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Old 02-11-2003, 04:15 PM   #1
GDominy
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Ok so my Sylvania bulbs are just too dang green and I need to improve teh colour rendering int he water by a huge ammount (My other tanks look WAY better).

I'm looking at all this info about Overdriving NO flourescents and I think thats going to be the key. If I can OD some Chroma fifties (5000k, CRI 90) that should make up for the difference in light.

Is there a specific Ballast I need for this? Or can I just go out and buy a good electronic ballast (like a fullham workhorse 7) and trick it into thinking its driving something else?
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Old 02-11-2003, 06:20 PM   #2
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Ok, I'm takin gan educated guess that if I wire the ballast the same way as I would for a pair of 84 watt HO lamps, it should overdrive NO lamps to 84 watts....

Please correct me if I'm wrong....

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Old 02-11-2003, 06:58 PM   #3
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I can't browse the boards much this week, but I'll quickly mention that I'm using a Workhorse 5 ballast to drive two regular 40 watt F40T12 tubes and it is driving them to about 50 watts a piece. That WH7 might drive F40T12's a bit too hard.
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Old 02-11-2003, 07:04 PM   #4
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Hmmmmm..... I was reading through the reef central forum and they were talking about overdriving bulbs up to 3x their rated power.

Are you worried that the bulbs would blacken quickly? or that they would simply burn out in a few months? I"m planning on a 3-4 month replacement schedule.
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Old 02-12-2003, 01:34 PM   #5
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Maybe I'm just overestimating the WH7's capabilities. I'm thinking in terms of its maximum power delivery, but if you wire it in a configuration of another known output (the 84w HO scheme you mentioned), then you'd be driving them at just over twice their rated levels.

Keep in mind - when you talk about ODNO and using a 4-F32T8 ballast to OD bulbs 2x, 3x, etc. you aren't actually delivering that much power since that is not the way that ballast was designed to run (the WH ballasts are). But with the factor of safety most fluorescent tubes are designed with, 84 watts should be ok. Make sure and cool the canopy with some good fans, though. Not just for bulb life - but for output. As heat increases, efficiency is drastically reduced. These tubes make their greatest output at room temperature (or slightly above). Go for it, though. That WH7 is an awesome piece.
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Old 02-12-2003, 04:04 PM   #6
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I have 3 WH7's already and love the simplicity of wiring. They are silent, and dont get too hot either.

Basically it looks like each red lead coming off the ballast is supplying 55 watts, I was incorrect in my earlier estimate. The Yellow is a common ground.

I think I'll look into one of the smaller workhorse series ballasts for this, I dont need to cook anything.
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Old 02-13-2003, 06:50 PM   #7
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You'd think that to be the case (each lead supplying approximately 55wats - i.e. 220 max watts / 4 inputs) but when I wire up two outputs each into two 55w PC's from my WH5 (128w max - 64w into two leads), I'm not getting more than 40watts to each.
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Old 02-13-2003, 07:04 PM   #8
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Interesting, I'll have to break out my testers to find out. heh...

I dont think I need to overdrive the bulbs anyway, I found the source of discolouration. THe tank looks GREAT now with the bright light... I'm really happy.
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Old 04-03-2004, 05:57 AM   #9
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I just did way too much reading into fluorescents and I've come to the conclusion that either some vital piece of information is missing (ie. my understanding of the physics), or else a lot of the information on the 'net is faulty.

I finally lugged home some 48" T5 tubes to stick into my WH7.. I talked to a big lighting guy at our store (a customer who's really into reefs) and he gave me the spiel about how things work...

... they don't work that way.

I was told that to "overdrive" a standard (let's say a 40W 48" standard T12 bulb for simplicity), you connect two of the RED leads together and then feed them into the ballast. Then instead of having the 54W available along the circuit, the bulb has 108W available, and you'll be running at HO.

Well, no.
I finally got into a big argument with my dad about it and as usual I was wrong. Experimented and proven wrong again.

