Diy cfl light fixture
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Old 01-31-2012, 04:36 PM   #1
GxneFishing
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Diy cfl light fixture


As with any project that uses items that cut, burn, chop, fall, rotate, flog, zap, blind, etc., caution is most important. Please be advised that I take absolutely no responsibility for your actions regarding your use of any material provided here.

Articles and information provided are for educational purposes only. There is no substitution for official manufacturer's instructions and professional advice. Please contact the product manufacturer before modifying any devices or software. Please contact a licensed professional before attempting anything physical or following any advice given here. Neither the author, Jamie Jardin, nor any other contributors are responsible whatsoever for any damage incurred by following any instructions or advice provided.

Although it would be difficult to do, if you follow these articles and it leads to an electrical short that burns your house down - it's not my problem. If your wife divorces you shortly after, not my problem. If you lose your job and end up on the street - not my problem. If your bank account is empty - not my problem. If your credit cards are maxed out, I may share your pain, but it’s still not my problem. If you follow through with this, any and all consequences are your own problem and I will not be held responsible in any way.

I hope you enjoy my build, and good luck with yours. Enjoy!


Here are all the materials I have used. The plastic square tubing measures 4x4. It is used to cover a fence post for decorative pvc fencing. They put a new building in town with the nice decorative fencing so I pulled this section out of the dumpster for this project.

The 2 light fixtures you see are from and old bathroom vanity light setup. I bought the light at the local thrift store I volunteer at with my 20% Discount for about $2.00. There are alot of old fixtures at yard sales and such. If you don't have the time and patience for yard sailing than these fixtures can be purchased for about $6.00 a piece online. They didn't have any at the hardware stores in my area.

The cord is just a simple 2 prong 2 wire cord,I snipped off a POS Tetra 100w heater. Its the third one ive owned and the third one that has boiled my fish over a 12 hr period. Total junk!!

The most expensive part of my project was the 4 Sylvania 13w micro-mini CFL bulbs. I went for the 65k Daylight lamps. They were the highest kelvin rating ones I could find after shopping around locally. They came in a pack of 2 and cost $7.00 give or take a few cents. They are indoor lamps but my fishtank has a hood so im not to concerned with a water issue.

I bought a cheap $3.00 light cord switch which isn't pictured because I took it back. I planned on putting the lamps on a timer once I figured out lighting/algae problems in the near future. Therefor a switch would just be a 3.00 decoration and like everyone else today im on a tight budget.

Here Below is everything I used for the project, The little white square is a part of the piece I cut out of one of the 4" sides to use as an end cap. It just measures the inside diameter of the end you want to cap off.
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This is the PVC plastic itself, I jsut took this as a refrence so everyone could see what I was using. I cut with a circular saw the top section off as close as I could without cutting into each side or binding the blade.It isn't perfect because im no carpenter and there is probably room for correction to make it perfect but I have realized when I start trying to make something perfect it ends up taking alot of time and its worse than when I started so i just left it be. Sorry I didn't have a picture of the top section cut out because Im waiting on the paint to dry at the moment. If it needs to be posted than ill do so.
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I cut the bar at 24" Im using this on top of my 20 gallon and the exhisting fixture was 24" long. I used some 80 grit sandpaper to roughen up the surface a bit before painting. My current tank hood it black and wood like trim so I painted it black. I did run it for 2 days to make sure heat/melting wasn't an issue and it didnt get to warm so I think it would work. The light bled a bit thru the white making it a yellowish color while on where the bulbs were but if you choose to leave it white it really isn't an issue.
I drilled those 2 3/8 holes in the top for my light fixtures, they screw right into the holes which in turn holds the lamp about center of the fixture. I took a measurement so the bulbs would be spaced out center over the exhisting hood.

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This is one end of the fixture. By no means am I good at cutting with the saw so I wasn't going for a perfect fit. I used liquid nails (because it was paintable) and ran a bead on the inside and outside with my finger. I let it sit over night to dry and it seems to hold well. A little bit of sanding was done as well on the seam just because I was slopping it on. I also had to notch it a bit to fit over the exhisting tank hood. If I didnt have the rounded lip on the end it would have probably fit perfect but liek I said before when i go correcting or making something perfect its when I screw it up.

This view also shows where I cut one end off the square for the bottom side of the light, it isn't perfect but it serves its purpose.

