What is CO2?

Often, we are asked, “What is CO2, really?”

Although this gas is vital for any competitive indoor grow operations, it remains a bit misunderstood. Within this miscomprehension exists a range of approaches from genuine fear on one end all the way to overuse on the other. 

In an effort to have safe work environments and increase efficiency, let’s begin with the basics and work our way towards proper usage. 

Carbon Dioxide is a naturally occurring odorless gas in the atmosphere that develops from the oxidation of carbon, a primary component of photosynthesis. Often this inert gas is thought to be combustible.  It will not ignite when exposed to fire or heat. CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere by plant life, as it is an essential part of their biological cycle. This is why enriching your indoor cultivation with CO2 is so beneficial and necessary, as, without CO2 Enrichment, you can starve your plants of an essential element of their environment.

CO2 is measured in Parts Per Million (ppm) and can also be misunderstood. The outdoor environment consists of a level between 300 and 400 ppm of CO2. Opinions differ on what the ‘optimal’ level of CO2 is in an indoor cannabis cultivation space, but depending on the facility’s grow team, we typically see Enrichment Setpoints between 1100-2000 ppm. Taking into account your local fire code, Universal Controls’ CO2 Safety Systems are designed to alert you to a rising level of CO2 at 5000 ppm and shut down enrichment. Here is a breakdown of physical effects based on CO2 ppm levels:
What are average dangerous co2 levels?
  • 5,000 ppm (0.5%) OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) and ACGIH Threshold Limit Value (TLV) for 8-hour exposure
  • 10,000 ppm (1.0%) Typically, no effects, possible drowsiness
  • 15,000 ppm (1.5%) Mild respiratory stimulation for some people
  • 30,000 ppm (3.0%)  Moderate respiratory stimulation, increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • 40,000 ppm (4.0%) Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH)
  • 50,000 ppm (5.0%) Strong respiratory stimulation, dizziness, confusion, headache, shortness of breath
  • 80,000 ppm (8.0%) dimmed sight, sweating, tremors, unconsciousness, and possible death

As you can see, although higher CO2 ppm’s are something to consider, as it relates to life safety, levels need to be much higher than ideal plant conditions, and the individual must be negligent to remain in a space with a Safety System alerting them to these levels. 

Let’s discuss increasing your crop productivity as well as increasing optimal temperature for growth. Enriching your crop with CO2, Universal Controls can increase yield by up to 40%.  With such a large potential for increase in yield, optimization techniques can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Utilizing automated systems to detect and monitor your indoor or greenhouse environment allows for integration of the different environmental factors; a provident component within your grow facility as well as understanding why it is necessary to have advanced systems. To achieve full utilization of the CO2 being introduced into your grow space, these advanced systems are critical to ensure you keep all environmental factors balanced to optimize your crop. As you raise the CO2 levels in your grow space, you need to increase temperature and available light to enable the plant metabolism to make use of the extra CO2 and deliver the highest yields.
The cultivation industry has been exploding with new technologies and automation. With the innovation of improved lighting systems, environmental controls and nutrients, the amount of CO2 is a crucial factor for maximum growth of plants. While keeping the other growing conditions ideal, supplemental CO2 can provide improved plant growth. 
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