I’m interested in keeping my plant growth chambers and rooms state of the art. What are the key systems I need to look at as my fleet ages?
No matter what crop you are growing, no matter the plant growth chamber or room that you own, your facility maintenance manager should be monitoring the age and working condition of three key systems; refrigeration, lighting and controls. There are other sub-systems involved, however these three are the primary systems to consider.
My chambers are 15 years old, should I consider an upgrade to my refrigeration system proactively?
An upgrade is not normally something that is critical, however the answer to this question depends on if the equipment has been maintained properly over 15 years and the overall condition. It’s also not the refrigeration system per se that Conviron would swap out. Rather, Conviron may replace the oil or refrigerant if we identify other problems such as leaks that caused the loss of refrigerant or oil contamination in the first place. Refrigerant that is replaced would be with a lower GWP (Global Warming Potential) version.
I have not changed out my lighting for a number of years, what should I do?
A key consideration with lighting is ensuring that you are getting the light intensity that you expect. Over time, lamp output and subsequent light intensity will typically fade. Rather than changing all of your lights at once, some clients are opting for changing out one third of their lights on a rotating basis. That way you always have a number of new lamps in your chamber or room. This process usually involved installing new lamps on a schedule dictated by defined runtime hours.
Another critical consideration is avoiding any unplanned lighting outages which would adversely impact any plant experiments or production schedules. Sudden drops in lighting may be quite costly in a number of ways including skewing your results, lost time or having to restart your entire program.
Conviron recommends implementing a regular, proactive lighting exchange schedule that can help avoid any unplanned outages and help you ensure light uniformity at or near the chamber’s original specification.
Does changing out 30% of your plant growth chamber lights on a regular, rotating basis apply to all lighting technologies?
No, this concept is primarily related to traditional fluorescent technologies as most of the studies in publication involve this source of lighting. As for newer lighting technologies including LEDs, those typically have significantly longer output lifetimes, and their output consistency does not typically degrade to the same extent as that of fluorescent sources.
Why should I swap my old control system out?
Primarily it is risk mitigation. If there is a software or hardware issue or you can no longer even start your old generation controller, Conviron will not be able to get replacement parts for you. As risk mitigation for our clients we highly recommend you swap out your old control system for a new one at your earliest convenience. The control system controls everything. It turns on the refrigerant, the fans, the lighting and there is nothing that users can do without the control system.
Considering all of these upgrades would it be worth it to buy a whole new chamber or room rather than addressing refrigeration, lighting, and control systems separately?
Not necessarily. Many chambers have been in operation in excess of 20 years and, depending on what kind of ongoing maintenance program you have in place and the particular condition of your plant growth chamber and rooms it may be economically advantageous to look only at upgrading certain systems. Conviron’s goal is to help keep your fleet up and running and reduce or eliminate any unplanned downtime. Within this strategic vision, a new chamber or room may not be the most economical approach but in some cases will be.
Does Conviron need to physically come down to site to inspect our chamber and rooms?
The serial numbers of all of your models are the starting point. Conviron maintains a record of every single chamber and room that we have manufactured, and will examine our service records to give you an idea of what work has been completed on your most critical systems.
That being said, at one point it may be advantageous to send personnel to site and perform a preventative maintenance audit, but that is not always required.
Whether it is leveraging Conviron’s GroGuardian preventative maintenance program or another PM program that you already have in place, the key element is to work within a consistent service schedule in order to maximize the life of your chambers and rooms, eliminate unexpected interruptions, and keep the research equipment performing as close to original specification as possible.
Keeping your chambers state-of-the-art