Having the right EC meter for the hydroponics system is the best way to ensure that water supplied to the plant has the optimum level of pH and nutrients. Hence, one thing I advise you to invest in is the best EC meter for hydroponics.
An EC or conductivity meter tells if you need to change the water, add nutrients or add pH adjusters.
Since there are several kinds of EC meters for hydroponics systems, choosing the most suitable EC meter for the system you own is vital. Here I have selected seven high-quality meters that provide you highly accurate readings as well as some unique features that could be useful in the maintenance of the crops.
Best EC meter For Hydroponics
1. Bluelab METCOM Combo Meter
- Used for measuring temperature, pH, and Conductivity.
- LCD Display.
- pH calibration button.
- No calibration for conductivity and temperature.
- Replaceable pH probe.
- Low battery indicator.
- Two alkaline batteries.
Bluelab has a reputation for manufacturing quality instruments that are useful in agriculture, floriculture, greenhouse, hydroponics, and various industries. You can say they specialize in water-based crop growing systems.
The Bluelab METCOM Combo Meter is all in one instrument that measures temperature, pH level and electrical conductivity in water. Looking at its capacity and accuracy, it feels like a commercial unit.
It is powered by two AAA alkaline batteries which makes it a portable device. Speaking of portability, the unit weighs only 1.1 lbs which is very light compared to other heavy commercial meters.
One factor that makes it the best EC meter for hydroponics is accuracy. I have seen many conductivity meters that come with some acceptable margin of error. However, the Bluelab METCOM Combo Meter always gives you the most accurate reading when perfectly calibrated.
Many people who have a good amount of experience using the meter, suggest that it should be calibrated every two months if the device is used regularly. With very little maintenance, it provides the most accurate reading.
Ease of Use
Ergonomics on the meter is simple. It has three buttons to select the type of reading you want to take.
All you need to do is put the probes in the water and press the button for the concerning factor.
It is good that the meter has a wide display with reading in large fonts. In addition, it is backlit so that you can use it in low light conditions.
The probe for the temperature and conductivity is permanently attached. However, you remove or replace the pH probe.
The unit uses two AAA batteries which is more than enough. Using the two batteries, you can use the meter for almost two months if used regularly.
Also, the meter has an auto-off function that saves a lot of battery. When the meter is ideal, it turns off automatically.
The use of the main units seems durable but it is made of plastic. Hence, it must be handled with care. More than the main unit, probes need attention.
The probe that is used for the conductivity and the temperature is permanently attached to the main unit. However, the pH probe can be removed.
If you plan to use the meter to measure the pH, you will have to change the pH probe every few months. You can directly buy the Bluelab Leap pH Probe from amazon.
The length of the cables used for the probes is around 6 ft which is more than enough.
Who is it for?
Looking at the capability, features, and price of the EC meter, it is best suited for the beginner as well as the expert hydroponic farmers.
2. Apera Instruments AI316 Premium Series PC60 5-in-1
- Used for measuring pH, EC, temperature, salinity, and TDS.
- Two-color Backlit LCD screen.
- Replaceable probe.
- Auto calibrate.
- Auto hold function.
- IP67 waterproof.
- Uses 4 AAA batteries.
Apera is another company just like Bluelab which specializes in instrument manufacturing. The company has almost three decades of experience in the development of electrochemical instruments.
Apera Instruments AI316 Premium Series is probably the best all in one meter for amateur hydroponic farmers. This one instrument is all you need to maintain the quality of the water for your crops.
The manufacturer has defined accuracy of the device as,
For pH: ± 0.01 pH
For Conductivity: ± 0.5 mS/cm
For Temperature: ±0.5˚C
Looking at the numbers given by the manufacturer, this EC meter for hydroponics is highly accurate. These numbers are observed only if the conditions are not optimum or if the calibration is off.
Many users like the Apera AI316 because it offers you a resolution of 0.00. This helps you make more precise changes to the hydroponic system to make it more optimum.
