My Dimmable T5HO Hood - Page 2 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #16 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-04-2011, 05:52 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by londonloco View Post
I'm interested in the Sunlift Spring Tensioners. I saw these the other day on catalinaaquarium.com:
Not sure who makes those, but they do appear to be spring tensioners.

The Marinedepot link shows the ones I have, and that's where I bought them.
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post #17 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-04-2011, 05:56 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Salmon McCloud View Post
The resistors are in series with the LEDs not in parallel. If they were in parallel something terrible would happen most likely. I won't get into details.
The LEDs are in parallel, each with a series limiting resistor. But I can see how what I said might be confusing, so I removed "parallel" from the main post. Not needed anyway, this isn't intended to be a LED tutorial.

I've let the magic smoke out of plenty of things, but not on this fixture.
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post #18 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-04-2011, 06:06 PM Thread Starter
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Here's a stupid question, if I were to replace the ballast on my t5ho that I bought, could I have dimmable lights?
Would be basically the same as any ballast replacement.

First and foremost, you'd need to make sure the ballast can be made to physically fit. If not, you might mount the ballast on top (ugly). Or mount the ballast elsewhere, and run wires from the ballast to the fixture. Most manufacturers specify the maximum allowable wire length. If you exceed it, there's a small possibility the ballast may not work, but it's more likely the ballast will just emit more radio interference than regulations allow.

Some bulb sockets bridge both pins together internally and some do not. For my ballast at least, the socket must be unbridged. So check that too, and replace the sockets if needed, which may require some mechanical creativeness. In my case, that would probably be velcro.

And of course add the wall dimmer or potentiometer.
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post #19 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-04-2011, 06:43 PM
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Very nice. As Hoppy says, this makes T5HO competitive both in price and dimmability with LEDs, at least if you leave out bulb replacement costs.

In the future, if you are trying to figure out whether your stain/topcoat is going to reveal sanding marks or other blemishes, you can wipe naptha or paint thinner on the wood first. These things (or really any other light solvent) will preferentially soak into scratches or dings in the same way that stain and finish will. But then they evaporate, leaving you free to sand out those problems before you go further.

Like others, I'm curious about the sunlift tensioners. I'd like to use them for my LED rig, but I've heard that the build quality is questionable. I would completely lose my mind if I came home one day to find my DIY fixture in my tank.

One final note: I am obviously biased in favor of LEDs since I have wasted tons of time building an over-complex LED fixture. But I still see some big advantages. First the cost really is lower over the long term because you don't have to replace bulbs. Second, there are a lot of fixture design options because the LEDs and optics are so tiny and because you can put the ballasts anywhere you want. This means that you can build the equivalent of a metal halide pendant or go all the other way to a top-of-tank canopy. Third, I now think they are actually EASIER to build than what you have done. If you use thermal adhesive to anchor the LEDs, the only "difficult" thing is the soldering. And that is easy if you have a >100W soldering gun.

The big advantage of T5HO, as you say, is that it does a better job at color rendering (at least right now). Let's just admit it. And, as you say, changing your colors is pretty easy, even if it ain't cheap.

You get serious DIY points for going your own way though. We've all started downgrading the "wow" factor of LED projects, but this is really something.
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post #20 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-04-2011, 07:43 PM Thread Starter
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Very nice. As Hoppy says, this makes T5HO competitive both in price and dimmability with LEDs, at least if you leave out bulb replacement costs.
I'm hoping that dimming at moderate levels might also extend the bulb life, just as overdriving (remember ODNO?) will shorten it. Too early to tell.

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Originally Posted by sns26 View Post
In the future, if you are trying to figure out whether your stain/topcoat is going to reveal sanding marks or other blemishes, you can wipe naptha or paint thinner on the wood first. These things (or really any other light solvent) will preferentially soak into scratches or dings in the same way that stain and finish will. But then they evaporate, leaving you free to sand out those problems before you go further.
Great tip! Will definitely remember this for my next project.

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Originally Posted by sns26 View Post
Like others, I'm curious about the sunlift tensioners. I'd like to use them for my LED rig, but I've heard that the build quality is questionable. I would completely lose my mind if I came home one day to find my DIY fixture in my tank.
At 21lbs. for my hood, I'm actually pushing the Sunlifts just past their 20lb. limit when it's raised for maintenance. They seem to work via a coil spring to cancel part of the weight, and an adjustable friction plate to keep it from moving until a specific amount of force is applied. They've gotten a bit looser with time, requiring two additional adjustments after the initial one, to keep the hood from slowly slipping a few inches after being lifted. Apparently there's a break-in period, and they seem stable now. If there's some other failure mode, I haven't heard of it. Since my hood normally rests on the rim, having it slip when I'm not around isn't a concern. For a permanently suspended hood, I'd recommend shortening the string so that it reaches the hard limit just before reaching the tank.

