The Best Hydroponic Water Pump Solution

Blog 08/23/2022

The Best Hydroponic Water Pump Solution

Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants using only water, nutrients, and a growing medium. The system controls environmental conditions, like temperature and pH balance, and provides maximized exposure to nutrients and water.

Hydroponic facilities are providing a new market for industry contractors and manufacturers. HVAC and plumbing professionals are finding new opportunities in the ventilation, moisture, and water control aspects of these facilities.

What is a water pump used for in hydroponics?

Controlling everything from CO2 content to humidity, grow operations use water pumps within a hydroponic system to treat and feed the plants and recycle or discharge the unused nutrient solution. It is responsible for sending this solution from the reservoir to the flood tray — where the plants are housed.

There are many hydroponic methods; however, the hydroponic system we would like to focus on here is the Nutrient Film Technique, or NFT, system, as it involves pumping.

According to The Spruce, NFT uses a pump to deliver fertilized water to a grow tray or channel and a drain pipe to recycle the unused nutrient solution. The difference is that, in NFT, the nutrient solution continuously flows over the roots, accomplished using gravity. The grow tray is placed at an angle to allow the water to flow down towards the drainpipe, and a new solution is constantly being pumped into the high end of the tube.

The challenge for many large commercial grow operations is to obtain equipment, particularly water pumps, that can meet the high demands of a commercial hydroponic system.

The ideal water pump for hydroponic grow ops…

      …will pump and deliver fertilized water to grow trays/channels and recycle the unused nutrient solution (gray water) coming from a drain pipe via gravity flow.

      … can reach significant water evacuation heights, as many grow channels can be at the ceiling level.

      … can handle large volumes of fluid.  

      … can detect water levels and rising air pressure to avoid​​water becoming stagnant, which could lead to mold and algae growth. 

      … can keep the nutrient solution/fluid moving and cycling at a faster pace and in larger volumes. 

      …has a short cycle to process solids (nutrients buildup) that could inevitably accumulate within the pump if not pumped out fast enough.

      … does not require excavation or major construction to install.

      …requires minimal maintenance or servicing. 

Solution: Sanicom 1 & 2 Drain Pumps for hydroponic systems

The Sanicom1 is a simplex drain pump from Saniflo designed to pump gray water away from demanding commercial applications. The Sanicom2 is equipped with two, 2-horsepower, 220-volt motors for handling multiple commercial fixtures that must process large volumes of high-temperature water, grease, chemicals, or in this case, nutrient solution.

Key features that make the Sanicom 1 (right image) and Sanicom 2 (left image) drain pumps ideal pumps for hydroponic systems:

      High-volume capacity & long pumping lengths: Ideal for hydroponic crop growing, the Sanicom 2 duplex drain pump can move up to 140 gallons of fluid per minute, with both pumps automatically activating simultaneously when the incoming flow rate exceeds that of a single pump. Like the Sanicom 1, the new duplex model can handle fluids up to 194°F. The Sanicom pumps offer low-level inlets to respect gravity inlet slopes and can accommodate a very high evacuation height (vertical head) to remove gray water from production chambers. The Sanicom 1 is able to discharge gray water up to 25 feet vertically, 250 feet horizontally, or a combination of both. The Sanicom 2 discharges gray water through a 1.5-inch pipe vertically 32 feet, horizontally 390 feet, or a combination of both. (A vertical run of 3 feet is equal to a horizontal run of 30 feet.) The pump comes equipped with built-in check valves on the discharge of each motor.

      Short cycling & Fail-safe activation:

The unit pumps the gray water upward or horizontally through a 1.5-inch diameter pipe (with gravity fall). Once the water is discharged and the water level in the container goes down, a pressure switch deactivates the unit until water enters the unit again. Additionally, the fail-proof sensing mechanism system for detecting the water level inside the Sanicom 2 consists of three pressure switches, each installed in its own internal dip tube. With three different switches, it is nearly impossible for the unit to fail to activate with incoming fluids.

A normal operating cycle for Sanicom pumps can be as short as 4 - 6 seconds depending upon the discharge pipe run configuration; power consumption is therefore minimal.  Most other pumps on the market use float switches, requiring longer cycling.

Another reason why short cycling is beneficial is that hydroponic systems require a lot of running nutrient solution and water waste, which should not become stagnant, as it could lead to mold and algae growth. Because of nutrient-solution composition, solids like sand and silt will inevitably end up in your pump system. With a longer cycle, there's a chance that the solids will get sucked up in the pump impeller or get hung up on a float switch, which will then cause your pump to burn out.

Since Sanicom pumps short-cycle, the nutrient solution and wastewater are cycled at a much faster rate, at higher volumes, keeping the fluid moving, and eliminating the chance for buildup; i.e., those solids never really have a chance to settle and accumulate inside the pump.

      Easy access for servicing: The Sanicom 1 and 2 have been designed to keep maintenance to a minimum. If servicing is needed, the two motors, electrical components, pressure-level switches, and dip tubes are all readily accessible and easily removed.

      Easy to install and no major construction: Unlike many other pump installations, which may involve the hassle and expense of breaking through concrete to connect to a drain line, the Sanicom 1 and 2 above-floor drain pump systems allow installation wherever needed. Alternatively, you would probably trench and try to use gravity to either reach the existing soil stack, or you would install a large ejector pump in the ground, requiring excavation. The problem: Many growers operate in large warehouses and commercial spaces with concrete floors that are not really designed to accommodate traditional plumbing lines.

Real-world application

Cannara Biotech required a water pumping system with a low-level inlet to accommodate their gravity inlet slope with a very high vertical head to remove gray water from their cannabis production chambers.

Explains Phil Warren, Eastern Canada Sales Manager, Saniflo Canada: "Our goal was to provide Cannara with an ideal solution for draining gray water from his cannabis production chambers by pumping the effluent up to the ceiling level.”

After determining the requirements for the pump system, Saniflo recommended the Sanicom1 to meet the shut-off head requirement of 53 feet. The low inlets of this heavy-duty pump are close to ground level, allowing for easy connection.

The Sanicom1 is also capable of handling chemically treated water up to 90°C (194°F). That feature allows it to handle discharging the treatment wastewater from Cannara's cannabis production systems.

"Saniflo and its sales agent, Aubin Pelissier helped us to verify that the Sanicom1 met all our specifications," said Cannara Biotech. "The company’s regional sales manager was very knowledgeable and identified a pipe-sizing error, which we quickly resolved to the proper specifications for the vertical lift we were looking to achieve for this application."

Saniflo is the only pump company on the market with a product that effectively meets the demanding requirements of cannabis and hydroponics facilities.