by Mike Lawler, Technical Sales Manager
The Cannabis business is booming, and everyone is trying to get a piece of the action. When I recently attended a show in Oklahoma City, the room was filled with hundreds of ‘budding’ entrepreneurs who had just gotten into or were trying to get into the Cannabis business. With so much competition, there’s a lot to learn in order to compete in a market where large companies and investors are buying up many of the smaller operations.
While I can’t speak to nutrients or some the other important elements of being a successful indoor grow facility, I can help you understand environmental control. I do know that if HPS lights are used, the highest cost system in an indoor grow is the equipment needed to control temperature, humidity, and CO2. If you are using LED lights, then the environmental control equipment drops to second place.
I’ve been in the air conditioning business for over 35 years and until recently, I’ve never seen so many people put in a position to learn so much about air conditioning in such a short amount of time. I can’t help but wonder, “How many of them have ever bought an air conditioner bigger than a window unit before they got into the Cannabis business?”
If you know only a small amount about something that is one of the greatest costs in a grow, you’re already at a disadvantage. Here’s a couple of rules I would recommend considering before investing your time and money into environmental control. Full disclosure here; my company manufacturers really good environmental control equipment. And we are more capable that 90% of the other suppliers out there to design your system. Keep that in mind as I share rule #1.
Rule #1: Your Environmental Control Manufacturer Should Not Do the Mechanical Design
Do not, ever, under any circumstances, let the equipment supplier do the mechanical design for your facility. I will let you in on an industry secret; some environmental control manufacturers perform the system design for the grower so they can lock you into purchasing their equipment and eliminate the competition.
Don’t fall into this trap. The system being offered may not always be the best one to suit your needs.
Many cannabis entrepreneurs are new to the world of environmental control and not highly educated about the features and benefits of the mechanical systems out there. That’s not a judgement; just an observation. This means that pretty much anybody that knows anything about air conditioning can sound like an expert to them.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How do I know if I’m getting my money’s worth?
- How can I tell if someone is pulling a fast one before it is too late, and I’m locked into a decision?
- When I check the prices of their environmental control equipment against multiple manufacturers, how do I know that I’m comparing apples to apples?
- How can I protect my investments?
This leads us into our next rule.
Rule #2: Hire an Independent, Registered, Mechanical Engineer that has a PE (Professional Engineer) License.
The engineer should be experienced in designing commercial buildings and do the following:
- Creates a design that levels the playing field among different manufacturers
- Reviews all the data from potential suppliers that is submitted to him
- Will not let you get ripped off
- Will protect your interests
The key word in the above rule is “Independent”. There are a lot of PEs working for manufacturers. The company I work for has one on our staff. And we choose not to do design work. We leave it to an unbiased Professional Engineer.
An independent PE knows all of the local codes so there are no surprises from the building inspector. He carries Errors & Omissions Insurance. So, on the rare occasion that he makes an error in the design, the customer has recourse. The independent PE knows a dozen different ways to control the temperature, humidity and CO2 in your grow so he can help you pick the best system.
The PE that works for a manufacturer knows about exactly one system – the one his company sells, and his job is to design that system. How long do you think he would have a job if he told the customer to use a different manufacturer?
Rule #3: Seek Out Companies with a Proven History
Be extremely careful with vendors and manufacturers that have been in business for less than 10 years. Cannabis “specialists” have been sprouting like weeds since 2014. These people may be opportunists trying to cash in on the green rush. Are they still going to be in business in five years? We have already seen a bunch of them come and go. Your independent Professional Engineer can tell if these companies are legit.
Better to Do it Right the First Time
By now you may be asking, what does all this protection from my Professional Engineer cost me. That answer varies with the size of your grow and the type of system being used. Independent PEs that have designed systems (using units like the one my company offers) charge about $2.00 to $3.00 per square foot of the building. Some charge even less. Think of this as really, really, cheap insurance. I encourage everyone to buy it.
Need a Professional Mechanical Engineer?
Contact us and we can give you the names of Professional Engineers that will do a good job for you, and help you protect your investments and your reputation.