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Old 06-27-2010, 07:20 PM   #1
DarkCobra
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DIY Lighting Questions


I'm getting ready to build new lighting for my 46g bowfront.

A particular goal is to minimize light leakage, as I think that detracts from the appearance of the tank. I prefer to view the tank in my darkened bedroom, laying or sitting on the bed; and especially do not want to be dazzled by direct line-of-sight of the bulbs.

As it stands, I'm planning to build a single wooden box-type enclosure for all lights and electronics, with an acrylic splash shield, that will hang directly over and very close to the square area of the tank. The tank's bow area will not be covered to allow easy feeding, and the hood will be raised for tank maintenance only. Dimming ballast(s) will be used to control intensity, rather than physically raising the lights.

I'd also like to add LED moonlighting, a microcontroller, and Zigbee radio control directly from my computer. But basics first, and I can work out that kind of stuff on my own anyway.

My questions:

1) Will 2x 36" 39W T5HO bulbs with Icecap reflectors provide sufficient light in my tank (36"L x 15"W x 20"H) to reliably grow glossostigma? I'll probably be going with the Giesemann Aqua-Flora/Midday combo, and of course I have pressurized CO2.

2) I can't find any diagrams showing the light dispersal pattern of the Icecaps. Will this setup provide relatively even lighting of the square area of the tank (excluding the bow), even though the lights will be close to the surface? If not, is there another good-quality reflector with wider dispersion?

3) Ventilation is what I'm most uncertain on, especially since I'm trying to minimize light leakage. Any ideas here are welcomed.

4) Just to be sure, am I correct in thinking I need a non-shunted lamp socket for this wiring?



Thanks in advance for any help. I'll start a build thread if there is interest.
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Old 06-27-2010, 07:56 PM   #2
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That light should grow glosso just fine. Ime, glosso benefits from intensity as well as duration. A 8-10hr photoperiod should be more than enough to grow a nice carpet of glosso.

I think the best placement for your reflectors are gonna be around 3-4 in apart rather than next to each other. Not quite sure of the dimmensions of the reflectors but, you should have more than enough room for it.

For ventilation, how about getting some pc fans and mount them on the top of the inside of your hood. Mount them so they are blowing out. You should get hardly any light leakage. If you do, you can put some shade cloth or anything else that will "breath".
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Old 06-28-2010, 11:26 AM   #3
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Thanks!

I did also find a definite answer to #4.
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Old 06-28-2010, 11:36 AM   #4
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That should be plenty of light IMO.

High end PC fans would work well and quietly as nocturnalkid was mentioning. For the light spill, if any, you could also consider the dust filters they sell for PC fans.

You didn't mention where your shopping, but I've ordered misc. parts from ReefGeek in the past with great results and decent pricing at the time.
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Old 06-28-2010, 09:18 PM   #5
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3) Don't put the fan directly above the whole in the fixture. Off set it more than the width of the fan. That will give you a light baffle.

4) If the diagram you show is accurate, then you want non-shunted sockets. If you can't find any, clip the shunt. Most sockets have two of the insert holes.
The reason I question the diagram is that other than old ballasts or over drive setups most modern florescents use shunted sockets.
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Old 06-28-2010, 11:48 PM   #6
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Good tips on fans/filters/vendor, thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dbosman@msu.edu View Post
4) If the diagram you show is accurate, then you want non-shunted sockets. If you can't find any, clip the shunt. Most sockets have two of the insert holes.
The reason I question the diagram is that other than old ballasts or over drive setups most modern florescents use shunted sockets.
That initially confused me too. The diagram is scanned directly off the ballast, so I have to accept it as correct. The difference may be because it's a dimming ballast.

Two more questions have come up:

5) Has anyone used the Sun Lift Suspension System? "Sun Lift® is a light fixture suspension system which allows you to adjust the height of a hood in one simple movement. The tension mechanism will keep the hood in place once it is set at the desired height." I'm curious if it works as advertised.

6) If I use that, it appears I'll still need a two-point suspension attachment to the hood in order for it to hang level, since it probably won't be balanced. There are kits available, but it seems a waste to pay $30 for it when I'm only going to be using a fraction of the hardware. Are there any guides to making a similar system from parts available at the hardware store?
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Old 06-29-2010, 10:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkCobra View Post
Good tips on fans/filters/vendor, thanks!
That initially confused me too. The diagram is scanned directly off the ballast, so I have to accept it as correct. The difference may be because it's a dimming ballast.
Ah! that explains everything. I missed that first time through.

