How Mistkits Began

How we began selling misting systems:

Mistkits started in 2006 while looking for the proper components to build an intermittent mist system. I had joined a private group of plant propagators and nursery owners and needed a misting system to begin propagating and selling plants. Before joining the group, I did extensive research on intermittent misting systems but found no real answers as to the exact parts needed to build one. I found many references as to the basics, like a general outline of the components, a brief description of the operation and mention of the need for a specific number of seconds of mist every so many minutes, but nothing I could actually use. Finding the correct components was a little difficult without knowing exactly what I needed.

After joining the group, I picked up some knowledge as to specific settings needed and many places to purchase the parts, but I wanted more. The traditional misting system uses two mechanical timers to control the mist duration and interval. This type of system has worked well for many years for plant propagation, but also has a few limitations.

  • One limitation is that the two mechanical timers are expensive. The 24 hour timer is reasonable around $40-$60, but the interval timer can range between $130-$160. That is for just one timer!
  • Another limitation is finding the timers. The 24 hour timer can be found just about anywhere, but that interval timer is tough to find.
  • A third limitation is how many zones the mechanical timer system can do. A mist system that uses two mechanical timers can do one zone. Think of a lawn irrigation system and how it is broken up into zones. It is broken up into zones because of the amount of water needed to operate all the sprinkler nozzles at one time is much greater than what your house will actually be able to provide (see my article on determining how many misting nozzles can be used per zone). Breaking the lawn into zones allows you to water the entire lawn in sections or zones. Irrigation timers have the ability to control these zones independently. Mechanical timers can control only one zone. They do not have the capability to break up your mist beds into zones, which greatly affects the efficiency and expandability of the misting system.
  • Another limitation to the mechanical timer misting system is the fact that both timers require 110 volts of electricity to operate. This means that unless you are familiar with electrical wiring, you must get a qualified electrician to install the timers. Wiring them incorrectly can cause a fire or worse; electrocution.
  • The last drawback to the mechanically operated mist system is the fact that they require electricity at all times to operate correctly. If there is an interruption in the power being supplied to your home, the 24 hour timer will have to be adjusted when the power is restored. If the timer is not adjusted, the misting system will operate, but will be out of sequence with your desired schedule. The system has to turn on automatically in the morning and off in the evening. With the loss of power to the 24 hour mechanical timer, the built in clock cannot keep track of time. When the power is restored, the timer is off by the exact amount of time the power was out. Not a problem if it was a matter of minutes, but a huge problem if it was a few hours or more. Being off by a few hours could mean the entire crop of cuttings would die because they are not getting misted when they need it. Mist systems that use mechanical timers must be checked daily to ensure there was no interruption of power, and adjusted if there was.

All these drawbacks made me start looking for alternatives to the mechanical timers. I didn’t want to babysit the misting system every day, I just wanted it to go on working all by itself. The timer I was looking for was essentially the same as an irrigation controller, but needed to be able to be programmed in seconds. Irrigation timers cannot be programmed in seconds, so they would not work. The timer also had to be affordable. Every misting timer I found was designed for “professional” propagators and ran from $500-$2500. I finally found exactly what I was looking for when I found the DIG propagation controller. It is a digital unit that plugs into an outlet and immediately converts the power to 24 volts  to reduce the likelihood of  electrical shocks. It also has a battery backup in the event of a power failure. If the power to the timer is interrupted, the battery retains the programming until the power is restored. At that time, the timer will automatically begin the scheduled programming. The extremely compact unit replaces three separate components that are required with the mechanical timer system; the 24 hour timer, the interval timer, and the 24 volt transformer. In addition to all these features is the ability to use the timer to control six different zones. Not only can six zones be controlled, but each zone can be programmed to do six entirely different operations. Each zone can be programmed to mist or irrigate, and can have different settings. One zone can be used for misting for 20 seconds, another for 6 seconds. The third zone can water your potted plants for 15 minutes every evening, the fourth can water your garden for 1/2 hour at 6AM and 7PM every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. The possibilities are nearly endless!

