Canatronics Renegade Contactors
- 4000 Watts total load (Canatronics 8 way up to 4800 watts)
- Easy to use
- Dedicated auxiliary heater output
- Features an integral Grasslin timer
- HO7RNF fire resistant cabling
- Wall mountable with attached brackets
- Housed in a tough metal box
Due to plants sensitivity to changes in lighting schedules, it’s important to make sure your lighting is switched on and off at the right time. Canatronics units are known to be superior quality, highly reliable contactors that can handle up to 4000/4800 watts of equipment. The original name in contractors, growers have used these for years. They are hand built in England, they contain the infallible heavy duty Grasslin Timer and a dedicated auxiliary for heaters.
The Science of a Contactor
Controlling a growroom’s lighting requires the use of electrical controllers built to handle four to 100+ lights. Power requirements might even require the indoor greenhouse to be powered with three-phase power, single-phase power with a 200-A service or something even larger. A lighting controller consists of contactor(s), 120-V or 240-V receptacles, a timer or trigger cord and breakers. Many companies sell these pre-assembled with everything contained in one enclosure, which is easy to mount and wire into the building’s main power. If you have the money, you can even hire an electrician to custom-build your lighting controllers and load centres. It’s also easy to mount a load centre with several breakers (some for 240 V and 120 V), which is then connected to another enclosure (which is NEMA rated) with electrical metallic tubing pipe.
This set-up is National Electrical Code (NEC) compliant, and mounting two separate enclosures is also safer and easier to service any of the contactors, relays, timer, programmable logic controller (PLC), high-temp shut-offs, printed circuit boards and any other electronics or parts mounted inside. Still, remember that when you are servicing a load centre, you might be required to turn off power before removing the load centre’s cover. With larger load centres (100 A or more), a main breaker is a must have. This way, in case of emergency, all the power can be shut off by switching the single main breaker as opposed to ten or twenty individual ones. The main power that supplied to your indoor greenhouse will be either single-phase or three-phase. In commercial buildings, it is more likely to be three-phase, which can be either a WYE or High-Delta. Installing dozens of lights in a three-phase location can be tricky to balance the loads across all three legs of the power system. The voltage across two legs will be either 240 V or 208 V. In a High Delta three-phase, the second leg is not 120 V to ground, it’s 208 V—so, if a 120 V device is ever connected to this second leg, it will be burned out. Also, make sure that your ballasts are wired for the correct voltage. Electronic ballasts have operating voltages from 90 V to 240 V. Coil and core ballasts have multiple input voltages for the transformer, so make sure the ballast is wired for the correct voltage on three-phase power to make sure it operate correctly. Some electronic or digital ballast also now feature dimming levels for the lights, which reduce power consumption as well as light levels and temperatures. Indeed, heat can be a major problem in greenhouses. As such, a controller’s breakers and heavy duty contactors should be separated so that the heat generated by the contactors does not affect the breakers, which will trip because of high temperatures. Also, if your load centre is located in an area that gets warm (in excess of 100ºF), that will affect the breakers too. Another way to reduce heat in a greenhouse without sacrificing light levels is to turn about 10% of the lights off when temperatures rise too high. Each time this is done, the lights can be sequenced to make sure that they cycle, instead of just the same ones every time. A chessboard pattern would be the easiest to manage, and a load centre or controller can be built to shut off the different lights each time the temperature rises. Keep in mind though that today’s off-the-shelf lighting controller won’t allow custom lighting controls. To achieve this, an electrician must be hired to build a controller with PLC options to handle all the lighting control and protection. A simple PLC can have eight input triggers and four outputs to control four contactors or ballasts. It can also have a simple timer board for four lights or ballasts, with four input triggers and four outputs. Then, if needed, the ballasts can be programmed with on and off delays, from 1/100 second to several minutes—all programmable down to seconds. The four input triggers can be plugged into a timer, heat sensor, flood detector, etc. Each of these input triggers would control the number of ballasts or lights to turn off or on in the event of activation. For example, a smoke detector could shut off all lights or ballasts immediately, while a temperature controller could turn off and on one or two lights a few times a day when the temperature rises. More complex PLCs can control everything from hundreds of lights to AC, fans, heating, CO2, pumps, sensors, etc. It can also control the ballast dimming levels via time schedules or temperature settings. (A touchscreen makes it easier to change the PLC parameters or time cycles.) If there’s ever a concern about how many amps are being drawn when all of the devices are on, even intermittently, some digital ammeters can be installed to monitor power in real time. With larger indoor gardens, a flip is sometimes used to create opposite 12-hour cycles in two separate rooms of flowering lights. There are several off-the-shelf flips, which all have the same layout, or an electrician can also easily build you a NEC-compliant flip. If you have two separate growrooms, then the lamp cords should be plugged into opposite sides of the flip enclosure. You can also link the flip to your load centre to allow the off and on cycling of ballasts as required when lights are flipping from either side. When a PLC is installed in a flip, multiple-timing cycles and individual flip relay control is achieved. Even if the lights are flipped every hour (to allow a vegetative cycle in both growrooms), the ballasts can still be powered off and on—for even a few seconds to a few minutes—and stagger the delays in between.