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  #1  
Old 09-11-2022, 09:55 AM
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Default Best way to reduce supplemental lighting this winter?

This may seem like an odd question to many. Due to strong inflation, the situation with Russia and no emergency mitigation measures in place in the Netherlands, energy prices are through the roof. When multi-year fixed price energy contracts expire, the new prices are often 10-12 times higher for companies and at least 3-5 times higher for households. Our contract expired this summer and we too are slammed with a huge increase. We've been carefully looking at our lifestyle, trying to see where we can save on gas and electricity use. One potential place to make some savings is the LED lights for the orchids, but I'd like to find the best way to reduce their use rather than turn them off completely.

I run them as supplemental lighting 10 hours per day from late october to late march. My collection is 80% Phals and the rest a mix of Neofinetia, Dens, Phrags, and assorted minis. Despite being in a south window I noted a massive improvement in growth when I started using supplemental winter light, so I'd rather not turn them off entirely. Now my question : I want to reduce the total power used by about about 50% and see several scenarios :

* Reduce from 10 to 5 hours per day, primarily before/after daylight hours, as daylight extension.
* Turn off the lights on half the shelves, and rotate shelves on a weekly/biweekly basis
* Variation of above, with 1 shelf lit permanently, containing high light plants like Neos, mini vandas... and then do the weekly rotation for the Phals and other low light plants.
* Other option I haven't thought of yet.

As an additional measure, my long-ish term project is to buy an Arduino and light sensors, and program the lights to turn off on sunny days. Iff it's a cloudy winter that doesn't save much electricity, but I still see it as something useful to do.
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  #2  
Old 09-11-2022, 02:39 PM
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Thinking out via the keyboard, the trick will be maintaining the photon volume absorbed per day.

That would suggest 1) half the intensity (flux) for the same time, and 2) the same flux for half the time should be the same, which implies your option about rotating the low-light plants is viable, but my "gut" tells they'd do better with one of the two I mentioned.

Your phals can certainly handle the light loss. They might skip a blooming season, but will be fine, once they adjust.
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Old 09-11-2022, 07:11 PM
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Dear Camilla,

Overall, our reality in terms of climate is totally different, but I am as worried as you are and also need to lower the lighting nuisance this year, so I am going to explore letting the entire collection outdoor this winter, not in a greenhouse, but almost, and I am even going to move the Tanks (terrarium) from Nov to March outside.

However, I recommend my lights to anyone with a 100% guarantee of long-lasting and energy saving. Anything under that brad has bloomed beautifully but I cannot afford that many lamps. It is SunLight
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Old 09-12-2022, 12:00 AM
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I don't think it's an odd question at all! Given that energy (both for light and heat) are likely to be horribly expensive for you this winter, it's a triage situation. If orchids don't get adequate light, as Ray indicated the worst that happens is that maybe some skip a year of blooming, or don't bloom as well. More critical, I think, is to make sure that at least minimum needs for warmth are met, since the most warmth-loving plants might otherwise not survive. But from what I have observed with my plants (that mostly get what Mother Nature throws at them, even the greenhouse goes down to 13-14 deg C), most can tolerate temperatures that are lower than ideal. There are a few like Phal violacea and bellina, that really need heat (a reason why I don't grow them) that might be placed in a very small area that is kept warmer, but most will tolerate temperatures a lot lower than ideal, especially if they can acclimate slowly. (Even Phals... some people who live near me even manage to grow them outside near walls that radiate heat that they have absorbed during the day. Especially if kept drier than ideal, it's amazing what orchids will tolerate in the way of cold. They just have to somehow get through the winter, they'll revive once conditions improve.
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Old 09-12-2022, 06:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray View Post
Thinking out via the keyboard, the trick will be maintaining the photon volume absorbed per day.

That would suggest 1) half the intensity (flux) for the same time, and 2) the same flux for half the time should be the same, which implies your option about rotating the low-light plants is viable, but my "gut" tells they'd do better with one of the two I mentioned.

Your phals can certainly handle the light loss. They might skip a blooming season, but will be fine, once they adjust.
Thanks for your input Ray. The lights for the Phals are a relatively new thing (3rd winter) and before that my Phals did bloom pretty well. The extra light kept them growing leaves and roots throughout the winter (never had that happen before) and they bloomed even better. The higher light orchids have had lights for several years more, they struggled to bloom otherwise.

