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Chinese LED fixture: initial review and thoughts

Discussion in 'Lighting, Equipment & DIY' started by novahobbies, Aug 30, 2012.

  1. novahobbies

    novahobbies Active Member

    Well, I done it. As a few of you know, I decided to risk a test and see how those "aftermarket" chinese LEDs look. I got my first one in a couple days ago, so I snapped some pics and thought it would be worth posting.
    First of all, it's worth noting that yes...this sucker is BRIGHT. "120" watts of LED is a good sight brighter than the 130w pc, even punching down to a 29 inch deep tank.

    Here's the unit unpacked:



    The exterior seems sturdy enough. The hanging brackets are secure, the rheostats are in good shape, and nothing feels loose or flimsy. Of course, the shiney black case can hide a lot of crap. So......

    ....let's see what's inside.

    Overall, fairly clean and well laid out. Most of the connections are secure, and there doesn't look to be many areas that might cause problems. Not too sure about this, though:

    Couple of the hots are wrapped in electrical tape instead of heat shrink, and even those that are seem to end a little short. Not too sure I feel comfortable with that amount of exposed metal with 120 volts running through it. This is coming from the 120v input, with leads running out to the LED transformers and the 12v transformer that runs the fans.

    The LEDs are mounted directly to this plate. It's fairly thin aluminum, about 1/4 inch. Not much of a true heat sink in my opinion. If those fans go, the lights themselves won't be too far behind. Good thing that muffin fans like these pretty much last forever anymore.

    And here it sits in the stand.
    Now, the original plan was going to involve testing this out over the seahorse tank, since the horse tank has a similar depth and is well-loaded with coral. Unfortunately I couldn't do that without some major modification to the canopy, so I went ahead and placed it in the main tank instead. I expect I'll have a bit of work to do in order to hang it properly, and I'll just have to see how that green rose coral does. I wish I knew someone with a PAR meter; it would go a long way to helping ease my worries about this being enough useable light for the coral.

    Last look.....just blue:
  2. geoj

    geoj New Member

    I would start out at 50% dim, or you will likely bleach something. Just until you find what to set it at.
  3. 2quills

    2quills Active Member

    All in all it looks like a decent package for the price. The fans are definitely an important part keeping that fixture from over heating for sure. But let's face it...mounting electronics a few inches above a tank full of saltwater and in a canopy is a harsh condition no matter which way we look at it. That said, as long as you don't drop it in the water it can hopefully provide you with a few good years worth of use. Power supplies look remarkably like black, painted versions of the meanwell LPF drivers so those could probably be easily replaced in the future if need be so that's a plus. The leds and resistors may be another story but it's kinda hard for me to see how they are soldered on, maybe a little tricky but not impossible. I'm not crazy about the terminals and seeing electrical taped connections from a factory product. But it's not the end of the world. Anything metal on the fixture will get some corrosion in time. If they begin to fail I'd just replace that terminal with male and female insulated connectors on all the wires and hook them together that way. :)
  4. red tiger

    red tiger New Member

    Are those LED just blue? Or can you change the colors?
  5. lol

    lol New Member

    Looks pretty cool.
    You don't think that having just white and Blue LEDs is washing out any colors in the corals?
  6. novahobbies

    novahobbies Active Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Red Tiger
    Are those LED just blue? Or can you change the colors?
    No, you can change the color. There are White and Blue LEDs in this, with rheostat dimmers for both circuits.
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lol

    Looks pretty cool.
    You don't think that having just white and Blue LEDs is washing out any colors in the corals?
    No.....how would this be any different from a 10K white/460nm blue T5 or MH/T5 fixture? Those are essentially "just white and blue..."
    Now, I know that a lot of people have been experimenting with their LED custom jobs....mixing some red and even UV bulbs in with the standard. I may add a separate strip LED down the road, but I haven't decided if I want to change the color scheme. I like the Current purples; that might look interesting, but I don't know if it's really beneficial to the coral in the long run.
  7. lol

    lol New Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by novahobbies
    No.....how would this be any different from a 10K white/460nm blue T5 or MH/T5 fixture? Those are essentially "just white and blue..."
    Now, I know that a lot of people have been experimenting with their LED custom jobs....mixing some red and even UV bulbs in with the standard. I may add a separate strip LED down the road, but I haven't decided if I want to change the color scheme. I like the Current purples; that might look interesting, but I don't know if it's really beneficial to the coral in the long run.
    Hmm. You make a really good point. I thought T5s and metal halides also had several other spectrums in it, not just white and blue? I thought there was some green, reds, purples and so forth in florescent bulbs that LEDs didn't have...
  8. novahobbies

