T5s and ballasts and stuff - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2006, 07:45 PM Thread Starter
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T5s and ballasts and stuff

This is a continuation of this thread...

I luv T5 lighting. This has fascinated me since it became available a few years ago. Slowly, all my tanks are switched over to this most efficient way of reflecting light to where it needs to be.

There are still a few confusing things. Like what ballasts can be used, what exactly happens when bulbs get old and how could this affect ballasts, and why some bulbs croak after only a few months of usage.

Last night I played around with some linear fluorescent bulbs, a cheap ballast, and a "Kill A Watt" energy measuring device. And found some interesting things. Here is what I did: I connected different bulbs to an Advance REL-4P32-SC ballast. These are available at HD for about $18 and can drive up to four 4ft T8 bulbs (4x32=>128W).

First I powered the ballast and noted that it would eat about 5 Watts without any bulbs connected. I have no way of figuring out if it always uses 5 Watts or if it depends on the bulb configuration, but let's assume there is a 5 Watt loss.

I used the following bulbs: 20W T12, 32W T8, 28W NO-T5, and 54W HO-T5. EDIT: I tested some 4' T12 bulbs, labeled with 34 and 40W.

Okay, some numbers. First I note which bulbs I connected and what the spec'd wattage would be. Next you'll see the actual wattage used by ballast + bulb(s).

No bulb --> 5W
20W --> 19W
34W --> 27W*
40W --> 35W*
32W --> 40W
28W --> 45W
54W --> 45W

Numbers are boring (*added afterwards), but there are some interesting things here:

1) The 20W (*and other) T12 are way underdriven, the single 32W T8 a little overdriven. Assumption: This ballast is for T8 bulbs, not T12 bulbs. When adding additional 32W T8's, it will drive them to spec.

2) A 28W T5 bulb is overdriven to 40W (if 5W for the ballast). This is quite a bit of OD there. It is very bright, and gets nice'n'warm as well.

3) A 54W T5 bulb is underdriven to 40W.

Assumption for 2) and 3): The ballast doesn't know to read the label on the bulbs, and both 4' T5 bulbs, HO or not, appear the same and get exactly the same current.

What does that mean? A) The ballast is made for T8, not T5, it doesn't sense the difference in NO and HO bulbs. Or, B) HO and NO T5's are exactly the same. The ballast determines how much current they receive.

When I get around to it, I will do a similar test with a different ballast, a Workhorse 7 which is made for T5 and PC bulbs, and see if it can distinguish between HO and NO T5 bulbs.

Also I will continue to play with the cheap ballast, and see what happens if I add more bulbs to it.

Here is the purpose of this whole write-up - if we get a decent life span out of a NO T5 when connected to the Advance ballast, there is an easy way to set up cheap and powerful lighting. You can get NO T5 bulbs for $9 + shp which gives us a nice Lumen/$ ratio, if such a thing exists.


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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2006, 12:09 AM
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One more thing to test -
48" T12.

My guess is that it will drive it at 45 watts (5 for the ballast, and 40 out to lamp), and this is the max the ballast will put out through any one pole. Very likely the Advance ballast has a circuit doing current regulation, and 40 watts is it's limit. This is a Good Thing ô as far as running four 28 watt NO T-5's, less heat, more efficient, longer lamp life.

You've inspired me.
I'll be setting up 4x NO T-5's on the same ballast you're using to test the longevity in cycles, and then at constant duty, using Sylvania Daylight T-5's from Home Depot.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2006, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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Inspired! Reminds me of a Mr. Bean episode. Anyway... I am envious that your HD sells daylight T5 bulbs.

I tested the same Advance ballast with 4' T12s, and got this:

34W --> 27W
40W --> 35W

This jives with my assumption 1) that this ballast is made for T8 bulbs and hopelessly underdrives T12 bulbs. Boy does the 34W "Energy Saver" bulb look dim and ugly with that ballast.

In the meantime, I switched one of my T5 HO bulbs with one of the new NO bulbs on the WH7 ballast. Sure enough, bright and hot as heck... Probably overdriven to some nice 50 or 55W. I haven't done measurements with the WH7, but I would be surprised to find any difference between the NO and HO bulbs.