My lights are not dimmable, so I think I'll have to go for the reduced hours option then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SADE2020 View Post
Dear Camilla,

Overall, our reality in terms of climate is totally different, but I am as worried as you are and also need to lower the lighting nuisance this year, so I am going to explore letting the entire collection outdoor this winter, not in a greenhouse, but almost, and I am even going to move the Tanks (terrarium) from Nov to March outside.

However, I recommend my lights to anyone with a 100% guarantee of long-lasting and energy saving. Anything under that brad has bloomed beautifully but I cannot afford that many lamps. It is SunLight
I hope that leaving them outside will work for you! Will you move everything outside soon so they get used to it before winter comes?
I happen to use the same brand of lights as you, and have the smaller bars (flex series) meant for shelves. I chose them because of their efficiency, but they're still not free to run! The plants are very happy under these lights.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roberta View Post
I don't think it's an odd question at all! Given that energy (both for light and heat) are likely to be horribly expensive for you this winter, it's a triage situation. If orchids don't get adequate light, as Ray indicated the worst that happens is that maybe some skip a year of blooming, or don't bloom as well. More critical, I think, is to make sure that at least minimum needs for warmth are met, since the most warmth-loving plants might otherwise not survive. But from what I have observed with my plants (that mostly get what Mother Nature throws at them, even the greenhouse goes down to 13-14 deg C), most can tolerate temperatures that are lower than ideal. There are a few like Phal violacea and bellina, that really need heat (a reason why I don't grow them) that might be placed in a very small area that is kept warmer, but most will tolerate temperatures a lot lower than ideal, especially if they can acclimate slowly. (Even Phals... some people who live near me even manage to grow them outside near walls that radiate heat that they have absorbed during the day. Especially if kept drier than ideal, it's amazing what orchids will tolerate in the way of cold. They just have to somehow get through the winter, they'll revive once conditions improve.
I'm concerned about the temperatures too, since we'll probably be lowering the thermostat a bit as well since that is the biggest cost saving measure. Luckily I don't have any true hot growing Phals (other than gigantea, but that one seems pretty adaptable too). I'm hoping it's a sunny winter because that always warms up the living room quite a bit.

I'm still counting our blessings since we live in an energy efficient apartment, have a decent level of income, and signed the new 1 year energy contract just before sh*t really hit the fan. I've read countless heartbreaking stories lately of people seeing their monthly payments go from 150 to 700euro/month and some go as far as getting disconnected from the gas network because they know they won't be able to pay their heating bill. I don't know how they will survive the winter without heat and hot water.
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Old 09-12-2022, 12:33 PM
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a worthy question, indeed. we are with you camille, and personally i can't think of anything to add other than, turn the lights off totally and let it ride!

beyond that, if it's posible to move plants in such a way that it doesn't bother you when you are gone during the day (assuming everyone is at work) and move them away at night. we do this on a limited scale with our blooming and seed capsule plants. manually each morning the plants are moved away from the bright south window and onto the main table where daytime light is optimal (but at our normal dinner spot). then, after we get home, the harsh sun is gone, but it's still super bright and out of our way, so the plants go off the table and back to the window.

i think something may be possible with a tall, rolling shelf, and assuming you have variable light conditions available. anyways, just sharing one thing we've done to avoid lights thus far
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Old 09-12-2022, 02:24 PM
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Yes, I do move the blooming plants around but that's more for my enjoyment than anything else.

They get direct sunlight on the shelves when the sun does shine in the winter, and they handle that very well. Direct sun only starts to get too harsh around march, and then I have a sheer curtain. If Dutch winters were sunny I probably wouldn't need supplemental light...
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Old 09-12-2022, 02:51 PM
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Everything is outside now since March, and it was already cold. I did a test with like 20 supermarket phals and 3-4 Catts with no heat and no lamps last winter, as Roberta said they were placed well protected from the sun and strong wins and they all bloom perfectly and the average temperature was 12º, but some nights went down to 6º.

Back to your concern, I have a friend that uses a power inverter with batteries for the lighting of the terrarium, this might sound odd in Europe but in my country, it is quite normal to have an inverter with batteries that recharge through low electricity energy each X hours. One time investment and then it is out chargeable, just need to hide them cuz it is quite big.
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  #9  
Old 09-12-2022, 07:21 PM
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In addition to the other great suggestions, if you don’t want to ditch the lights completely for the phals, you could consider running the lights only during the darkest two months of the winter.

Hypothetically, if you usually run the lights for 4 months out of the year, running them as you normally would for two months would reduce your usage by 50% but still provide a lot of light when you are providing light.
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