This is my DIY CFL Fixture. My goal was to find a cost effective fixture that didnt look bad & the bulbs were not expensive. My only past attempt at lighting specific for planted tanks was the Aqueon Coralife Freshwater Dual T5 (http://www.amazon.com/Aqueon-Coralif...8141709&sr=8-3
) This fixture has 2x t5 bulbs, a 6700k & a colormax (both 18w). At 50 bucks this wasnt too expensive, but at just 2 months old the colormax bulb burnt out & a month later the 6700k burnt out & melted the plastic lens. Aqueon's customer service was way above par in getting me a replacement so I cant fault them for that. Ultimately though this fixture just wasnt impressive as far as cost or reliability goes.
I was unable to locate anything else that looked decent that put out decent light & that wasnt expensive.. So DIY here we go..
7 - 10' Vinyl Rain Gutter
5 - 2x endcaps for the above rain gutter
10 - 2x dual socket lamp fixtures (this price is for buying a cheap fixture at home depot & trashing the rest of the fixture as its not needed)
3 - AC Toggle Switch
3 - 8 foot lamp cord
6 - for the lamp nipple nuts & the lamp nipple caps
4 - roll of foil HVAC tape
Total of 38 bucks without bulbs. (this is at all local pricing, Cheaper if you order online like I did).
Assembly was straight forward though I didnt snap any pictures at the time. The only wiring thing is to wire the 2 sockets in parallel & not series. I also soldered all connections & then heat shrank them, but basic wire nuts would also work. The lamp nipple nuts were used simply as spacers so that the fixtures were roughly the same width as the gutter & so that the caps on the outside would tighten down keeping the fixtures from turning.
I have 2 sets of bulbs purchased for this. The 1st is a set of 23w 5000k CFL's & the 2nd is a set of 13w 6500k CFL's. The second set was purchased for troubleshooting before I figured out to wire this in parallel & not series.
Pictures were taken with my cell phone so there not great & the brightness diferances are somewhat hard to see in the pictures.
This is just with the Coralife Fixture
My DIY Fixture with 4x 23w 5000k bulbs
My DIY Fixture with 4x 13w 6500k bulbs
This has the Coralife Fixture & my DIY fixture (with the 23w bulbs) both on for comparison
Just a closeup of one end of the Coralife fixture so everyone would know which it was
You cant see a huge differance in the pictures due to them being cell phone pics, But the DIY fixture with the 4x 23w bulbs was WAY brighter then the Coralife Fixture. You could clearly see that the 5000k bulbs were a more yellow light as well compared to the 6700k & colormax combo of the Coralife Fixture.
When comparing the 4x 13w 6500k bulbs it was still a noticable amount brighter then the coralife & the white was just as white.
Overall I am happy with the results even though this is ultimately just a working prototype. I am going to make 2 more of these fixtures, except I will be making them with the intention of hanging over my tanks (need to figure out where each tank is going to live 1st). When I redo them there is a couple things I will be doing differently. The big thing is that after cutting the rain gutter to length I will then coat the inside with the foil tape before doing anything else. The reason isnt so much for the reflective charistericts, but rather because it prevents light from bleeding through the white rain gutter & I didnt do a great job at keeping the edges even & I missed a few spots as can be seen in some of the pictures above. Other then that I will simply be adding a couple rings at the ends to use to suspend the light from (I noticed some that matched the lamp nipple caps I used at the local hardware store).
Overall cost was a few bucks less then the coralife fixture & considering more light & when bulbs go bad I can buy them cheap & locally this is a definite win as a DIY project.