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Originally Posted by sns26 View Post
One final note: I am obviously biased in favor of LEDs since I have wasted tons of time building an over-complex LED fixture. But I still see some big advantages. First the cost really is lower over the long term because you don't have to replace bulbs. Second, there are a lot of fixture design options because the LEDs and optics are so tiny and because you can put the ballasts anywhere you want. This means that you can build the equivalent of a metal halide pendant or go all the other way to a top-of-tank canopy. Third, I now think they are actually EASIER to build than what you have done. If you use thermal adhesive to anchor the LEDs, the only "difficult" thing is the soldering. And that is easy if you have a >100W soldering gun.
I agree with all this, and my initial LED fixture design was so complex only because I had some specific (and perhaps unreasonable) expectations that most people won't. I'm considering building a LED fixture for a smaller tank, and I have some interesting ideas brewing for that too.
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post #21 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-04-2011, 09:33 PM
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That's a beautiful DIY, and your in-depth documentation with excellent pictures was a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing!
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post #22 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-04-2011, 09:43 PM
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Great job! Definitely the way to go if you have the DIY tools, time, skillset, and no inclination to pay the high prices of the dimmable ATI T5HO fixtures.
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post #23 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-04-2011, 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by DarkCobra View Post
The LEDs are in parallel, each with a series limiting resistor. But I can see how what I said might be confusing, so I removed "parallel" from the main post. Not needed anyway, this isn't intended to be a LED tutorial.

I've let the magic smoke out of plenty of things, but not on this fixture.
Yeah I'm majoring in electronics engineering so I know some stuff about LEDs lol. This gave me a good idea for my first capstone project coming up here in the spring, hopefully I can make my own dimmable T5HO light fixture from scratch (basically that's the point of the capstone, make something from the ground up.) Definitely a good read. I'll have to buy one of those ballasts and take it apart. Thanks for the idea!

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post #24 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-05-2011, 12:22 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Salmon McCloud View Post
Yeah I'm majoring in electronics engineering so I know some stuff about LEDs lol. This gave me a good idea for my first capstone project coming up here in the spring, hopefully I can make my own dimmable T5HO light fixture from scratch (basically that's the point of the capstone, make something from the ground up.) Definitely a good read. I'll have to buy one of those ballasts and take it apart. Thanks for the idea!
An EE, cool! Since you mentioned taking apart a ballast, does that mean you'll be building the ballast from scratch too? If so, wow. I've poked around in one and got it to drive some things it wasn't supposed to, but in general anything with inductors confounds me.
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post #25 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-05-2011, 12:52 AM
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Yeah dc is easier to understand. AC with capacitors and inductors gets a little confusing. I have had to deal with them for a little bit now so I'll have to refresh my memory, but I'm sure that won't be difficult. The ballasts will be the most difficult part, but very rewarding I'm sure

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post #26 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-05-2011, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
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Found a couple more photos, that along with build details might be useful to someone building a wooden hood.



All the wooden components, short of the strips that provide mounting for the bulb sockets and sides of the splash shield.

I have a miter saw and circular saw, but not a table saw. So my ability to accurately perform long, straight cuts is limited. As much as possible, I designed the hood around the dimensions of lumber available to me. My hood's an inch or two taller than is actually required for internal components because of that; and although I wanted a small profile, I chose to accept this as a compromise.

The only two cuts I could not eliminate that exceeded the limits of my miter saw were trimming the length of the top piece. These were carefully done with the circular saw, and an aluminum angle clamped to the board as a guide; with scrap pieces used to protect the wood from being marred by the C-clamps. The results were visibly off, especially in the angle of the blade; somehow despite being previously set and verified to be 0. But it had to do.



Assembly. I've never assembled a box before. There's probably some neat tools made specifically for this purpose. But I don't have or know about such things, so I just improvised with what I had on hand.

First I needed a surface with both sufficient flatness and space. My coffee table was the best I could come up with.

I laid the top piece down. It was slightly warped and didn't lay completely flat. So I weighed it down with a couple of paint cans, and a 20lb. chunk of steel; which I have just because I thought an unusually dense object might come in handy some day. It does, with surprising frequency.

Other pieces were put in place. The front and back were slightly warped too, so I needed to force them into place with a straight edge.

For the straight edge, I first tried some structural 2x4's, but they weren't even close to straight. 1x2's were better, with only a slight curvature over their length.