    novahobbies Active Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by 2Quills
    All in all it looks like a decent package for the price. The fans are definitely an important part keeping that fixture from over heating for sure. But let's face it...mounting electronics a few inches above a tank full of saltwater and in a canopy is a harsh condition no matter which way we look at it. That said, as long as you don't drop it in the water it can hopefully provide you with a few good years worth of use. Power supplies look remarkably like black, painted versions of the meanwell LPF drivers so those could probably be easily replaced in the future if need be so that's a plus. The leds and resistors may be another story but it's kinda hard for me to see how they are soldered on, maybe a little tricky but not impossible. I'm not crazy about the terminals and seeing electrical taped connections from a factory product. But it's not the end of the world. Anything metal on the fixture will get some corrosion in time. If they begin to fail I'd just replace that terminal with male and female insulated connectors on all the wires and hook them together that way. :)
    Agreed. Do you think the careful application of some liquid electrical tape would be helpful, or am I fooling myself?
    That component I showed you....I don't recognize it. Might be a relay of some sort to make sure the fan transformer gets energized regardless of which LED strand is powered on....I do see that the fans turn on with either switch, and the power distribution from the main cords seems to indicate this. But as I say, I don't recognize the part at all and I'm a middling-experienced electronics fiddler (which comes from a misspent youth I suppose...) who has some LED experience with models and the like.
    If you look very carefully, you can see the circuit pathways on that aluminum sheet. Looks like they're protected with a full sheet of white stick-on vinyl that covers the board. How those pathways are protected from the aluminum side is not clear without taking the side bumpers off....and I don't know if I want to do that.
    I will try and get a better closeup of the LEDs and some specs to you as well.....as I said, this is my experiment and I want to document everything in case anyone else is tempted to buy these. I want others to have full disclosure before they shell out any dough.
  9. sweatervest13

    sweatervest13 New Member

    I am following... I took a look at these LED's a month or so ago and thought really hard about getting them. I am very interested to see how you like them and what kind of growth you get.
    If you don't mind me asking. How much did you pay?? I like the fact that you can dim them.
  10. novahobbies

    novahobbies Active Member

    Shipping, etc came to 275. Now I'm hoping to track down someone who has access to a PAR meter...
  11. geoj

    geoj New Member

    Looks pretty cool.
    You don't think that having just white and Blue LEDs is washing out any colors in the corals?
    There are several LFS down here that use these and I do see color change in sps corals they sell but don't know if it is the light alone or not.
  12. 2quills

    2quills Active Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by novahobbies
    Agreed. Do you think the careful application of some liquid electrical tape would be helpful, or am I fooling myself?
    That component I showed you....I don't recognize it. Might be a relay of some sort to make sure the fan transformer gets energized regardless of which LED strand is powered on....I do see that the fans turn on with either switch, and the power distribution from the main cords seems to indicate this. But as I say, I don't recognize the part at all and I'm a middling-experienced electronics fiddler (which comes from a misspent youth I suppose...) who has some LED experience with models and the like.
    If you look very carefully, you can see the circuit pathways on that aluminum sheet. Looks like they're protected with a full sheet of white stick-on vinyl that covers the board. How those pathways are protected from the aluminum side is not clear without taking the side bumpers off....and I don't know if I want to do that.
    I will try and get a better closeup of the LEDs and some specs to you as well.....as I said, this is my experiment and I want to document everything in case anyone else is tempted to buy these. I want others to have full disclosure before they shell out any dough.
    I personally don't think that it would hurt to seal up the exposed contacts if you wish. Infact, it's made to help protect the contacts from moisture so they don't oxidize. It's also an electrical insulator. Careful removal with a sharp blade after it rubberizes (word check) isn't terribly difficult. Simply cut and peel it off while the stuff is cool.
    From the way it sounds the component that you speak of is essentially a relay, yes. If you have two 120v sources leading to it and then two wires running from it to the 12v power supply for the fans then that's pretty much it. Fan's get power no matter if one light switch is on or the other. A glorified terminal, no doubt.
    Yeah I think that stuff is just some type of polymer sheeting that has thermal and dielectric properties that insulated the traces (conductors) from the board. They are probably sandwiched in between the stuff and then bonded to the board is my guess.
    Experiment, away! :)
    Oh, btw!...
    If memory serves me correct I have caught a couple threads of some PAR reading taken using these particular style fixtures (same wattage). I believe the numbers are comparable to like a 2-4 bulb T5 fixture. But you gotta take it all with a grain of salt. The instruments needed to accurately measure the output of certain color leds is out of reach for the average hobbyist. The thing is that leds are monochromatic in that they produce a vary narrow band or peek in their respective areas of the light spectrum. Where as halides or the other can actually cover a little more than just one small area on a graph. Lux meters are generally designed to measure white lighting which covers a broad range of the spectrum to produce it's light. So they don't measure blue or u.v. lighting very well and therefore numbers can be deceivingly low. And on the other hand these meters read red lighting deceptively high. I think there was a formula or a simple guidline created to help compensate for the differences in order to get a more accurate idea of what your lights are producing depending on where at in the spectrum that you're producing the most with the leds that you're using. Just don't ask me to find it right now lol.
  13. novahobbies

