LED's pre-built vs DIY
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Old 01-18-2013, 09:49 PM   #1
NWA-Planted
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LED's pre-built vs DIY


So for my next tank i know i want led lighting, will probably be going with a Ray or Ray2 possibly even something else once again aquatraders is carrying some promising looking inventory.

That being said from an economic stand point it really doesn't seem like self constructed leds save you much unless your comparing to high end vs of prebuilt is this just me or is it somewhat the led trend?

I would love to build a led that simulates true sunrise and sunset activity even throwing in the orange and reds but to build it i am looking at almost 600+... I could buy a prebuilt that does the same for almost identical pricing, honestly just seems a little absurd!

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Old 01-18-2013, 11:02 PM   #2
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Guess i should specify the question of why is this the case?

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Old 01-19-2013, 12:41 AM   #3
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I was just looking into this yesterday and came to the same conclusion....but I don't know all the ins and outs for sure.
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Old 01-19-2013, 01:56 AM   #4
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When we DIY a LED light, unless we are very skilled with soldering tiny electronic items, we need to use LEDs mounted on star or similar heatsinks. Factories that make LED lights can use bare LEDs, which are quite a bit cheaper, cheaper still when bought in bulk, for the same performance. The soldering can be automated or semi-automated in a factory.

We have a limited number of LED drivers to choose from, and those get expensive when you use 2 or more on one light fixture. Factories that make LED lights can make, or have made drivers that match their LED circuits exactly, and in volume, cost a lot less.

We DIYers tend to overdesign when selecting a heatsink, but finned aluminum extrusions are expensive, especially those made specifically to be used for LED lights. Factories that manufacture LED lights can use very good design techniques, combine the heatsink and fixture housing, and match the heatsink capability very closely to what the LEDs actually require, further reducing the cost.

The initial pre-made LED lights tended to be made by people who seemed to have no idea how much light we need, so many of their lights were way underpowered. Others were designed for the major users of aquarium lights, reefers, so those were overpowered and the wrong color temperature for our use. At that time DIY was very much better. Today, there are several planted tank LED lights being sold that were designed by people who knew what they were doing, so DIY is no longer that much better, if at all.
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Old 01-19-2013, 02:39 AM   #5
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DIY can get pretty expensive and cost comparable to a commercial fixture once you get to wanting to have sunrise/sunset and the ability to program multiple channels of LEDs and colors. Depending on your needs and tank dimensions, buying a premade fixture would give you a cleaner look in general and there would at least be a better resale value, if you buy from a reputable company, should you decide to sale in the future.
With DIY, I like the peace of mind in knowing that I can easily fix my fixture in the future should a LED or driver die. I also like the satisfaction of building something myself.
However, like Hoppy mentions, there are several led lights now for planted aquariums that are being sold that makes DIY not that much better, if at all.
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Old 01-19-2013, 04:14 AM   #6
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One of the major reasons I went DIY was that no one offers what I wanted in terms of controllability and versatility without spending a couple thousand dollars. I wanted control over levels and sunrise/sunset, and it had to be up to my aesthetic standards as well. With my current fixture, I could turn my 120P into a reef (if I ever were so inclined) without going to much expense - certainly not the degree that replacing a comparable fixture would cost. I didn't worry about resale, as I was looking for a long-term to permanent solution to my lighting needs.

The other major reason is my need to tinker. I love building things. This was a new challenge, and I enjoyed it very much. Can't put a price on pride of workmanship
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Old 01-19-2013, 07:20 AM   #7
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IMO, I would only really consider DIY for reef keeping and only if I had some very particular requirements.

Freshwater/planted lighting typically seems to run dead even between a premade and DIY for "most" people's needs and IMHO the premade almost always looks way better. Granted, I haven't been perusing too many DIY threads but most of them look DIY with differing levels of skill. Some DIY are clean and tidy with nice solder joints and decent aesthetics, some are hack jobs with sloppy wiring and mars all over them but to me they never seem to look "finished".

For myself, if I were going to spend $200-500 on a DIY light I'd shop really hard to find what I wanted in a prebuilt, partly because I'm lazy and partly because for that kind of money I want the damn thing to look like it's worth $200-500 lmao.
I've got good soldering skills, I can etch my own PCB, I can laser cut logos/designs but having that production line perfection down to all the little details involves way more time, effort and perfectionism than I have.
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Old 01-19-2013, 11:00 AM   #8
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I must say I love my buildmyled.com fixture. I have the 36" planted tank model and it just a great performing and looking light. It was the cheapest pre-built light I could find that came with dimmable ballast. It has a inventronics which works perfectly with my reefkeeper. Check them out, even the owner was a ton of help and very knowledgable.
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Old 01-19-2013, 02:49 PM   #9
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If you really want to DIY, love to tinker, and have the patience, tools and skill to make an aesthetically pleasing product, go for it.

If you are at all unsure, with the selection of relatively cheap and versatile LED systems that will grow plants now very nicely, there is no reason to go DIY otherwise.
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