Then I needed to apply force. I stole the ratcheting straps from my dolly, and experimented with adjusting things. I found that with the 1x2's laid flat rather than up, with their curvature facing so they were farther away from the hood at the ends, the right amount of force just flexed everything into place.

The only remaining problem was the short side pieces. With all the force applied at the bottom, there was a slight gap in the joint at the top. The bar clamp easily solved that. A side story about that clamp. It came with my first tank, a 90G which an acquaintance offered me for free. Upon arrival at my house, I found he'd failed to mention it had a partially blown panel. The bar clamp and a slathering of silicone were the only thing keeping it together and leak-free. I never filled it, and sold it to someone who could repair it. But kept the clamp, thinking it might come in handy. Many years later, it finally did.

Having completed the dry fit, I took everything apart. Taped some wax paper on the coffee table to protect it, and act as a glue release. Placed paper towels on the floor to catch glue drips, since the edges of the hood hung off. Slathered a noobishly excessive amount of Titebond II Dark over all edges, and put it back together. Tightened down on the straps gradually, while nudging (banging) things into place. Glue squeezed out everywhere. I wiped up what I could. Let it dry for a day, glued the side mounting strips into place, and waited another day.

All joints were very tight, my clamping scheme was sufficient to ensure that. But there were still some edges that didn't line up. Especially at the sides, where all my errors seemed to have compounded; including my circular saw cuts. Much rough sanding was required to make things perfectly flush, and remove excess glue.

After that, I did roundover routing of outer edges, a little more rough sanding, and on to finishing.

I learned a lot from this. The most important thing is that you can still get great results even if you're not quite sure what you're doing, don't have the right tools, and don't get everything perfect. I sometimes tend to be a perfectionist, which I had to cast aside for much of this; otherwise, I never would have completed it, and maybe never would have even started.
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post #27 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-06-2011, 03:18 AM
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I'm thinking I'll make a box out of aluminum, there is plenty of scrap at the girlfriend's parents' house lol.

I was wondering, do they have the dimming ballast for lower wattage bulbs, because I have a 20 Long as my biggest tank for the time being, and 2 39 Watts might be overkill.
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post #28 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-06-2011, 03:51 AM
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This is pretty sick. I remember looking into this two years ago and the prices on ballasts and controllers made it unreasonable. Nice to see there are some less expensive options available. Thanks for sharing and detailing the build. I love T5 lighting, this just makes it even better.
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post #29 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-06-2011, 04:02 AM Thread Starter
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I was wondering, do they have the dimming ballast for lower wattage bulbs, because I have a 20 Long as my biggest tank for the time being, and 2 39 Watts might be overkill.
Yes.

Lutron has various T5HO ballast models that drive from 24W-54W, either one or two bulbs. Also has dimming ballasts for normal T5.

Dimming ballasts for T8, if that will provide sufficient light, were even more common and cheaper back when I last checked into them in January 2010:

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/di...g-ballast.html

In that thread, I got a ballast that would drive from 1-3 bulbs of various types, to drive some things it was never intended for. Including a T5HO 39W at about 75% of normal power, with some internal tweaks. Although I don't recommend cheating on T5HO like this, there's a possibility of overheat and explosion when the bulb wears out. Which can be early. One of my first DD Giesemann bulbs was visibly defective out of the box with one end dimmer than the other, and it got rapidly worse over a month.
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post #30 of 70 (permalink) Old 11-08-2011, 04:20 AM
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2 things
I still want T5HO lights, and I don't want to ruin them so I would go with the Lutron 2x24watt ballast, but so far I can only find them for over $100

Secondly, I discussed my idea for my capstone project with one of the kids in my classes tonight, He is going to let me use his CNC machine to make an enclosure for it, so I'll probably make it out of acrylic or probably wood. I just think a smoke colored fixture would be sweet lol. Anyway him and I discussed many possibilites, I want to make some sort of microcontroller, or a microprocessor of some kind so I can type in commands to control it. but if that serves to be way too complex I'll just use dials and whatnot. I was also thinking it would be neat to have a 12 hour light cycle where the light progressively gets brighter and slightly before noon, or before the 6 hour mark, it is at its brightest and sticks there for an hour or so and then dims back to off at 12 hours and then Moonlight LEDs kick on.
He brought up the suggestion of getting some light sensor to set up outside so the light adjusts to the brightness that it is outside, which is cool and all but seems a little too much, and I'm sure its expensive too, but it is also a sweet idea. Anyway I was just wondering what you thought about that and could throw in your ideas.
Also sorry If I'm hijacking your thread.
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