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Ask-a-Grower Podcast #16-Bluelab Meters


Introducing Bluelab Meters

Welcome to San Diego Hydroponics and Organics. We are here today at our 2011 Customer Appreciation days, happening at our San Marcos location. It’s our biggest sale of the year. We are here today to talk with Cindy Farnsworth from BlueLab.

How has it been here for your today?

A lot of people have been here today. And we’ve had a good time educating people on the Bluelab meters.

Tell us something in a broad sense about Bluelab’s history or about it in general.

Well, Bluelab has been in business for about 30 years. We are a company from New Zealand; it used to be New Zealand Hydroponics. There are a lot of people in New Zealand that grow commercially for commercial use and hydroponics. We’ve always done commercial meters in the past. We have changed it up a little bit for either the hobbyist or for a smaller grower, so they can use our meters too. We changed our name to Bluelab about 10 years ago; we wanted to brand ourselves and we came up with the name Bluelab and it has been very successful ever since.

Can you tell us something about the products that your company carries?

We carry meters that measure conductivity or electrical conductivity, PH and temperature. We have 5 different meters.
The first one is a Truncheon – it’s a big stick, about 16 inches long, that measures electrical conductivity so fast that it gives you a flashing light, so you know exactly where you’re at. You simply stick it in the water and it reads. You don’t have to turn it on or turn it off, it just flashes with a blue light. It will read in EC and it will calculate to PPM, either 500 or 700.
The next one is our Combo meter, it measures all of the three: PH, PPM and temperature; that meter is hand held, so you just drop the probes into the water and it measures very simple, almost immediately. You only have to calibrate the PH probe; you don’t have to calibrate the conductivity or PPM probe. You do have to clean it occasionally, but not calibrate it.
The next one is just a hand held PH meter that measures PH. It has the same probe; all of our probes are interchangeable. So you can actually use our soil probe on any PH meter and it will measure the PH in your soil also. It’s very flexible. All of our probes have a BMC fitting; it automatically fits on all the different meters. So you just have to calibrate when you change the probes.
Then we have our Soil meter that measures the PH in the soil; it comes in a great light blue box.
The last thing we have is the Guardian, which is a continuous read, so you just drop the probes in the water and hang it on the wall and you’ll know exactly what is happening. The great thing about continuous read is that when you’re adding nutrients you can see how the nutrient levels are changing, immediately. So it’s really helpful to mix and see the readings at the same time. That item also measures conductivity, so PPM 700, PPM 500, EC, TDS, whatever you’re comfortable with, that’s what it will read. It has a 2 years warranty and it’s the prettiest meter out there.

What is PPM 500, PPM 700 (I heard you mentioning those)?

That is actually a dilution rate. When somebody is making nutrients, they will use a scale of either PPM 500 or PPM 700. So it basically is one percent out of 100. But the nutrients are less than 1% so you change the way you measure it in parts per million. So in 500 are 500 parts per million units. So in 700 are 700 parts per million. So it’s just about measuring something that is less then a full percentage of whatever it’s mixed into. The key in hydroponics is that if you don’t know what the PPM the nutrient company is using to measure, then you could be expecting the wrong reading. You have to make sure you know what you are using, so you won’t overdose or under dose.

And how does that tie into EC?

EC is the one true measurement of electrical conductivity. That means you can’t measure in PPMs. You have to take EC times 500 (or 700) to get you PPM 500 (or 700).

Perfect. I hope this clarifies it for some people out there. There is big competition in your industry, Hanna of course being one. Why should I buy Bluelab?

Because our guarantee is longer than anybody else’s in this industry. So all of our hand held meters have a 5 year guarantee; nobody else offers that much. Guardian is a continuous read, so it reads for 24 h, so the guarantee is for 2 years. We are looking into extending it a little bit; hopefully we can get that to 3 years in the next months. We also sell double juncture probes. It sounds funny but it will last longer. Because the live solution is KCL solution, in all PH probes. Once that is gone, it’s gone and the probes will have to be replaced. Our replacement probes are inexpensive. But the double juncture probe will contaminate it less than the single juncture probe. It will not use as much KCL solution as a single probe does.

So it will last longer.

Right, it should last 12 to 24 months, depending on how you take care of it and that is the key. It’s a very delicate probe and it has a glass bulb at the tip so you have to be careful with it. So, it’s a tough one.
Our new program that is coming out is that SD hydroponics is now a certified Bluelab dealer and when you buy a Bluelab meter from them, they will be able to give you immediately a return if for some reason, it breaks. They’ll do some troubleshooting at the stores, check the probes, make sure the probes aren’t broken or have no missing parts and that the batteries are working. Once we do that and it’s definitely the meters problem, then we will exchange it immediately for you. So you don’t have to wait for the meter to be returned and then be fixed and returned to you. It’s too important to let you go without the meter.

That is great. Can you walk us through some calibration procedures for BlueLab equipment?

Sure. On our conductivity meter or our PPM meter, there’s no need for calibration; it just has to be cleaned. The oil from the nutrients will get on the tip of that so it needs to be cleaned with a no residue type of cleaning solution, like soft scrub. For the PH there is a simple push button calibration. So you put your PH probe in PH 7 for reference and you always have to calibrate to 7 and 4 or 7 and 10 depending on what you’re reading. Basically you’re telling the meter that you’re measuring between these two points. For example, with the Combo meter, you hold the PH button down until it flashes, then you hit Cal 7 and you’re done. For the plant PH meter, you hold the Cal 7 button down until it flashes and then hit it again; so you hit the same button twice. Then for the Guardian it’s really not difficult, you hold one button down, and that is all you have to do. Overall it’s really easy.

We really appreciate you coming down here. We had a huge response to Bluelab meters in our stores.

One more thing – if you come to San Diego Hydroponics, they have a grow book that Bluelab has put together; it has the basics of growing hydroponically. It talks about plant basics, about PH and its importance, about the nutrients and how you measure it and what it’s important to measure it and about temperature. The oxygen level in your water is so crucial, that people tend to neglect the temperature a little bit. So between 72 and 75 degrees your oxygen level is almost cut in half. So you want to make sure that the temperature of the water is about 68 degrees so it has extra oxygen. That is in the book also. So if you are looking for some information, this grow book is free. Just come to the San Marcos facility and you’ll be able to pick it up.

It’s quite a piece of literature folks. It’s not an your regular everyday pamphlet. Will it be available online at some point?

Yes, we will put in online on to read it. The more educated the growers are, the happier everyone is. They’ll be more successful and everyone is happy.

Couldn’t said it better ourselves.

Once again it’s: and you can find their products at all our SD Hydroponics stores. You can listen to this and read the transcriptions’ podcast on Thank you for being here Cindy.
Thank you for listening to this podcast. Make sure you send us you questions and give us your feedback.

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