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Last edited by GxneFishing; 02-09-2012 at 01:00 AM..
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Old 01-31-2012, 04:54 PM   #2
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Sorry, I accidently hit submit before finished.
Here I wired everything up and tied the power cord in a knot to keep it from pulling out.
I got some over spray in the fixture so I recomend using tape on the inside to prevent this if your not going to use a reflector.
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Im still new to this, but it seems to me the pvc would be a ok/good reflector. I know when the fixture is plugged in it is very unpleasent to look at the lights. Yea we shouldnt look at the light but it seems very bright for my eyes. I planned on painting the inside white and bought flat white paint to do it. I was just goign to post this and look for some feed back on weather it was necessary or not. Im thinking this will be to much light for my 20 gallon tank but only time will tell. Algae can always be scraped off and the tank can be restarted if need be. Trial and Error is what this hobbyis all about to me.
Thank you everyone for looking and hopefully I have helped someone along the way or gave another idea for lighting. Comments and Feedback are always welcomed, Im still learning.

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Old 01-31-2012, 04:58 PM   #3
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Hi GxneFishing,

What happens if those two power wires with the wire nuts become moist under that hood or worse yet dip down into the water below?
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Old 01-31-2012, 05:06 PM   #4
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i would add a condensation tray or a clear barrier from moisture or your going have a bang :O
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Old 01-31-2012, 05:14 PM   #5
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Thats a great question Seattle, The aquarium top on my aquarium is plastic, with the glass window. The light fixture sits on top of the glass. The wires aren't long enough to even see the water in the tank itself. The wire nuts have a white silicon type grease in them its more a mess than useful if you ask me. They came from a landscape lighting project I did a while back.
But to get technical and maybe this is because any aquarium hood I have owned is more than 2 years old. All the connections I have ever seen have been done with a cheap wire nut. I changed the ballast out in the Original light a week ago and it was done with a wire nut. The tombstones for the flourescent were by no means a waterproof setup. I guess I personally don't see an issue with water intrusion. If It becomes an issue over time with evaporation/ condensatin issue ill be the first one to post here saying it happened. But for now I dont see much of an issue.
Do you have a previous issue where using wire nuts became an issue?
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Old 01-31-2012, 05:28 PM   #6
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sounds ok now was worried for a second then ahah
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Old 01-31-2012, 06:16 PM   #7
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Looks very good to me. I did a similar retrofit into a nano cube aquarium, where there was nothing between the lights and the water except about an inch of air. No problems at all, no condensaton, no dripping, nothing but good light. And, I used wire nuts too.

If you have any problems I suspect they will be from lack of ventilation of the housing. You might consider drilling a grid of small holes on the top to let the heat out. Some light will shine through the holes, but that may not be excessive.
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Old 01-31-2012, 07:07 PM   #8
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I'd add some vent holes in the top.
Maybe cut up some baker tins or carefully attach some aluminum foil for a reflector?
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Old 01-31-2012, 07:48 PM   #9
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I could put some real duct tape on the inside. It is metallic on one side and sticky on the other. Prob easier than aluminum foil but will give the same effect.
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Old 02-02-2012, 07:40 PM   #10
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Well its been 2 days, No fire, No heat issues of the fixture, BUT Hello ALGAE! its amazing what a diffrence lighting can make in a tank. Algae on plants, algae forming on the glass.. Yes apparently 4 13w 6500k cfl's for 12 hours a day is to much light for a 20 gallon tank
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Old 02-02-2012, 07:50 PM   #11
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Whoops! But that's the beauty of CFL's, you can drop in 9w bulbs and try again. No biggie, 2 minute job.
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Old 02-02-2012, 08:33 PM   #12
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Ya, I was only thinking 2 of them for my 20gal, or 3 or 4 but with two separate plugs for timers to only have the 3rd or 4th one come on for a few hours a day for a high noon effect. 4 seems a lot.
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Old 02-03-2012, 12:24 PM   #13
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Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

I am just starting out and I need a light upgrade! So far, I've managed to put two 26 watt CFLs above my 29 gallon using an old incandescent hood, but I need more light as inexpensively as possible. This seems like an excellent solution!

I'm going to show these plans to my dad when he comes to visit this weekend and ask him to build it for me!
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Old 02-03-2012, 02:54 PM   #14
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kcartwright856 Your welcome im glad I could help. Its fairly simple yet effective.
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Old 02-03-2012, 03:02 PM   #15
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It looks simple! It's beyond me because I don't know how to do these things and don't have the tools, but I know for sure that my dad can do it, or perhaps even my pap. My pap built my tank stand, which I'll get pictures of soon.

If we can't find a post like this, would scrap wood work? I'm thinking a simple wooden box, built to fit on my hood, with holes drilled for ventilation and some sheet metal screwed inside for reflection.

The last thing I want to do is start a fire! Do the bulbs get that hot? I figure if it doesn't melt that vinyl, some wood would be fine, but I don't really know much of anything like that.
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