All the liquids and vials required for calibration are included in the package. Good thing is that you do not require calibration too often. Just once or twice over three months is enough. It will give you accurate readings.
Ease of Use
The AI316 is a waterproof meter which makes it perfect for hydroponic use. However, the manufacturer advises the user not to submerge the complete unit in the water.
Just dip the probe in the water and take the readings. You can switch between different modes to take a measurement. For that just press the mode button.
The best part about the meter is the display shows all measurements. You don’t have to take separate readings.
There is a separate calibrate button for a one-step calibration process which makes the meter perfect for the amateurs.
The meter uses four AAA batteries. With normal usage, the batteries last for about two months. The manufacturer promises 1000 hours of usage with four batteries.
The AI316 meter requires one hand for use. The open design makes it easy to handle the device while taking the readings.
The probe is at the tip of the unit. In order to replace, all you have to do is remove it and replace it with a new one. You can buy the replaceable probe from the Amazon.
As far as the ergonomics are concerned, it uses straightforward three buttons on/off, mode and calibrate. The pushbuttons are large.
Also, the display is large and all the details are easily visible. However, you can switch between the modes to see the different measurements.
Who is it for?
Looking at the ease of use and design, the Apera Instruments AI316 Premium Series PC60 is perfect for any beginner hydroponic farmer.
3. Apera AI3719 PC60-Z Bluetooth Multi-Parameter Smart Tester
- Used for measuring pH, EC, TDS, salinity, resistivity, and temperature.
- Compatible with ZenTest Mobile App via Bluetooth.
- Four display modes.
- Replaceable probe.
- Data Management.
Apera offers a unique EC meter. Probably there are not many of this kind. The Apera AI3719 PC60-Z is a smart tester that can be connected to any smartphone via an app.
Data analysis is something that is crucial for a commercial farmer. Especially if you are looking to grow a crop that is sensitive to elements in the water, something like Apera AI3719 could be a powerful tool.
You can compare the accuracy of the Apera Instruments AI316 with AI3719. Both use almost similar probes.
For this device too, the acceptable error the manufacture states is:
For pH: ± 0.01 pH
For Conductivity: ± 0.5 mS/cm
For Temperature: ±0.5˚C
All the calibration bottles are included in the package. Even if you are using the meter regularly, it requires calibration only once a month.
However, you may need to change the probe every two months because the pH sensor has a limited life. And it is all in one probe, you will have to change the probe every few months.
The spare probe for Apera AI3719 is available on amazon.
Ease Of Use
First thing, even if you don’t connect it with any smart device the meter works like any other EC meter for hydroponics. Just select the right mode and take the reading.
However, when you connect it with a smartphone you get the best out of the Apera AI3719.
It connects to any phone via Bluetooth. Also, you need to install the ZenTest app which is available for both Android as well as iOS devices.
The ZentTest app opens up new features of the meter. It guides you through the step by step process of making the most accurate measurements.
And if there is an error, the app has a self-diagnosis system that tells you what is wrong with the reading.
In addition, there are four modes to view the data obtained by the meter:
- Basic Mode
- Dial Mode
- Graph mode
- Table Mode
You can also save the obtained data on the cloud directly from the app. The data includes the measurement and the photo of the sample or the site. Moreover, you can share the data via Email directly from the app.
The Apera AI3719 uses four AAA batteries. If you use the meter without connecting to any smartphone, the batteries may last for at least 2-3 months.
However, if you constantly use it with a smartphone, the meter runs out of battery in a month.
Yes, a rechargeable battery could have made it the best EC meter for hydroponics among other meters.
The design is similar to the Apera Instruments AI316. But you can see there are a few changes.
The first thing you notice is the quality of the housing. It looks much better compared to AI316.
Also, though the number of buttons on the system is the same, you can see that the mode button is also used for Bluetooth connectivity. The rest of the two buttons include on/off and calibrate.
