thanks for the kind words.
i run four plants per cycle in #3 smart pots. living organic soil. i am still a noob so i haven't gotten to the point of making my own soil mixes yet, but i am getting good at both amending quality soil mixes as well as making pretty decent thermal compost and EWC (good shit lol). i have also been using FPE's with great success (mostly for foliar during veg).
the blumats are my favorite. they do a better job watering than i do, and the plants love them. i just went away for 3 days and came back to very happy plants, they hardly even missed me. 70$ or whatever for the patio set is probably the best thing i spent money on during the whole build.
the next biggest expense was the lighting system. i got the cooltube on CL for 1/2 price, but had to get the bulb and ballast at the hydro store (read: $$$$$$).
i put together the exhaust for pretty cheap. all the activated carbon was on sale at petco. probably the hardware cloth was the most expensive part of that. in retrospect, if i had had a bigger budget, i would have sprung for an in-line fan (like a vortex) with a speed controller. i may eventually upgrade that.
the light is a 400w hortilux super hps in a cool tube. the tube sits snug in a 6" adjustable elbow which plugs into my 8" can fan. i used silicon putty to create a perfect non-adhesive seal.
here's an old pic of the cool tube and the exhaust before i added the putty, and one with it finished and seated.
i made the filter after reading a couple diff DIYs and then putting it together the way it made sense to me. i did a tutorial. the link is in my sig.