MH/T5 DIY or LED lighting?

Discussion in 'DIY' started by revnull, Dec 22, 2013.

  1. revnull

    revnull Guest


    About 3-4 years ago, I bought a 90gal setup 2nd hand with the intention of replacing my 55gal tank. Around the same time I also bought 2 x 250w Icecap MH ballasts, a 600w Icecap florescent ballast, and other DIY reflectors and sockets. Almost immediately I released that my raised subfloor would not support the weight of the new tank without re-enforcement (rental, not happening).

    Several years later, I've decided to set everything up in my garage. Now that I’m pulling everything out and dusting off old boxes, I’m wondering what’s new in mixed reef lighting. Do I continue building out my DIY MH/T5 setup? Or try to sell off the 4 year old “new in box” parts and buy/build an LED setup.

    Thoughts and opinions are welcome. Thanks!

    Current parts:

    2 x Icecap 250W MH electronic ballasts
    2 x “spider” single ended MH reflectors
    2 x XM 10k single ended bulbs
    1 x Icecap 600W fluorescent electronic ballast
    2 x Tru T5 actinic bulbs
    2 x sealed T5 end cap socket sets
    2 x T5 clip on reflectors
  2. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    First where do you live? Does your garage get cold? If it does I might lean towards the MH setup since every watt of heat you can get will save that much more on PG&E bills. An LED setup will most likely cost a ton of money, and don't look for much resale value in your MH/T5 setup if you're looking to recoup the cost.

    One thing I would definitely do if you keep the MH setup though is get a couple really good reflectors, Lumenarc style come to mind (although the company who made them isn't it business/don't make them anymore). They're not cheap, but you can sometimes find them used for fairly cheap... for instance I have some I've been trying to sell. I'm not saying this to get you to buy from me, but a good set of reflectors makes a HEAP of difference over those spider reflectors. You might have to rework your setup though, as spider reflectors are compact in nature which is there only potential useful quality.
  3. Tenny

    Tenny Supporting Member

    Personally I would go with LED's. You won't get much money from the old setup, but I think in just PG&E and bulb replacement costs it will eventually even out.

    If you are running a canopy, you can build your own DIY LED's for a pretty reasonable amount of money. If you are doing open top, then I would personally go with a pre-build one as they will probably look cleaner than one you built yourself (although... some can build super clean fixtures...I certainly can't.)

    Edit: Just saw Mike's post... He has a great point about the extra heating from the MH, but wouldn't a heater be more efficient at heating it than a bulb? I haven't had MH's running for about 8 years, so I don't recall how much heat was generated.

    Still, during the summer it will still be heating up the area?

    Personally we are building some frag tanks in our garage, and while it does get cold, putting a cover over the top will help contain some of the heat during the winter (and would prevent the heat from a MH a bit). I have two IceCap Electronic 250w balasts... and I went with DIY LED's.
  4. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    That's why I asked about his location, here in SF it never gets hot in the garage.

    As to the what's more efficient, yeah heaters are more efficient simply because all of that resistive load is in the water so all the power goes there, however with lights it gets a bit tricky, if you're going to light your tank anyways, why not use the heat that's also produced. You're not using turning the lights on to heat your tank, you're turning the lights on to light your tank and the heat is just a useful byproduct.

    While LEDs are efficient, they're not THAT efficient, something on the order of 70% of the energy used to power them gets wasted. The big difference is LED technology is getting more and more efficient where as MH (and fluorescent) technology is fairly stagnant.
  5. revnull

    revnull Guest

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the quick and informative reply. Years ago, when I bought the current setup, I was looking at the Lumenarcs. Like the rest of this upgrade project, it took a back seat to family and work. That and the spiders were "good enough" at the time. Feel free to PM me your asking price as I may be interested in taking them off your hands.

    As for weather concerns, I live in the south bay, Morgan Hill to be exact. The garage is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. My current 55gal is in the garage and has been for the past 7 years. Granted it's only running PC lights with old workhorse ballasts. In the past, evap cooling with fans has been ok, but I may opt for a chiller this year if needed.

    I think I'll use the MH/T5 setup for now and read up on DIY LED. Time to start saving my pennies.

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