So the question is... Yeah. What IS the difference between T5 NO and HO bulbs?

Looking forward to your testing. I will still do multiple bulb testing with the Advance ballast, but not right now... it is too hot...

(I think the ballast isn't going to drive four 4' NO T5's to 40W each, unless it can handle much more than the spec'd 4x32T8 bulbs that it is made for. Wear protective clothing when driving ballasts through the roof.)


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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2006, 02:22 AM
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Don't get too envious...Sylvania HD daylight lamps are 4100k

Quote:
This jives with my assumption 1) that this ballast is made for T8 bulbs and hopelessly underdrives T12 bulbs. Boy does the 34W "Energy Saver" bulb look dim and ugly with that ballast.
This surprises the **** out of me. I would have thought it was more cost effective to make one model 48" ballast and mark them differently, and Advance would follow the cost effective route. I'm glad to hear it though. FWIW a 4p SC40 ballast does drive 4 t-12 @ ~40 watts each.

Quote:
In the meantime, I switched one of my T5 HO bulbs with one of the new NO bulbs on the WH7 ballast. Sure enough, bright and hot as heck... Probably overdriven to some nice 50 or 55W. I haven't done measurements with the WH7, but I would be surprised to find any difference between the NO and HO bulbs.
You'd need to change all 4 lamps to see anything different, as they share a common on a WH ballast.

Quote:
So the question is... Yeah. What IS the difference between T5 NO and HO bulbs?
First thing I see is the resistance through the igniter, and probably the gas ratios are different as well.

Quote:
Looking forward to your testing. I will still do multiple bulb testing with the Advance ballast, but not right now... it is too hot...

(I think the ballast isn't going to drive four 4' NO T5's to 40W each, unless it can handle much more than the spec'd 4x32T8 bulbs that it is made for. Wear protective clothing when driving ballasts through the roof.)
Right now I have 4 NO T-5's running in the garage from an Advance 4P 32-SC, rigged through a test board so they cycle on and off twice a minute. I'm drawing an average of 138 watts while all four are on, tested at the leads so the ballast draw isn't calculated in. I'm hoping to get ~500 cycles from them, then I'll run four new lamps for 24-48 hours and see if they lose any effectiveness.
I can say these lamps are at least as bright as t-8's. I know I could slap some Icecap or SLS reflectors on them and have very nice lighting over a 48" tank. Maybe not enough for clams or SPS corals, but certainly enough for aquatic gardening. With reflectors the cost for this would be ~$125.00, and be pretty darn easy on the monthly electric bill.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2006, 03:01 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbhil
You'd need to change all 4 lamps to see anything different, as they share a common on a WH ballast.
Trying to understand this... So you are saying that if I change all 4 bulbs to NO they would get less amps? This doesn't make sense to me... what if I only connect one bulb? Or two NO and two HO? Looks like I need to seriously play around with that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gbhil
First thing I see is the resistance through the igniter, and probably the gas ratios are different as well.
What does that mean for our application? That the NO bulbs use less wattage? (This wasn't noticeable on the Advance ballast). That the HO bulbs are "made" for higher wattages and the NO bulbs will show reduced life span?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gbhil
Right now I have 4 NO T-5's running in the garage from an Advance 4P 32-SC, rigged through a test board so they cycle on and off twice a minute. I'm drawing an average of 138 watts while all four are on, tested at the leads so the ballast draw isn't calculated in. I'm hoping to get ~500 cycles from them, then I'll run four new lamps for 24-48 hours and see if they lose any effectiveness.
Wow, you are serious man!!! 138W, do you think the ballast will hold up? Does it get very hot? So that's about 35W/bulb, a little less than the ~40W that I measured with a single bulb.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gbhil
I can say these lamps are at least as bright as t-8's. I know I could slap some Icecap or SLS reflectors on them and have very nice lighting over a 48" tank. Maybe not enough for clams or SPS corals, but certainly enough for aquatic gardening. With reflectors the cost for this would be ~$125.00, and be pretty darn easy on the monthly electric bill.
I agree, lots of light for the wattage. Me, I am thinking of a low tech tank with about 1W/gal, which usually isn't enough to grow anything, but with efficient lamps like this it might work. Say 3 of them over a 100 gal tank.