How fluorescent lighting works, according to someone who seems to know more than I:
A ballast rated at 54W will be able to drive a 54W bulb and nothing stronger. If you put a 60W bulb in there, it will probably work but you'll get a lot of heat generated in the ballast itself and ultimately fry it.
When you close the switch in a fluorescent ballast/lamp circuit, the coil in the ballast generates a field. In a magnetic ballast you will have a starter which will occasionally trigger and close the entire circuit, causing power to move, and the magnetic field to collapse. The collapse of the field pumps a high voltage into the circuit (electronic ballasts generate this high voltage using a different principle, afaik, but the end result is the same).

The high voltage now goes into the lamp (the starter is opened again) and if the voltage is high enough, the electrons in the bulb get excited to the point where they can flow "through" the bulb and excite the phosphors in the lamp's interior (that's the cool part - a totally clear fluorescent lamp will work just fine, except it will emit no light because the coating is the only thing producing the light). Once the juice is "flowing" through the bulb then the starter will no longer fire, since the bulb is now the path of least resistance. Now the bulb needs only the wattage it is rated at, and that's all it will take in a 120V power system (like North American house lines).

So what happens when you twist two of the WH7 wires together and then connect it? You get a 40W lamp that fires and then draws 40W... Period. End of story. A ballast will provide only as much power as the bulb needs to draw.

Case in point: I bought a 9W T5 from Rona (9" long tube just to test out) and hooked it up to the WH7. That's one 54W lead running into a 9W bulb. What happened? The bulb fired and lit normally. The bulb needs 9W, so it takes 9W. The other 45W that is available along that lead is basically wasted.

Why twist those wires together at all, then? If you have a HO bulb, or some bulb that draws 110W or so, then you obviously need two of the leads. If you have anything up to 54W, you just need the one and you're fine. It makes sense and there's no real magic there.


So back to my T5s now. I wired her up normally and fired her up. Bling! A T5 bulb shining in my basement. Ok, fine. Let's try double leads like was suggested. Bling! A T5 bulb shining in my basement again! No higher output - though I should probably stick a meter on it just to say I did. The visible intensity was absolutely the same, however, and the physics as I understand them dictate that the bulb won't take any more power regardless.

Then I thought, "what if I stick EIGHT T5s on this ballast instead of just four?" The WH7, after all, is rated for 4X54W and each T5 is 28W - I could pair them off and have two bulbs to each wire.
Tried that. Hooking the bulbs up in parallel gave me the result I should have expected... One bulb has a slightly lower resistance inside it, and so it fires first. Now that the firing bulb has minimal resistance, the second bulb has no way to fire. Again, you have 28W going through one bulb. A workaround here is to wire starters up to EACH bulb and let it work that way, though I don't know that this would work with electronic ballasts - I don't understand the technology that well.
What about connecting them in series? I didn't try, but I believe you require a 220/240 volt ballast to then fire those - double voltage to get across that big expanse.
I saw some 340V electronic ballasts at Home Depot for 20 bucks (used).. Almost tempted to take one home and play with it, but I can see where this might go... :twisted:


So where does this leave me? Well, for one, I'm still building my T5 NO light fixture and I'm going to post up my plans/pics when it's done for comments. So far I like the way it's shaping up.
As for HO: I guess I could either pick up some HO bulbs that will work, or else do some fancy footwork to make the lamps take more current. P=IV (Watts=Amps*Volts), so I suppose you could force the power driving into the bulb by inflating the current or voltage.. Haven't a clue how to do that easily or safely at the moment.



That's all I got. I welcome any comments as I still don't feel comfortable about the theory surrounding this stuff.


(Edit: Sam actually filled a few holes in my theory in here. Any chance you could elaborate on what is physically happening when you hook up the bulbs in series, Sam?)
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Old 04-05-2004, 04:57 PM   #10
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Your explanation of how a ballast exites the electrons in a tube to emit photons which then product visible light by exciting phosphors on the inside of the tube wall is correct. You are also correct that with electronic ballasts (which are load-sensing), the unit will only deliver as much current as the bulb needs, and no more. Putting a 9w bulb on the 54w ballast produced no more than 9 watts. Why? The ballast senses a resistance across the bulb it sees across the common (usually yellow) lead and the power lead. This resistance is based on the amount of gas in the tube, so the tube diameter and length come into play.
When you put two bulbs side by side (parallel) - as you saw with your undesireable results - only one bulb had enough energy to fire. If they were perfect equal in resistance, both might fire, but they would share the output of the ballast.
In series - you "trick" the ballast into thinking it is powering a much larger bulb. The load sensing circuitry only knows that it is seeing something closer to a four foot bulb instead of two 2' bulbs, for example. Therefore, it will increase output appropriately.