The unit is completely waterproof. You can submerge it while taking the readings.
Even changing the tip is a breeze. Just open the old probe and replace it with the new one.
Who is it for?
Any farmer with large hydroponic systems or with water-sensitive crops must use the Apera AI3719 PC60-Z Bluetooth Multi-Parameter Smart Tester. Its data management system could help you monitor your crops more closely.
4. Bluelab MONGUA Guardian Monitor
- Measures pH, temperature, and conductivity.
- Continuous measurement.
- Separate display for all units.
- Backlit display.
- Kit includes calibration solutions.
The Bluelab MONGUA Guardian Monitor is one of the most powerful conductivity meters. Probably it is Bluelab’s highly reliable measurement tool.
Also when we compare to it with other meters, it is the only one that gives you live measurement.
The requirement for the MONGUA Guardian Monitor is different when you compare it with other EC meters. It has to provide accurate reading continuously for an extended period.
The probes are designed to remain submerged for months while providing accurate readings.
You can expect an error of 0.5 mS/cm. But most of the time it provides accurate numbers.
Users who have experience of using the device advice to calibrate the meter once a month to make sure readings are error-free.
Ease of Use
Compared to portable EC testers, the MONGUA Guardian Monitor needs a fixed place for installation. You can install it on a wall or any flat surface near the hydroponic system.
Since the probes do not have a long cord, you must find a place closer to the system. Also, it requires AC power supply 24 x 7 so arrange for it.
Once installed, there is not much to do, you will have live readings continuously. The three separate displays provide continuous readings of pH, temperature, and conductivity.
The only thing you need to worry about is the probe. Probes need to be maintained once a month.
The MONGUA Guardian Monitor requires a continuous power supply. The power cord and the adapter are included in the package. All you have to do is install the unit near the power supply.
The design is simple and straightforward. The complete housing is made of plastic. I am not sure if it is waterproof. The manufacturer has not mentioned anything about it.
The probes are detachable. You can replace the probes whenever required.
In addition, there are buttons to select different units for all parameters.
One feature that any hydroponic farmer would love is that you can set high or low values for the parameters. If the set value is crossed, the meter notifies you with flashing light.
The backlit display is simple and fonts are readable from a few meters.
Who is it for?
Since it is fixed and provides continuous readings, it is suitable for large or commercial hydroponic systems. Also, it could be useful for monitoring crops that are sensitive to small changes in parameters like pH, temperature or conductivity.
5. HM Digital Com-300
- Used for measuring pH, conductivity, TDS, and temperature.
- automatic temperature compensation.
- Replaceable probe.
- LCD digital display.
- Two AAA batteries.
HM Digital is not as popular as Apera or Bluelabs but they have a rich history of manufacturing water testing instruments.
They do have many EC meters but out of all Com-300 is the most reliable and accurate meter. Like all the other meters on this list is designed for measuring pH, temperature, and conductivity.
There are many meters with many unique features but not many can compete with the accuracy of the Com-300.
Almost all of its users say it is highly accurate. There are no official numbers by the manufacturer about the acceptable error for this meter.
But if it is calibrated perfectly, you can expect to give you the most accurate readings.
Ease of use
The meter is much like any other pocket conductivity meter. You set the meter for the EC parameter, deep the meter in the water and take the readings.
The small size of the meter makes it easy to handle. You can use just one hand.
In addition, the display gives the required readings and holds reading. The display is not backlit which is the only disadvantage of having the meter.
The ergonomics are also simple. There are three buttons on/off, hold/mode, and ph/EC/cal. Compared to other devices the size of the buttons are too small.
Selecting the right button without looking at it is not possible.
The Com-300 uses two AAA batteries. Even with daily use, the meter can be used for more than a month.
The design is similar to other meters with housing made of plastic and replaceable probes. You will have to change the probe every few months because the pH sensor has a very low life.
