DIY HYDROPONIC SYSTEMS

Run-To-Waste Hydroponic Systems: A Guide to the 5 Best Designs

Run to waste

Most hydroponic systems fall into two main categories: recycling or Run-To-Waste Hydroponic Systems. Run-to-waste might be the most common of these two as it only needs you not to recycle the nutrients and water used for the plants.

 

The main feature of a run-to-waste system is that it produces run-offs, which are the leftovers. For a system to be considered run-to-waste, it only needs to avoid reusing the nutrients.

 

For today’s article, we’ll take a look at three of the most common run-to-waste hydroponic systems. We let you know how you can set them up later and use them with your crops.

 

Unless you have a very unique living situation this will be an outside hydroponic setup. Since there is a considerable amount of nutrient waste runoff into the ground you may want to check local and DEP guidelines for running its type of system where you live. 

 

 

Water Culture Run-to-Waste Hydroponic Systems

 

Overview

Water culture systems are practical and easy to set up. They are by far the most popular type of hydroponic system, and they can either be run-to-waste or recycling. It is the go-to option for many home-hydroponic growers. This is because you can set it up at home without becoming an expert in scientific methods. There are two options for run-to-waste water culture systems: air bubbles and falling water. Each type provides the necessary aeration or dissolved oxygen your plants need to grow healthy.

 

Air Bubbles

You’ll need an aquarium pump or some kind of air stone to create bubbles in the nutrients for this type of system. The stones have pores that make tiny bubbles that will float to the top of the nutrient solution, providing nutrients and oxygen to every inch of the system.

These bubbles are necessary for the aeration of the nutrient solution and the system itself.

Run to waste - Air bubbles
Run to waste system- Air bubbles

Budget

$65

Build time

1-2 hours

System size

4-6 larger plants, depending on the size of your bucket or tray

Area

2 x 5 feet

Pros

Ease of set up and use. You can easily feed several plants at once. This system is great if the plants need a lot of work or need to be moved, or if you are getting them ready to transfer to another location.

Cons

Wasting of valuable water and nutrients. potential hazards to the local environment due to the excess of nutrient water runoff.

 

 

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Falling Water

This is less typical for home growers, but it is still a highly efficient water culture method. Instead of aerating your system with bubbles, you do it by letting a specific amount of waterfall into the nutrient solution and the pots you are using for holding the plants. The more volume the water has or higher the water, the more oxygen it provides.

Falling water is more common in commercial systems because they can use a larger volume of water. However, it is still possible for home growers to set this system at home.

Run to waste- Falling water
Run to waste system- Falling water

 

Budget

$85

Build time

1-2 hours

System size

16-30 smaller plants or 4-6 larger plants, depending on the size of your bucket or tray

Area

2 x 5 feet

Pros

Ease of set up and use. You can easily feed several plants at once. This system is great if the plants need a lot of work or need to be moved, or if you are getting them ready to transfer to another location.

Cons

Wasting of valuable water and nutrients. potential hazards to the local environment due to the excess of nutrient water runoff.

 

 

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The Flood and Drain Run-to-Waste Hydroponic System

 

Overview

Flood and drain or ebb and flow systems are popular options for home growers because of their many advantages over other methods. They are easy to build, extremely affordable, and you can make them fit in almost any space. Additionally, many plants grow healthy and quickly in this type of system.

There are three ways to set up your hydroponic run-to-waste ebb and flow system: the plant containers in series design, the flooding tray design, and the Serge tank flood and drain.

The type you choose will depend on your space, budget, and the components you have at hand. However, the three are excellent for small to medium-size plants and even some larger ones.

 

 

The Plant Container In Series Design

 If you plan to flood many containers simultaneously, this is the setup you need. All you need to do is place the container above the nutrient solution reservoir to allow the nutrient to drain back by using gravity.

Start by connecting all the containers through the tubing. You’ll flood them simultaneously and with the same amount. Once the flooding starts, it will fill the containers until it spills out of the container and into an overflow tube that leads the water back to the reservoir.

Once in the reservoir, you can change the nutrient solution to a new one. Thus, you create a run-to-waste flood and drain system.

The Flood and Drain Run-to-Waste
The Flood and Drain Run-to-Waste

 

Budget

$120

Build time

1-2 hours

System size

4-6 larger plants, depending on the size of your bucket or tray

Area

2 x 5 feet

Pros

Ease of set up and use. You can easily feed several plants at once. This system is great if the plants need a lot of work or need to be moved, or if you are getting them ready to transfer to another location.

Cons

Wasting of valuable water and nutrients. potential hazards to the local environment due to the excess of nutrient water runoff.

 

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The Flooding Tray Design

This method usually works best if you are not planning to leave the plants in the tray for the entirety of their growth. Instead, you should use this option if you plan to move the plants after a couple of days or weeks.

Flooding-tray-design
Flooding-tray-design

 

Budget

$160

Build time

1/2 day

System size

16-30 smaller plants or 4-6 larger plants, depending on the size of your bucket or tray

Area

2 x 5 feet

Pros

Ease of use. You can easily feed several plants at once.

Cons

More time-consuming setup. Spray emitters can get messy. Wasting of valuable water and nutrients. potential hazards to the local environment due to the excess of nutrient water runoff.

 

 

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The Serge Tank Flood and Drain

If you have a vertical space and not much else to work with, then the Serge tank is your go-to choice for flood and drain hydroponic systems. Although, keep in mind that this method will cost a lot more than the other two.

The Serge tank setup works under the scientific principle that water will seek its level. This means that water will eventually fill every container until it spills if enough water and nutrients are there.

 

Budget

$350

Build time

2-3 hours

System size

4-6 plants, depending on the size of your bucket or tray

Area

2 x 5 feet

Pros

Ease of set up and use. You can easily feed several plants at once. This system is great if the plants need a lot of work or need to be moved, or if you are getting them ready to transfer to another location.

Cons

Wasting of valuable water and nutrients. potential hazards to the local environment due to the excess of nutrient water runoff.

 

 

Learn more 

Run to Waste Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Run-to-waste systems are unique because they do not recycle nutrients. So, any hydroponic system that does not reuse the nutrients is a run-to-waste hydroponic system. However, there is hydroponics that works best as recycling systems and others that work best as run-to-waste.

Overall, water culture systems, wick systems, and flood and drain are some of the easiest ones to set up at home. They offer great benefits for growing plants, and they tend to be affordable as you don’t need to install a component to help you reuse the water.

 

 

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Dani

Dani

I'm Dani, I come from a long history of migrant farmers. In high school I wrote a paper about how my father brought us over the Texas border to give us a better life. During college, I worked part time with him in the farming industry. After receiving a degree in Urbanism from Columbia University, I started to realize how important the role of the food chain was to urban inner cities. I began studying different types of Indoor and vertical faming solutions. I started designing and building my own hydroponic systems and have never looked back.