All of this is before even considering OverDriving.

When placing more than one power lead to a bulb, the ballast will feed twice as much power into the bulb. Why? Because each power feed is seeing the same resistance. Will you get twice as much light out of the bulb? No. Much of the energy you are pumping in will be lost to heat and the internal inefficiency of the bulb (the ability of the electrons to excite the phosphors in the tube).
As it has been said - output generally increases approximately 1.5 times for 2xODNO and approximately 2 times for 4xODNO.

The reason you didn't see a visible difference between 1x and 2x is because output only changed by perhaps 50%. Possibly less, with a T5 bulb. Your eye is unable to detect that difference, unless perhaps if you lit them side by side, one at 1x and the other at 2x.
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Old 04-06-2004, 02:45 AM   #11
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Interesting.. In crude terms, could you say that a 4-out Workhorse is 4 independent ballasts in one?

I'll definitely compare them side by side.. T5 is so damn bright to begin with that I'm not seeing much.. 3x overdriven one and one NO should convince me.

Thanks for the great explanation.
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Old 04-06-2004, 11:35 PM   #12
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Ok, fiddled and satisfied.

But I have got to say, overdriving T5s is definitely not worth it. Side-by-side, a 3X OD T5 beside an identical NO T5 was barely differentiable - connections were swapped, too, and it wasn't just the bulbs.
I suppose in an extremely deep tank that extra little kick from OD bulbs may brighten the bottom surface a bit more, but for my purposes it seems like all the heat is more trouble than anything.

I just ran off and tried it with T12s... Much more noticeable.. Just the bulb surface area I suppose?
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Old 04-07-2004, 12:21 AM   #13
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You hit the nail on the head.

The narrower the bulb diameter (the lower the T number) the more light is given off per square inch (less surface area for light diffuse across). They are much much much more efficient. I am very envious of your T5's.. I've been thinking about going full blown T5 for a while now on my 45 and 90 gallon tanks.
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Old 04-07-2004, 09:31 AM   #14
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I see you're from BC as well - I might be able to help you get some tubes if you want to play with them (this should probably go to PM right around now, but maybe someone else will jump in, too).

I've looked and called and it seems that only Albrite in Port Coquitlam stocks them - highest K rating they have is 4100 for about 13 bucks a pop for 4 footers. I went to the Home Depot in Coquitlam and found the only guy there who had heard of T5 (Name was Marvin).. He said if I wanted they could order me a case from Philips but getting pricing would take a few days. A case is probably along the order of 15-25 bulbs; he wasn't too sure.
Other option is through us. I work at a pet shop in North Van and we've just started dealing with a new Envirolite rep who is bringing in the T5 stuff. They're "Envirolite 6700K full spectrum T5s" - except the bulbs themselves don't say Envirolite, but I'm going to assume that they're still 6700K. They look pretty nice, anyways. We'd have to order them but they'd probably go for around 13 bucks again. I have some at home that our rep is loaning me to play with because he can't believe that I could actually light them using anything other than their own ballast (which looks nice, but please...). They also have actinics for the same price and I think red bulbs as well. How truly "actinic" they are for that price remains to be seen - so far all he's done is mix and match them in the freshwater fixtures to balance the light, so I can't comment on how the corals might react.

Oh, I also got my Workhorse from Albrite for 50-60 bucks. From the prices I saw people rattling off around the net, it seems like a pretty good deal. With 4 28W T5s you could probably step it down to a smaller WH as well.
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Old 04-07-2004, 10:34 AM   #15
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I am trying to find the GE 9325k HO T5's... a 48" bulbs is 54 watts, its essentially one of the CF bulbs we all love, but in a linear form! I think I can get Albrite to order them in but I'll need to order a case. I don't really like the envirolites CRI, its pretty ugly, but they do grow plants very well.
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