    novahobbies Active Member

    I found a site claiming that this fixture registers "365 average at 24 inches." Personally I don't believe it, especially after reading your note about PAR meters and color output. I asked the manufacturer and confirmed that these are epistar LEDs.....just like pretty much every other Chinese fixture. Not the high end CREEs, but not the end of the world.
    I wonder if I could swap out the drivers and run these up to their full 3w strength. Hmm. Probably not smart to go playing with them, but nobody ever accused me of being a genius.
    The tank parameters are dropping to normal levels (remember this tank is cycling) and the rose coral is starting to look a little better now that the ammonia is back to 0 (nitrites are still high though). I also noticed that it was fully open with extended feeder tentacles last night under just the blues, so I gave it a shot of cyclopeeze which it seemed to enjoy. Once the nitrites are 0, I have a frogspawn frag to test out.
  14. kiefers

    kiefers Active Member

    huh hu huh, told ya you would like them didn't I????? Lol
    I am going to order some for the 56 but I am using different color patterns.
  15. red tiger

    red tiger New Member

    For the same price you could of gone with Kessil with less what if?
  16. novahobbies

    novahobbies Active Member

    Ummm....no I couldn't have.
    Oh, wait, I see the mistake. Not 275, sorry. 175. Finger twitched.
  17. red tiger

    red tiger New Member

    Ummm....no I couldn't have.
    Oh, wait, I see the mistake.  Not 275, sorry.  175.  Finger twitched. 
    Oh i see! I bought a used 150w kessil for 170 from my lfs, love this lights!
  18. novahobbies

    novahobbies Active Member

    Wow, that's a heck of a deal! Congrats on that. My lfs is using these Chinese lights actually...
  19. 2quills

    2quills Active Member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by novahobbies
    I found a site claiming that this fixture registers "365 average at 24 inches." Personally I don't believe it, especially after reading your note about PAR meters and color output. I asked the manufacturer and confirmed that these are epistar LEDs.....just like pretty much every other Chinese fixture. Not the high end CREEs, but not the end of the world.
    I wonder if I could swap out the drivers and run these up to their full 3w strength. Hmm. Probably not smart to go playing with them, but nobody ever accused me of being a genius.
    The tank parameters are dropping to normal levels (remember this tank is cycling) and the rose coral is starting to look a little better now that the ammonia is back to 0 (nitrites are still high though). I also noticed that it was fully open with extended feeder tentacles last night under just the blues, so I gave it a shot of cyclopeeze which it seemed to enjoy. Once the nitrites are 0, I have a frogspawn frag to test out.
    Is there a warranty that comes with these guys? If so I'd maybe wait till that was up before you swap the power supplies. You'd need to know what your actual power requires are for voltage and current as well as how the circuits are ran. Parallel or Series? My guess is parallel but I can't see the board that well in the photo's to tell. Are there an equal amount of blue to white leds?
    My biggest concern would be driving the leds to high. My guess is that the inside of that fixture is going to run warm. That sink could get too hot and you'd just end up burning out leds well before there time. A maximum rating for an led is just that, it's the max. If we think of it in terms of astronomy the brightest stars are always the ones that burn out the fastest.
    In the world of electronics, cooler is better. Stuff just lasts longer, period!. Epistar is a big brand. They are Taiwanese. leds as are Meanwell's power supplies. Manufactured to be mass produced and sold across the globe at affordable prices. My biggest issue with them is trying to track down the lack of real usable data. What type of Epistars are they, when were they made, what are some actual measurments printed for my eyes to see? On the other hand Cree sets the standards in the industry with there stuff and they put it out there for people to see . When you're picking something that is designed to support a system that you spend probably thousands of dollars on over the years, is this thing going to meet the requirements that you're looking for? With these fixtures it's a bit of a mystery. So we as hobbyists are left to experiment and hopefully share our experiences in an honest way to try and help others and ourselves make wiser decisions.
    There seems to be a lot of hubbub about these fixtures. We'll see how they do. If nothing else, for most folks, it's not really any more expensive replacing these fixtures than it with bulb replacements after a couple years. And if you're happy with the results then your happy. What else is there other than fancy bells and whistles that are designed to give your fish disco fever?
  20. kiefers

    kiefers Active Member

    Heya Corey, yes there is a Warrenty with these fixtures. Maybe I should have started a thread on these because my lady has 3 of these with her 125.
    With out a PAR meter I am unable to share the results and I am not going to go off what the website states.
    I do agree with not having these set to high because they will get warm indeed. I am looking for alternatives to fixing this problem. My father-n-law build her a canopy for her birthday and it is open in the back. She currently has them around one fourth the power to half. So far the corals and monties have taken off. Right now she is dealing with an algea issue and is currently, or should I say, still, dosing 20ml vodka a day. Not even touching the algea issue at all, Lol
    cheers

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