Quote:
5) Has anyone used the Sun Lift Suspension System? "Sun Lift® is a light fixture suspension system which allows you to adjust the height of a hood in one simple movement. The tension mechanism will keep the hood in place once it is set at the desired height." I'm curious if it works as advertised.
6) If I use that, it appears I'll still need a two-point suspension attachment to the hood in order for it to hang level, since it probably won't be balanced. There are kits available, but it seems a waste to pay $30 for it when I'm only going to be using a fraction of the hardware. Are there any guides to making a similar system from parts available at the hardware store?
I've not used that specific system, but, it is a tensioned spring balancer. I used to use large ones for pneumatic tools.
The convenience is worth the cost. It will only hurt when you order it, and when the charge card bill comes due.
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Old 06-30-2010, 10:30 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbosman@msu.edu View Post
I've not used that specific system, but, it is a tensioned spring balancer.
Aha, so that's what they're called! Good to know in case I ever need to search for others. I've been enamored with the idea ever since seeing one used on the old movie, "The Incredible Mr. Limpet".
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Old 07-01-2010, 01:52 AM   #9
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You will love the Sun Lifts, a friend of mine used them over his reef tank with a SS enclosure with I believe 8 T-5's in it and it worked smooth and was very easy to raise and lower his lights.
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Old 07-04-2010, 11:16 AM   #10
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What exactly is this Zigbee radio control?
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Old 07-04-2010, 05:48 PM   #11
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Thanks to all for the help, I've placed orders for everything I can't get at Home Depot/Lowes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shaman View Post
What exactly is this Zigbee radio control?
It's a two-way wireless communications standard, similar to Bluetooth. Operates on 2.4Ghz frequency, just like many wireless networks for computers. The differences are it's optimized for lower power consumption, smaller and more infrequent transfers, and low cost.

It also supports mesh networking. Which means that even if two devices can't directly communicate with each other due to range, physical barriers, or interference; it can automatically find indirect routes by passing data from device to device along shorter distances until it reaches its destination. So the more Zigbee devices you have, the more reliable and longer range the network becomes.

For $20-$30 you can get a Zigbee module that includes a built-in microcontroller with Zigbee protocol software, which can function transparently as a plain serial inferface if you desire simplicity.

And for $10 you can get Zigbee hardware alone, if you don't mind implementing the protocol software on your own microcontroller. There are several open-source versions of the software which can be used and adapted.

I'm not sure of your technical level, but I hope that explains it.

I'm going to delay the Zigbee part though. Turns out my 2x 39W T5HO ballast works with any standard dimmer - not bad for $30. Since I already have X10 home automation running my aquariums from my computer, and X10 lamp modules can directly control this ballast, I'll go with that for now.
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Old 07-04-2010, 11:44 PM   #12
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How good is the x10?
I'm just looking for the cheapest, and best solution for a sunrise/sunset effect...whether it is using T5 HOs or 12v LEDs...been searching several forums for weeks and haven't found much. But x10 sounds good, I'm sure there are cheaper solutions though?
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Old 07-05-2010, 07:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shaman View Post
How good is the x10?
I'm just looking for the cheapest, and best solution for a sunrise/sunset effect...whether it is using T5 HOs or 12v LEDs...been searching several forums for weeks and haven't found much. But x10 sounds good, I'm sure there are cheaper solutions though?
Cheapest and best rarely go hand in hand.

X10 is the oldest and most primitive general home automation system. It allows you turn AC devices on or off, and dim them (if it is a dimmable device).

With a little hunting, you can find some nice deals on X10 components. If you already have a computer you leave on all the time, and if you go with some lighting system that is dimmable via a standard dimmer, you could get started for about $50-60 USD (CM11A interface controller, lamp module). Extra modules for additional control run about $10-15, and that's where the real possibilities kick in.

I currently have fourteen X10 modules throughout my house, the majority of which are on my four aquariums, all controlled by my computer. Since my new ballast can be controlled by a standard dimmer, and X10 lamp modules function as dimmers, adding sunrise/sunset is trivial.

I also have three RF remotes which I can use to send commands to the computer from anywhere in the house. Two especially useful commands:

1) Feed Fish - Turns off all aquarium filters and aerators. Ten minutes later, they're automatically restored to their scheduled state.
2) View Fish - Turns on all aquarium lights. Twenty minutes later, they're restored to their scheduled state. I use this like a "sleep timer" on a radio, to fall asleep watching the aquariums even if the lights were already off.

I wrote my own control software, but I understand there are free and open-source alternatives which would provide the same functionality.

