DIY Light Project - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-15-2009, 05:49 PM Thread Starter
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DIY Light Project

Hey, everyone. I wanted to share my Valentine's Day with everybody. Linda and I got a good start on our DIY CFL hanging aquarium light. It's going to attach to the stand I built for my 37 gallon (36x15x16) a few weeks ago.

I'd love to tell you the cost was around $40 (the price of the wood), but it was more like $250 once I bought $40 worth of timers, $30 in power strips, $20 hole saw kit, $10 quart of paint, $40 in fixtures and bulbs, $20 electrical cable, $30 for screws and hardware, and $20 for the great state of California.

The first thing we did was start building the box. The top is a piece of 1"x8" pine, the front, back, & sides are 1/2"x6" pine. We used mold & mildew resistant semi-gloss white paint both to protect the wood from moisture and, since I didn't want to deal with the tin, as a guerilla reflector.

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While Linda was painting, I assembled the pieces for the support. I don't have a picture of this process, but it's constructed from 2"x2" studs which will attach to the back of my stand providing the vertical lift. There're 2"x2" studs screwed into the top of these that provide the horizontal support as well. The thing is incredibly sturdy, with mending plates on all sides of each shear point, as well as angle boards attached to both sides. Here's what it looks like, although this photo gives away the next stage.

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While we were waiting for the paint to dry, I cut my 50' of electrical wire (overkill at 14 gauge, but that's basically all Lowe's had by the foot in black) into 4 equal sections. I took one bitter end of each length, laid them side-by-side oriented widthwise, and screwed a couple pieces of scrap wood on either side to hold them in place (sorry no photo of this). I then braided them using the "under-over-under" starting from the left method. It turned out really cool.

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Then we attached four nice little ceramic fixtures to the "back" of the light box. We were so excited to get going that the paint was still the itsy-est bit tacky.

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Here's a shot of the box with the front & back attached.

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I've reached the maximum number of photos for this thread. Hopefully it'll let me add more if I reply, because we darned near finished the thing, and I have a lot more photos to share.

Jason
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-15-2009, 06:18 PM Thread Starter
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Cool, it looks like it's going to let me finish.

Here's a photo of the assembled box with all the fixtures attached.

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We inserted the wires into the box through a 1" hole worried into the top by my battery-powered lightweight craftsman drill, wired the fixtures, & attached the wires to the inside of the box with little plastic mirror hangers that we had. Meanwhile, I attached a couple strips of wood to the inside of my stand and mounted the power strips and timers. I dropped $10 each on these timers for the sole reason that they have little power cords coming off of them, rather than taking up half a power strip. The only downer is that they mount by hanging on a screw, so they're not that secure.

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We cut a hole in the back for cable ingress using the largest hole saw in our new kit. I wanted to make a nice small hole that the cables would barely pass through, but Linda insisted on the big one. We then wired these super-sturdy 2-prong electrical plugs onto the end of the wires, plugged them in, had a shot of whiskey, crossed our fingers, and flipped the switches on.

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It was getting late by then, and I guess it was more like a glass of wine, a couple beers, AND that shot of whiskey, so we didn't completely finish. What's left to do is mount the support on the back of the stand, and deal with the hanging process. I bought 1/16" cable, crimp connectors, and eye screws for that. Actually, it's probably a good thing that it's not all attached, because the outside still needs to be primed and painted (I'm thinking of black with the slightest hint of red in it, maybe like eggplant). Here's a shot of me holding it above the tank about where it's going to hang.

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So, I've got 4 lights and 4 timers. I wanted to try something I've seen people posting about here with the light loading in stages. The bulbs come on and go off sequentially starting from the left. I've got 2700k bulbs on the edges to simulate a more diffuse "softer" light, with 6500k lights in the middle fixtures for more of a "high noon" type lighting. I know there's been a bit of a debate about the 2700k lights, and I know it's proven that plants don't photosynthesize as well under them, but I like the way they look in there, especially when combined with the 6500k. It seems like a lot of people use them with good success, so I'm willing to give them a try. I don't have any way to measure the amount of light that's actually making it out of the hood, but I figure I should be coming it at right around 2wpg (even if some of it is the less-effective 2700k). I've got 92 watts of light in there, divided by 37 gallons is around 2.5, so I could be losing a lot to the absence of reflectors and the restrikes or whatever from the CFLs and still be in pretty good shape. I guess I won't know until around May or so when I expect to be thinking about adding the plants.

By the way, the bulbs I used are not EXACTLY what I wanted, but Lowe's had a crappy selection. I thought I was going to be able to get 27w CFL's there, but they only had the 23w. They only had ONE choice for the 6500k bulb, so I bought it (3 of em, actually). There was a literal mountain of CFLs, but only one 6500k to choose from.

The next project I'm going to do for this aquarium is the background. All I need is 4 or 5 pieces of 3/8" plywood the height and width of my tank and some blue paint. Hopefully within the next couple weeks or so.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. I'll be lurking!

Regards,

Jason
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-15-2009, 07:15 PM
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Hey Jason, nice write-up. DIY can be a satisfying thing, but often it doesn't save money, especially when you end up buying another ready-made solution after a while. But it is looking good so far, hope the light output will be meeting your expectations.


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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-15-2009, 10:39 PM
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If that doesn't give enough light, get an AH Supply 55 watt kit, for about $75 with the bulb, and you will have plenty of light. I suspect you will get frustrated with those screw-in bulbs. And, the AHS kit has a great reflector giving you a lot more light per watt.

Hoppy
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-21-2009, 10:33 AM Thread Starter
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Quick update...

I decided to go with 32-watt CFL's in the same color configuration as my previous setup. I'll use the 23s as replacements for incandescents in my household fixtures. This'll take me from 2.5-ish to 3.5-ish WPG (minus what I'm losing from restrikes and guerilla reflectors).

Also, I did a search for 2700k on google, and got a LOT of, shall we say, "alternative" website hits. Apparently there are a lot of people out there with high value, high risk cash crops, who use 2700k CFL not only for flowering growth, but also for vegetative growth. With zero experience, I'd have to say, based on that, that the 2700k light color will grow aquatic plants. I'll let you know how mine do (I love the way they look at the edges of my tank so I'm not planning on changing mine out).
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-21-2009, 03:31 PM
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Congratulations for designing a new lighting system! This is the first suspended light fixture I have seen using wood like that for the support. My first reaction was to laugh, but the design definitely grows on me. I can see making that system with cabinet quality woods, good quality joinery, and it would be a piece of art. Very practical, nice looking, and possible for all wood workers to build.

Hoppy
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-21-2009, 03:48 PM
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that is very well made and innovative. but it's going to lose a lot of efficiency due to lack of reflector. high-quality, polished reflectors really make all the difference.

i agree that your combination of pendant lighting with cabinet housing is a fresh idea. if you become dissatisfied with the CF's you ought to be able to easily mount a T5 strip light or two in there and probably enjoy 200% better efficiency. here is an affordable one:

http://www.hidhut.com/catalog/sun-bl...em-p-1405.html

...add the reflector to that one for just around 20 bucks.
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