Remote wiring electronic ballast / wiring safely? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-07-2010, 02:52 PM Thread Starter
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Remote wiring electronic ballast / wiring safely?

I'm wiring up a flourescent nano ballast for a 2 x 9W fixture. Planning to run separate ballasts for each bulb, ODNO. I was hoping to do this as a remote ballast given heat considerations and a desire to keep the electronics away from the tank, but have not been able to figure out a couple issues. Figured someone may have run into these things before..

i) how can one determine the distance at which one can safely remote wire a ballast? It seems there is some conjecture on the net regarding meaningful electrical interference and / or other safety issues with remote wiring, but some say this is an interference issue with magnetic ballasts while others say it is a safety issue with electronic ballasts (note the source for this second argument was from 10 years ago and it primarily said we don't have any reliable data).

ii) assuming one can safely wire the ballast remotely, where can one buy decent high voltage wire without buying an entire spool? Seems like if I just use lamp cord or speaker wire I'm risking a fire from arcing...have read that you need to use wire rated for 1-2x the OCV of the ballast which in my case is 750V.

iii) given the power rating of this unit (< 0.5 amp), do I need to use 16-18 gauge wire or can I get away with 20-22 gauge? According to this (, a smaller gauge would do but I noticed they use 18 gauge on the ballast.

In case its helpful, the ballasts I'm using are here:

Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-07-2010, 03:23 PM
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I'm sure this isn't much help but all my Icecap electronic ballast had a harness at least 8 feet long.

They've posted in the past that their ballast can safely run 100' from the ballast to bulb.

They say 18 gauge, solid core and rated at 600 volts going from the ballast to the bulb.

But for magnetic ballasts I don't have a clue.

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-08-2010, 01:14 AM
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To skip going number by number and ending up at - it depends, lets start at - it depends...
Also, just because something is possible to do - doesn't mean you should do it.

Some ballasts are rated for remote mounting. Some are not.
Of the ones that are not, some can be mounted a fair distance from the bulb, but you have to use larger gauge wire.
Some are not rated for remote mounting as they simply can't push enough current to work properly.

For a 9 watt setup, If by distance you mean behind the tank, 18 gauge wire should be fine. If you mean under the counter, I would advise a new plan involving a larger canopy and put the ballast under the canopy.

Now, as to over driving a 9 watt bulb, Why not just go with a 13, 14, or 26 watt bulb and ballast and stay safe.
post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-08-2010, 04:32 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks dbosman. If I run the ballast remotely using a oversized gauge wire to compensate for the wire run, is there still fire risk (ie the ballast blows up because it is trying to push more current) or is the risk just that the setup won't work?

I will revisit the 13W alternative, but my initial thinking was that these slightly longer bulbs wouldn't fit without touching the sides of the hood (this is on a Fluval Edge which has a hood that is only about half the width of the tank).
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-09-2010, 12:20 AM
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Originally Posted by tuonor View Post
Thanks dbosman. If I run the ballast remotely using a oversized gauge
Skip all thoughts about remote ballast.
Go to the Official Edge Thread on this site and check out what has already been done.
LED & CFL combo looks wonderful!
post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-13-2010, 04:46 AM
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DO NOT use speaker wire to power anything but speakers.... the insulation is mostly intended to look cool, and will melt if any real current is sent through it. I'm embarrassed to say I have exp. with that.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-13-2010, 01:45 PM Thread Starter
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dbosman. Thanks for the heads up on that. I had actually already bought the LED replacement bulbs; the problem with the setup (based on my el cheapo light meter) is the LED's only supplement the equivalent of a 5-6W CFL. So add in the 10W that is being strapped to the Edge fixture and you're only at 2.3WPG (perhaps lower without a reflector). I also wanted to do something a bit more finished looking (nothing wrong with the other method, just my own pref really)

stripe157. Good point (see below). I ended up going with 16AWG 2kV rated wire that I found for ~30c / foot at a surplus place online. Probably overkill, but at least I don't have to worry about a fire.

Ultimately, I decided not to go down the road of remote wiring an ODNO ballast (I think its possible but ultimately not worth the risk / hassle). However, I have found a way (I think) to stuff 2 x 13W bulbs into an Edge with a ballast tucked into the back housing with some waterproofing so it looks stock. Just need to do some experimenting this weekend.

For future reference to those who may be trying to DIY wire a ballast, these are a few things I learned along the way (I'll preface this by saying this is what I'll call partially verified internet conjecture, as I'm by no means a engineer or electrician):
  • Not all ballasts can be remote wired, particularly magnetic ones. check with the mfg (Icecap = 100 feet (!); Ballastwise = 18 feet)
  • Do not use generic lamp cord and pay attention to the gauge of the wire. As part of the bulb starting process, many ballasts run a very high voltage initially and it seems at least a few mfg recommend a min 600V-1kV rating on the wire to handle this. I've seen a couple of articles that recommend 2x the max "OCV" of the ballast. In my case this meant 2 x 750v = 1.5kV. Probably overkill, but then again, what's the downside for spending an extra $5 on wire
  • Do ground the ballast AND the fixture. If you're running a remote ballast this means running a ground wire from the ballast housing to the reflector. This is so that you'll be protected if a bulb breaks or water shorts something on the fixture end
  • If you are going to run switches to turn the lights off / on, it is easier to switch on the AC power side then between the ballast and the fixture. To switch on the ballast side safely, you need high voltage switches (related to the high voltage starting mentioned above) which are pricey and not that easy to find. Obviously this means you may need more ballasts depending on what you're trying to do.
Hope it helps.
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