To build an automated chilli grow house you could use a greenhouse or even a poly tunnel, but I decided to use the very old tatty shed that is in my garden, its full of gaps and holes and is frankly falling apart.
With the help of my son Josh, I stared by installing some windows in the roof to allow a lot more light in, I say windows but to be honest they were just picture frames with glass instead of the normal plastic I found them for £5 at a local shop (The Range).
The next step was to divide the shed into two parts, after all I still need some storage space. To do this we had to build a partition wall, this would still leave me with three side windows and two roof windows to let in the light during the day, being a cheap skate I decided to use some old cardboard boxes to build the wall, not the thin stuff you can get anywhere, I managed to get some quality laminated cardboard about 1 cm thick that was going to be thrown away at work, In fact I managed to get my hands on enough to line half the shed.
Using some strategically placed 4x2cm strips of wood we built a doorway in the middle of the shed.
we then lined the inside of the shed with some plastic sheeting to keep out the wind and moisture.
Once the sheeting was stapled up it was time to line the shed with cardboard and complete the partition wall.
To help maintain the temperature inside the grow house and reflect as much light as possible we used some Multi-Layer Foil Insulation to cover the cardboard walls, ceiling and floor.
You can buy Multi-Layer Foil Insulation here.
I built and lined the door in the exact same way as the walls, I allowed a small overlap of the Multi-Layer Foil to provide some draft proofing.
The next thing I needed was electricity to power the control system, I bought some external power cable and ran it from a socket in the outhouse to the shed, being careful not to run it across the floor where it might be hit with the lawnmower. I then installed a 4 way socket inside the shed to power the devices I need. Please be careful when wiring if you are not competent you can and probably will kill yourself.
I then installed the control system in the shed, just to let it run for a while without anything attached, the main reason for this was that I was not sure that the multi-layer insulation would not make a Faraday cage that block the Wi-Fi signal, as it turns out it did, so I had to move the control system to near the windows where the multi-layer insulation helped to bring the Wi-Fi signal into the shed.
As you can see from the second image above I have also used some bubble wrap to insulate the windows, it helps maintain the temperature and does not block out much light.
As it was the beginning of December I could not leave the control system setup without having some heat in the shed, with this in mind I wired up the heater to the system, within a minuit the shed was up to temperature and holding.
Next I built the LED strip lights and wired up the lights to the control system.
The strip lights are built using a laminated floor board that I had hanging around, and 2x 12v full spectrum LED strips, I first stick some Multi-Layer insulation over the floor board then simply stapled the LED strip to the board.
You can buy full spectrum LED strip lights here
After running the shed with a basic setup for a while I realised the internal temperature and humidity were very much intertwined, as the temperate went up the humidity went down and vis versa, I realised I needed to keep the temperature up but not too high and the humidity up at the same time, With an average humidity of over 60% in England, I had to bring air from the outside, to realize this I installed a 120mm fan in the corner of the shed, cut a round hole through the insulation so the fan would pull air from between the shed wall and the insulation, this is on the side of the shed where the sun never hits at any time of the day so the air coming in is always cool and humid.
For the watering system I needed to obviously keep the soil moist but also not soak the floor of the shed, so I decide on a recycling system, this way what ever passed through the soil would return to the water storage container for use again, hopefully meaning I would be able to fill up a container only now and again.
To achieve this I need to lift the trays I was going to use off the floor, I found some cheap blocks at a local hardware store and I also had a few house bricks hanging around, I bought some guttering an end stop and a corner piece to complete the trough to send any lost water back to the water container.
The trough was slightly higher than the blocks so I had to add a few bits of wood cutoff I had hanging around to level things up.
I drilled some holes in the trays to line up with the trough below so any water then passed through the soil would drain into the trough then return to the water storage container.
To help maintain the temperature in the shed I need to make sure nothing can generate heat, the trays themselves are black so will absorb heat from the sun and in turn heat the shed, so I decided to cover them in multi layer insulation to avoid this.
The water for the chilli plants is supplied by a 12V pump in a container in the corner of the shed, I fitted a clear hose pipe to the pump so I can see the water flow and then fitted garden sprinklers in the hose pipe.
This page is being updated as I continue to build and improve the setup.