Michigan Reefers banner
1 - 7 of 7 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,040 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok, this isn't anything terribly exciting but I thought I would share anyway.

I have been researching LED lighting for the past several months and decided that was what I wanted to do... replace my MH lighting and save save save on energy while being able to dial in the color spectrum and increase intensity. I have looked at pre-built and DIY and decided that DIY was definitely more within my price range and the customization potential is essentially endless.

But before I was to begin the built for my 180 reef, I thought it might be good to do a practice run... a light for my sump. I had a 65W pc fixture which was total overkill since I only need to grow caulerpa. And the bulb was long since expired so I thought why not give LED a try instead of replacing a pc bulb (which is nearly the same price as the LED build).

So... I bought the following from rapidled.com:

-power cord
-Mean Well LPC-35-700 constant current driver
-2 royal blue 3W CREE LEDs
-1 neutral white 3W CREE LED
-1 cool white 3W CREE LED
-water resistant wire nuts

Then I also bought some #18 stranded wire, soldering stuff, etc. My father in law custom made the heat sink (1.1" x 19") to fit across the frame of an 18" wide tank (sump). Also had it drilled and tapped to avoid using glue (just seems cleaner and easier for maintenance reasons). For everything, the unit was just over $30! Not bad at all and even cheaper than a small stunner strip by nearly half.

This was my first ever experience soldering and it was actually pretty easy. I was cautious to keep the tip clean and tinned. Got the LEDs pre-tinned in about 15 minutes... my first time, hence the long time! Emphasis was on doing it right, not doing it fast. Was able to tin the wires more quickly later on.

Since I bought the constant current driver, I didn't worry about a dimmer or anything else so the wiring was quite easy. + out of the driver goes to + side of the first LED. From there alternate +/- and finally the last - goes to the - end of the driver. Soldering the wires to the LEDs was super fast and super easy. One touch with the soldering iron and they are connected!

I actually extended the wires coming from the driver to the LEDs so I could have more freedom with the placement of the driver itself. To do this I used the #18 stranded wire and soldered the ends to the pre-tinned wires from the driver (added about 18" to each). Then I capped the wires with the wire nuts (Note, you can simply twist the wires together and then cap if you want but I thought this seemed more sturdy). Finally, I attached the driver wires to the power cord wires in the same manner.

Once everything was hooked up, I made sure that all wires went where they were supposed to go (definitely check 3 or 4 times to be sure) and plugged it in. I feared a mild explosion but to my relief the only thing that happened was the LEDs instantly glowed BRIGHTLY!

After installation onto the sump... Wow, I didn't think it would be so satisfying to build this and then see it in action. The color is amazing and this is just 4 LEDs. I'll see how the caulerpa does and maybe add more LEDs if necessary... maybe a coral or two in the sump/fuge. As it stands, the sump light makes my main tank seem yellowish by comparison. I am definitely excited to get started on the main lighting system but will have to wait a couple more months for funding. And now I know how easy it is, I am even more eager (granted, there will be MORE to it, but still).

Apologies for no pictures but I didn't think there was really any eye candy to show off. I thought this was a good way to show my support for anyone considering a DIY LED system.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
401 Posts
Total high-five on your approach to this. Been preaching to reefers for a couple years that before beginning a big LED build it's far better to build a small cluster of LEDs first. This way you can evaluate color, test optical spread, work the kinks out of your soldering skills etc. Nail that down first, make appropriate changes to taste, then just scale horizontal. It's then a no lose situation.

Double kudos for using neutrals. I can't stand cool-white based units, and am sick of the commercial units giving LED tech a bad name with their bad color because it's based on cheap 6500-7500k whites. Neutrals and royals are *all over* cool whites, especially with LPS and softies. I'm not sold on mixing neutrals and cool-whites because the spectrum is redundant, but as long as there's a neutral in there you've got some nice color to work with.

Just remember to never connect a hot LED driver to your string of LEDs. Always make sure your driver is connected to the string before firing it up or at some point you will blow LEDs. Biggest mistake I see beginners make, and I still do it on occasion. The LPC 700 isn't as prone to it at the LPC 1000 is though.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,040 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Blasterman! As for the neutral white, I have heard that they produce a much more pleasing light than the cool white. I suppose I was trying to get as much of the spectrum covered with so few LEDs. And I thought it might help to grow caulerpa... but maybe it doesn't. I may still add a few cool white to the main unit for the same reason. Do you think it's unnecessary though? Also good point about the hot driver... though I am not sure why I would plug it in before it was strung to the LEDs.

It will be fun moving to the display unit. I figure I will try to do it in stages... perhaps one heat sink at a time... for cost and for "practice". Get one exactly how it needs to be and then repeat 3 more times. I will also have to add the dimmer functionality and that is something I obviously haven't done yet... though it doesn't sound hard at all. Just a few more wires to worry about. Thanks again for the support. Like I said, I hope that sharing my experience can help others to decide whether or not to go DIY LED.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
401 Posts
Cool-white -vs- neutral white as your 'anchor white' as I call it is entirely up to you. Frankly I can't stand cool-white based lights because the color lacks any depth, but that's just me. I'm the say way with halides. I prefer the really expensive bulbs that don't make your tank look monochrome.

PAR is about the same between cools and neutrals because with neutrals you end up turning up your royals, and royal blue is mostly where the PAR is anyways. Macro algaes are more likely than coral though to utilize the warmer light of the neutrals.

Use your eyes. If you prefer neutral plus royal go with that. If you prefer a mix of neutral and cool-white then use that instead. It's your tank. Just remember that if you use neutral you need to turn up your royals or use more of them to compensate. It's about a 2:1 ratio with royal / neutral.

99% of commercial units are cool-white based, and thats why they also have the most complaints.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,040 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the input! I had planned to go with 2:1 blue to white.

The blue would also be a 2:1 royal blue to blue while the white would be (originally) nearly 1:1 neutral white to cool white. But after hearing your thoughts I think that I will change that white ratio towards more neutral whites. Perhaps also go for 2:1 or greater in favor of neutral white.

I'm in agreement with you that I do not want the flat look as you put it. I also plan to incorporate red, green, and UV but only 1 LED per heat sink and this is to try and fill in the spectrum a bit and to add some more pop to the corals.

I assume you do not have any cool white in your fixture? If not, do you think it makes a difference that you're missing a part of the light spectrum? Perhaps it does not. In that case, it also makes things easier for me. Thanks again.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
401 Posts
A cool-white LED and a neutral LED have the same exact color components. The difference is that a neutral has a lot more yellow, orange and red while the cool-white has much less.

A cool-white has more blue than a neutral, but this is almost the exact same wavelength as a royal. So, a neutral and a cool-white are like six -vs- half a dozen.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,040 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This is good to know. I could not tell this information from the website so I was a bit confused. I'll give the cool whites the axe as it sounds like they are unnecessary. Thanks!
 
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
Top