The construction is waterproof. Hence, you can even submerge it for better readings. However, it is advised not to keep submerged for long hours.
There is no external calibration kit but it has the feature of digital calibration. Also, the meter doesn’t require calibration too often. But is it good practice to calibrate it once a month for accurate readings.
Who is it for?
If you are looking for a highly accurate portable EC meter, the HM Digital Com-300 could be a great option.
Buyer’ Guide- Important Things To Consider While Buying Best EC Meter For Hydroponics?
EC meter may be a simple device but you will be able to choose the most suitable EC meter only if you know a few basic things about it. Here we have compiled some important things that you must take care of while buying the conductivity meter for hydroponics.
1. Accurate Reading
Why does accuracy matter in terms of hydroponics?
The conductivity of water tells you about the nutrient content in the water. So, depending on the reading you either decide to add more water, more nutrients or change the water in the reservoir.
This is the big reason why you want the most accurate readings. Especially, if any crop is sensitive to the changes in water, you want your measurement to be perfect.
All the meters we have mentioned in the post are accurate, but if you are going for the most accurate EC meter, we suggest you go with paste.
2. Hold Function
Hold button is useful if you want to note the reading.
Usually, when you take the measurements, the reading is available until the probe is under the water. Once you remove it, reading goes to zero.
With the help of a hold function, you can freeze the reading. This allows you to take a note of the reading.
If you are a hydroponic farmer or researcher who does a lot of data analysis, the paste is the best EC meter for you.
In hydroponic farming, everything is about water. Any device you use for hydroponic systems has to be waterproof or water-resistant.
EC meter has to be waterproof but there are two types of waterproof EC meters.
In the first kind, only the probe is waterproof and the processing unit is not. Most of the EC meters are of this kind.
The second type is completely waterproof. Even if you submerge the whole unit, the meter works. Most of the portable or handheld meter comes under this category.
Most of the time you will be using the EC meter in a rough environment. You want your meter to be impact proof or shockproof.
The EC meter is a very delicate device. Even with small impacts, the sensor can get damaged.
You cannot do anything about the fragile sensors but you can choose a meter with thought housing that protects the sensors.
5. Battery Level Indicator
Most of the EC meters I have examined use batteries. The most popular kind of battery used for the conductivity meter is the AAA battery.
To help you monitor the battery level an indicator is useful. Most of the EC meters come with an LCD display. So go for only those meters that show you the battery level.
Battery level is always indicated on the display or has a small LED light for the battery that lights up when the battery is low.
6. Automatic shut-off
If you are planning to buy an EC meter that runs on battery, look for the auto shut off function in the meter.
This function turns off the meter if the meter is not in use for a certain time period. This saves a lot of battery.
Some Frequently Asked Questions About EC Meter For Hydroponics
1. What is an EC meter?
EC meter is a device that measures the electrical conductivity of the solution. The unit of electrical conductivity is siemens per meter.
It is also called TDS, PPM or CF meter.
2. How often should you calibrate an EC meter?
Over a period of a month or so the probe has the salt build-up which compromises the sensor. You will have to clean it and calibrate it to make it accurate again.
Manufacturers suggest that an Ec meter must be calibrated every month. This also extends the life of the sensors.
3. How does a conductivity meter work?
The function of the conductivity meter or EC meter is to measure the electrical conductivity of the solution.
If the solution has a high concentration of salt, electrical conductivity is high.
And if the solution has a low concentration of salt, the electrical conductivity is low.
In hydroponics, the salts are nothing but the nutrients in the water. Thus the conductivity meter can be used to check the nutrient content of the water used for the hydroponic system.
4. What is the unit of electrical conductivity?
The electrical conductivity is measured in Siemens per metre.
Having the best EC meter for hydroponics is a must to maintain the optimum growth of the crops. It gives you an indication of the nutrient content and also the pH value of the water.
Based on this information, you can decide if you need to change the water or you need to add nutrients into the system.