the Holmes Filter Free large room humidifier with the digital control - roughly $80.


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