The main disadvantage is that it's not a two-way system. Controllers typically only send commands, modules only listen for them. The controller has no way to determine if a module successfully received the command, or to check the module status.

As long as communications are reliable, it works great. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Some people never have a problem, others have nothing but problems. I fall somewhere in the middle.

Everything works perfectly except for the two modules on my living room aquarium (lights, filter/aerator). That particular AC circuit occasionally doesn't carry commands properly, and I've never been able to determine why. I work around it by automatically resending the last command at three minute intervals. This works eventually, usually within a few resends. Although it's not always the instant response I'd prefer, at least this prevents any fault from persisting for hours until I discover it.

That's probably much more than you wanted to know about the possibilities and pitfalls of X10.

There are more advanced home automation systems, with reliable two-way communications, but they cost a lot more. And there's dedicated aquarium/lighting controllers, but they tend to cost a lot too. Other options are more complex, usually requiring electronics and/or programming skill.
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Old 07-05-2010, 11:11 AM   #14
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Thats awesome, with the X10 which light module do you use? The LM12? It says it can't be used with fluorescents...not sure which module I should get if I go in for the x10...
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Old 07-05-2010, 07:07 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shaman View Post
Thats awesome, with the X10 which light module do you use? The LM12? It says it can't be used with fluorescents...not sure which module I should get if I go in for the x10...
I just thought to look up your AC power details, and it appears Australia has 240V/50hz power compared to US 120V/60hz. All details that follow are for US versions, you'll need to look up appropriate equivalents. I do at least know that there are X10 device versions manufactured specifically for Australia.

Here's a quick primer on basic modules.

Appliance Modules - Use a mechanical relay for simple on/off control. Cannot dim. Works with anything. Comes in two-prong and three-prong (grounded) versions. Relay produces a noticeable "pop" sound when switching.

Lamp Modules - Uses a solid-state switch (triac). Recommended for incandescent lamps, and will turn them on/off and dim. Always two-prong. If you can insure the dimming function will never be used, it often does work for simple on/off control of other things like fluorescents, and has the advantage of no "pop" sound. Attempting to dim something that was never intended to be dimmed (like standard fluorescents) may work poorly, not at all, or possibly damage something.

LM12 is one lamp module, but there are also clones made by other manufacturers; usually with different letters but the same numbers. All are referred to as X10 lamp modules, and work interchangeably and equally. Same deal with the appliance modules and CM11A, just buy whichever manufacturer's version is cheapest. Again, you'll need Aussie equivalents, and I don't know specific model numbers.

The ballast I got is the Lutron ECO-T5H39-120-2. I got this on Ebay for $30 USD including shipping. I don't see that Lutron has a 240V/50hz equivalent, but hopefully there are similar devices available from other manufacturers, available at similar discounts. It has three inputs, and it's this control scheme that appears to make X10 dimming control possible:

Neutral - Goes to the "neutral" AC wire.
Switched Hot - Goes to the "hot" AC wire, and is used to turn the ballast on and off. I think it's called "active" for you.
Dimmed Hot - This is the dimming control wire, and it goes to the hot output of a lamp module.

IMPORTANT - not all dimming ballasts share this control scheme! Some require proprietary controllers, stay away from these. Others require a variable DC voltage as a control; these might still be interfaceable to an X10 lamp module with some cleverness or a little electronics.

Now here's what I don't yet know, and can't test until I actually get my parts and get started:

1) If, by cutting power completely on Dimmed Hot, it will shut off the ballast, or just reduce power output to its minimum of 10%. If the latter, I will also need an appliance module on Switched Hot; no big deal.
2) If the X10 lamp module achieves dimming by switching hot, or by switching neutral. If it's the latter, I may have break out the soldering iron and make a converter. (It's possible my result here doesn't apply to Aussie X10 equivalents.)

Hope that helps. I'll answer additional questions to the best of my ability.

PS - I did also consider DIY LED lighting. The deal-breaker for me was that after spending a lot of money and time designing and assembling a LED fixture, somewhere down the road I will probably want to change the color spectrum. For fluorescents, it's as simple as changing bulbs. Replacing LEDs is more difficult and expensive, and may require driver changes too. Or I could add individually colored LEDs to boost color(s), or use RGB LEDs; but both of these require more money, time, and complexity. And then I might have to contend with proper light blending and multi-colored shadows, and have to use light diffusers which are lossy and would decrease the efficiency and directionality advantages of LEDs. It's just too much trouble for my 46g, though I would still consider taking on the challenge of building a full-on RGB LED light for a 10g or smaller.
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