Friday, May 8, 2009

Humidifiers, Heaters, and Ventilation Equipment

Your home environment is designed to make you, not necessarily your plants, comfortable. Fortunately, many of your living requirements are the same as the living requirements for most of the orchids in this book. In some cases, though, you’ll need to modify your orchids’ growing space to better suit them.

The importance of providing sufficient humidity for better health for both you and your orchids is detailed in Chapter 5. To humidify an entire room, there are at least three possible approaches, covered in the following sections.

Evaporative-pad humidifiers
With these units, fans blow across a moisture-laden pad that sits in a reservoir of water. Evaporative-pad humidifiers are my first choice for home humidification because
  1. They’re reasonably priced and readily available.
  2. They don’t spray the room with droplets of water that can carry mineral deposits and bacteria.
  3. They circulate air at the same time.
  4. They only increase the humidity to about 50 to 60 percent (most have an adjustable humidistat, which measures humidity). This is a level that is beneficial to plants, but not sufficient to cause moisture damage to the house.
  5. They require no plumbing and very little maintenance just change the moisture pads one or two times a season.
Cool-mist humidifiers
Cool-mist humidifiers can be effective for small areas, but with constant use, they can cause deposits of minerals on leaves and be a bacteria carrier.

Greenhouse-type foggers or humidifiers
If you have a greenhouse or a very large growing area that really needs a lot of humidity, a greenhouse-type fogger or humidifier is for you. These units can be pricey. They’re plumbed into a constant water supply that is controlled by a float (much like a toilet bowl). The humidity level can be regulated by a separately purchased humidistat.

Adequate air circulation is very important in orchid culture. Fortunately, many convenient and inexpensive pieces of equipment do this job admirably. Here are some of the best choices:
  1. Ceiling fans: These are readily available and do a super job of moving large volumes of air in a figure-8 pattern at a low velocity. Most of them have reversible motors, so they can either be set to pull the cooler air from the floor (usually the summer setting) or push hot air down from the ceiling (usually the winter setting).
  2. Oscillating and standard fans: You can find these in all blade sizes, and most have variable speeds. All will do the job, but you’re better off getting one with a larger blade size and running it at low speed. This will move more air but not at as high a velocity, so the plants won’t become dehydrated by a strong air current. Also, for oscillating types, splurge on a better-grade model that has metal or heavy-duty gears; otherwise, they’ll strip in short order, and you’ll then have a stationary fan.
  3. Muffin fans: These are very small, handy fans (3 to 6 inches/ 8 to 15 cm) that are used to cool electronic equipment like computers. They’re great for bringing a gentle, quiet breeze to a small corner of your growing area. You can find them at electronic or computer-supply stores or in catalogs.
For more information on the importance of ventilation and air movement, see Chapter 5.

If you’re like most people, you’ll rely on your home heating system to provide most of the heat for your orchids. You can supplement that with small electric heaters or water-resistant heating mats commonly used to start seeds. If you’re growing under lights, you can enclose your growing area in plastic film to help retain heat produced by the lights and ballasts.

Thermometers and hygrometers
I have to admit, and my wife will quickly concur, that I’m a nut about temperature and humidity monitoring. I’ve got remote sensors all over my home that tell me maximum and minimum temperature and humidity levels each day. As I explain in Chapter 5, temperature differentials are important to know about if you’re interested in getting your orchids to bloom. Thanks to modern digital thermometers and hygrometers that are simple to use and not expensive, you can keep track of temperature and humidity with little effort.


Naoki Dieter said...

I love how you presented the different types of humidifiers! Generally, with orchids or none, humidifier is the best appliance to have at home to reduce the symptoms of nasal congestion, allergic reactions to dusts and dryness in your home. Especially if you have kids, humidifier is a must. Evaporative type is also my first choice. There is very little risk of over-humidification when using it

Darryl Iorio said...

With cool-mist humidifier, water is unheated, as compared to that of a warm-mist humidifier that boils water, so it kills bacteria. However, if your major concern is the safety of your children, a cool-mist humidifier is great because the water does not get hot, so there is no danger of being burned by the hot water.