I purchased a DIG propagation controller and began to design my misting system. I have a very analytical mind and can dissect any project and spot any potential problems I may run into. With everything I design and build, I think long and hard on a few things.

  1. How hard will it be to build?
  2. How easy will it be to move?
  3. Can I expand if necessary?
  4. How hard will it be to expand?
  5. After it is built, will it hold up for many years?
  6. Will it be dependable?
  7. If I have any problems, will I be able to correct them without specialty parts or tools?
  8. Are the parts available nearby or if not, can I get them fast?

I sat down and after about a week of designs and re-designs, came up with solutions to all the potential problems I would face. I built my misting system and was extremely happy with the results. The private group was growing by leaps and bounds with many new members and one of the most asked questions was about building the misting system. Being very mechanically inclined, I couldn’t understand why some people had such a tough time with simple things like gluing PVC fittings to PVC pipe or connecting wires using wire nuts.  This got me to thinking about how I could use what I had learned when designing and assembling my own mist system.

I sat down and re-designed my mist system with a few things in mind:

  • Ease of use
  • Ease of assembly
  • Expandability
  • Ease of repairs if needed
  • Affordability
  • No mechanical skills needed to assemble or use
  • Ease of disassembly
  • Portability
  • Use of garden hose fittings to allow anyone to use and repair
  • And many other small improvements

After the re-design, I built a system and started testing. It went together within minutes, was extremely easy to assemble, and didn’t require any mechanical knowledge. It was such a success, I purchased the materials to build 4 more and offered them for sale to the private group. I also set up a Paypal account and a Yahoo-mail account to be used specifically for orders from the group. What a response! Every one sold out in less than a week. More components were ordered and more misting systems were offered. Again, sold out in no time! I was onto something here.

After a year of using the Yahoo account to receive orders, I realized I needed a better system to track customers, orders, and inventory. I also needed a better way to create packing slips and invoices. Microsoft Word worked, but was labor intensive when multiple orders came in. I researched shopping carts and settled on Zen Cart, an open source shopping cart with a great support forum. After months of tweaking and testing, the store went live.

With a live online store (and lots of hard work getting search listings!) came exposure to people outside the private group who were looking for the same information. Some needed just the timer, others just the misting nozzles. Still others didn’t need the exact system I offered, so we worked together on a system that worked for their particular applications.

Mistkits has continued to grow over the last few years. We now offer multiple misting nozzles and four different misting systems.

  • The basic system that is expandable to 6 zones and covers an area approximately 4×16 feet
  • The expanded system that is expandable to 6 zones and covers an area approximately 4×32 feet
  • The basic battery operated system that covers an area approximately 4×16 feet
  • The basic battery operated system that covers an area approximately 4×32 feet

Mistkits has now grown to the point where we are now stocking enough components on site to always have items on hand. In the early days, when we sold out of an item, we had just enough money (and sometimes personal funds!) to purchase the items we needed to build a system to offer it for sale. It was sometimes a challenge to keep up! Now, we have stock on hand at all times. We have always made it a point to not sell something that we don’t physically have. Many businesses operate that way, but we don’t. Occasionally, an item on the website sells out, but rest assured, we either have the items on hand to immediately add to the site, or on the way from our suppliers to replenish our stock.

Mistkits now has misting systems all over the US and Canada. Each and every one gets tested before being shipped. We want to be absolutely sure our systems will work flawlessly out of the box. Out of the hundreds of systems we have shipped, very few have had any issues, and those were; a timer that was shutting off intermittently after a year of service, and a solenoid not operating correctly.  A new timer was sent immediately, and the old returned and tested to determine that the transformer was acting up, and a new solenoid was sent to replace the defective unit. Very easy fixes.

Here is to many more years of helping our customers grow!

 

If you want to learn more about me on a personal level, click here.

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