Erik's T5 Project


Goal: Retrofit hood over 75-gallon tank. Set up the tank ten years ago (see here) with six T-8 bulbs, like this:

Almost five years ago, years ago, the middle two T8's were replaced with 55-watt PC's, which just about tripled the light.

I didn't want to replace the remaining four "outer" T8's with more PC's -- too much light. So I left the T8's in place. But now I thought it would be cool to try out some linear HO-T5's, which are essentially the same as the Power Compacts, except straight instead of bent. Thus, if given the right reflector, they could be a little more efficient than PC's. I am also wondering if I can get a little bit more light out of a properly-reflected 54 watt T5 than I can with two 32-watt T8's with really lousy reflectors (i.e., white paint).

7 December 2006

Today the order came from with two reflectors and two T5 bulbs, wrapped in bubble wrap inside this tube, which itself was inside a rectalinear cardboard box, cleverly insulated by the foam struts!

The kids were more interested in having me get the lights out of the tube so they could roll marbles and other objects down the end.

I bought the cheap non-waterproof endcaps. I will screw these into the top of the hood. The tubes are the "cheap" (for the reef people) GE HO 54 watt 6500K models. Was a little distressed to read the mercury warning on the tube sleeves, but I suppose the CF's are just as bad.

I'm guessing this model is meant to be clipped onto the bottom of the bulb (or screwed into the hood and the bulb clipped onto it. Probably doesn't matter).

Bent back the end so that it's flat.

Screwed on a clip (that came with the kit).

Here it is attached to the tube. Note that the tube sticks out a little on the end.

Two of them side by side. I'm not going to run them this way, but if I had a slightly different design on my hood, I could easily put six of these over a 75-gallon. Not that I'd want to.

9 December 2006

Got a window of time to work on the new lights today. First thing I gutted the T8 ends, wiring and ballast, and started in on the T5 ends.

This is the lighting hood, upside down. The T5 reflectors are a little more than half the width of the AH Supply PC reflectors, and a bit shallower. This means I don't have to mount the tubes as close to the top of the hood!

The completed and wired end, with the tube in place.

OK, now this sucked. I was planning on replacing the 2-light ballast I had screwed on the back of the hood with a four-bulb model (55W PC's are the same as 54W linear T5's).

I bought some stuff on EBay a year or two ago, and the guy threw in an "extra" ballast with the order, namely an Advance 4S54 four-tube model. Little did I know, until tonight, that it literally was ballast, i.e., dead weight. Kaput. Didn't work.

OK, no problem. I can adapt. I hooked the PC lamps to the trusty Fulham ballast I used to use when I bought them, and the new T5 lights to the Advance 2S54 ballast I had recently been using for the PC's. It's a little cheesy, but it'll hold until I figure out what's up with the 4-bulb ballast and can possibly buy another for something less than $80.

The reflector is not as "mirrored" as the AH Supply Miro-4. It has a pebbly "matte" looking finish. Not sure if this effects the performance, but it probably does. I will say it again: if AH Supply ever manufactures a reflector for linear T5's, I'd be first in line!

Here everything is, ready to go. You can really see the difference in the reflectors in this shot! You can also see how the PC's really are just bent T5's.

Note again, the reflectors are not attached to the hood, but clip directly on the bulbs.

Wide shot of the same, ready for light test.

Wow, that's bright! Maybe it's because these are new bulbs, maybe it's because the ballast has a higher power factor, but damn, that exceeds my expectations!

Now I just have to start working on the tank...

12 May 2007

Scott was curious if the difference in the intensity between the tubes would soften after the break-in period. As shown in this current shot, this does not appear to be the case! The linear T5s are 6000K GE tubes, and the bent T5s are a mystery 6500K (or 6000K) tube from AH Supply. Maybe it's just the difference in the spectrum I'm seeing? Maybe it's because the two permanent ballasts (one a Sylvania, one an Advance) have different actual power factors (though they have the same specs)? Who knows... Tank update: Over the past 5 months, the tank has gotten better, and then gotten worse (various algae). Seemed like an appropriate time to replace the substrate with some Flourite I bought used. So now it's way worse as it settles. So I'm treating this as another restart. We just pulled out all the 'bows, who were uprooting the starter foreground plants, and added a few ottos. More to come when the local store gets 'em in.

20 December 2009

Several months back, the ballast running the two PCs in the center died yet again, and after months of it not running, decided that the tank was actually better without all four lights. So I bought another single T-5 to replace the two PCs, along with a smaller ballast. It's been running quite well with this setup since. The tank has been incredibly stable since the replacement: no algae outbreaks, good plant growth, harvesting at least once a month for the stores and club, and really only changing the water every couple months still. Nice balance. No comment on the lack of aquascaping. Once of these days...