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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2006, 04:00 PM
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Quote:
Trying to understand this... So you are saying that if I change all 4 bulbs to NO they would get less amps? This doesn't make sense to me... what if I only connect one bulb? Or two NO and two HO? Looks like I need to seriously play around with that.
Caution - much speculation follows

The WH ballast "senses" the lamp load by calculating the difference of potential between the hot wires (red) and the common (yellow). It does this one of two ways (not sure without a schematic in front of me)

1. Averages the load from all four poles, then decides which types of lamps are being used based on this average.
2. Uses the first red wire in the series against the common to determine lamp load, then drives all four poles based on this info.
If # two is the way it's done (doubtful, but possible), you could put an HO lamp on the first wire in series, and three NO lamps in the other and overdrive the NO lamps.
If #one is the way it's done (I'll bet this is the case) mixing lamps will give unpredictable results, and isn't a very good idea.

Quote:
What does that mean for our application? That the NO bulbs use less wattage? (This wasn't noticeable on the Advance ballast). That the HO bulbs are "made" for higher wattages and the NO bulbs will show reduced life span?
The Advance ballast doesn't have NO T-5 or HO T-5 in it's "choices" of which lamps to fire, so it drives them as a NO T-8. This is the theory that some T-6 lamp makers (Lightning Rod, etc.) use to get ~40 watts from T-6 aquarium lamps.

IMO what this means for aquarists (such a neat word) is possible shorter lamp life, and probable slight difference in actual color temperature and cri vs. lamp specs. If the output spectrum isn't changed too much it would also mean more PAR.

Quote:
Wow, you are serious man!!! 138W, do you think the ballast will hold up? Does it get very hot? So that's about 35W/bulb, a little less than the ~40W that I measured with a single bulb.
Have all the crapola sitting around, may as well use it again.
Average wattage has changed, it's now 121 watts. I feel better with this number, and think the higher average I was getting last night was due to an anomaly driving the average up. The ballast isn't hot at all, nor are the lamps. 1,520 cycles and counting, and this wasn't even an unused ballast.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-25-2006, 08:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the speculation, I mean, explanation! If I get bored too much I might contact Fulham and ask them what they think.

Let us know how the bulbs hold up... This is a good value.


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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-26-2006, 12:12 AM
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Lost one lamp at the 2,438th cycle.
The highest wattage recorded was 161.05 watts. Don't know why or how this number came up. The average wattage was overall was 123.027 watts. Very respectable IMO.
Ballast stills lights new lamps instantly, so I can say IMO running NO T-5 lamps doesn't affect the ballast in any way that damages it so far.

I've hooked up four lamps to a new Advance ballast, and will let them run for 72 hours. I'll be recording wattage through the test board, and will periodically check the temperature with a temp gun. At 30 minutes of running, the temp read 49 C. (~120 F) directly on the lamp surface.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-26-2006, 01:15 AM Thread Starter
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I really appreciate your testing, and blowing up bulbs for the greater good!
Seems like the Advance ballast is working okay wrt switching T5 bulbs on and off. 2438 cycles, that's a few years... Still puzzles me why the ballast doesn't make any difference between NO and HO bulbs.
This might well be the best way to light a 4 ft tank... if you do a 2 bulb setup for a medium light 55 gal tank, spend $40 on ballast and two bulbs, and another $40 on two good reflectors, and all is set for ~$80. Or skip the reflectors and use white paint, $40. Not bad at all.


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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-29-2006, 01:52 AM
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The good news - Power is back on. Internet finally working after losing home DHCP server and related equipment.

The bad news?
Garage flooded, computer room lost, lighting tests interrupted, fancy all-terrain electric wheelchair is toast, lots of tools and electronics likely ruined. 16 inches of rain in 20 hours will do that I reckon.

The best news?
Flood insurance baby. The wife insisted we get it. <3 wife

I'll get back to this in a few weeks, after I get the computers replaced.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-29-2006, 03:57 PM Thread Starter
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My goodness, sorry to hear that. Good luck with the flood insurance, hope they can't wiggle out of that. (I need to get earthquake insurance...)


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