LEDs - Good, Bad or just another addiction?

pecan2phat

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LED lighting - worth the cost, not worth the cost, better illumination, less operating cost, yada...yada....yada
So I'm sure a lot of reefers have asked the question whether the cost justified the change in their lighting scheme. In my personal opinion, I view Metal Halides with VHO Actinic supplements as the best visual appearance. For pure blue light, I do agree that the blue LEDs are phenomenal but when you mix it with white LEDs, the pop is kind of gone.
I've been pretty intrigued with LED lighting for a few months now. Prior to PFOs demise, they were pretty much out of my budget but I was saving some money towards an Aqua Illumination unit due to all the heat my halides were creating. My chiller was on literally 6 months out of the year :irked:
When PFO hit rock bottom and closed their doors in Feb 2009, the market was basically left with one programable unit which was Aqua Illuminations but they had an advertised 8 week back order that was probably much longer then stated.
Used Solaris units started to hit the FS forums about May/June but not in abundance. Solaris owners are loyal to the product even though there are a myriad of problems with this light. Everything from premature LED failures, fan failures to bad power supplies.
Even with all these problems, I was ready to try an older version of the Solaris unit for the right price, hence my first stumbling step into LED lighting.
Please note that my picture taking skills are on par with a 5 year old so these are not pretty, not adjusted for ISO or WB, hell probably not even focused :lol:

First LED fixture in Aug 09 - Used PFO 72" Solaris H-series to replace retro T5 kit using two IC ballast & six 54w bulbs over driven to 80w. This is their 2nd generation series that emulated PAR value of 250w MH at 20k color temperature. I bought the fixture from an RC member in Ohio for $700 + $130 in shipping cost. This was a $4k unit at msrp so I thought I would give it a try. The fixture is sitting on cutouts of the end panels of the canopy. There are wood grate covers to facilitate the cooling fans on the end of the fixture. The fixture is 6.5" above the water surface.


The LED array composed of 25 Luxeon K2 3.8w diodes. Higher ratio of blues to whites hence the 20k color temp. They also use 2 green diodes in each array. There are 6 arrays & 3 power supplies for the 72" fixture

The H-series light is acceptable for medium to lower light corals such as LPS & softies. The 180g that you see started out as a FOWLR tank but I got quickly bored and wanted to see what I can add that the Angels would not devour. This ended up to be Hammers, Frogspawns & Torch corals




This frogspawn is the size of a basketball


Since having this H-series light, I have had no problems with the power supplies as many owners with the G thru I4 series are experiencing. I have had LEDs go dim or totally shut down and have rendered Wingo's service to repair them. There are a multitude of reasons as to why the LEDs are failing prematurely. Everything from poor assembly from overseas regarding the uniform application of the thermal paste between the LED PCB board & heatsink to design flaw of over driving the Luxeon K2 diodes. I had 6 spare PCB boards and some were good, some had burnt diodes. I swapped out any good boards with any dim boards on the fixture & sent these all to Wingo for repair. So I do have spare replacement boards for future LED failures.

So this did not deter me in my ongoing interest in LED lighting. In Sept 09, I found a new PFO Solaris I5-series 36" fixture also on RC for $1300 + $60
in shipping cost. This is about half of msrp on the unit and it was still boxed and unopened.
A little history on the I5 series, this is their 4th and final generation of the Solaris line that was brought back to the US for production due to all the quality issues. They also revised the housing, changed the Luxeon K2 LEDs to Philips Rebel 3,5w LEDs and ran the unit at 24v vs the 12v/5v for the previous generations. They changed out the problematic power supplies to off the shelf Meanwell drivers. This enabled them to produce more light at less power. The LED arrays were increased to 30 LEDs per array, the 36" unit has 3 arrays & 2 power supplies. The I5 series emulated PAR value of 400w MH at 14k color temp. The I5 light is much brighter & whiter in color temp then the H-series light. Controller is almost identical in all the series, so operation of the different series are the same. The Meanwell drivers are enclosed in an outer external casing so you practically hear no fan noise on these power supplies whereas the G thru I4 power supplies were very loud with the fan on 24/7. The I5 replaced a 6x39w TEK T5 fixture

I have had no problems with any LEDs dimming, the ratio of whites to blues are 2 to 1 hence the whiter light. They also use 2 green LEDs for every array

Suspended 5.5" from the water surface


So these are my two Solaris fixtures. Overall, I like the visual appearance of the 20k light over the 14k but you can adjust the color temp and loose overall intensity. You can program gradual powering of the lights up & down for true sunrise & sunset, choose lunar cycles for moonlight. What I did not like was the 41 degree optics that the Solaris fixtures utilizes. It creates a narrow light path and the pyramid cast is abundantly obvious when you attempt to light a 24" deep tank. You can raise the light but it needs to be within reason. IMO, these fixtures are ideal for tanks that are 18" deep or less. The program for longest time of day/shortest time of day is kind of stupid. It constantly changes and you need to figure out the correct time offset if you want your lights to startup at say 11am.
As for growth, I see growth in some of my LPS corals & not in others. It's hard for me to make a comment on growth because these lights are utilized on a system that is mainly fish and corals as an after thought. Nutrients are high in this system which is probably a major factor on growth, so no real comment in the growth category.

So this is where it gets exciting. Oct 09 rolls around and I'm sure that most MR members heard about the Pacific Sun LED light modules being introduced into the US market through Aloha Tropics.
By this time, a few other LED fixtures have also surfaced such as the Thortek from Taiwan & the Eco-Lamps from Hong Kong. I was able to view these in person thanks to James from LIRA that imported the 2 fixtures into the US. The Eco-Lamp looked like a quality built fixture and I'm sure that they have their following such as Andrea Aust from Australia but at the end of the day, it is still not a programable unit.
I know that this is a personal liking & not everyone has the same wants or needs. If I am going to spend the money for LED technology, then I want the full scope of it's capabilities. To me having 100 or so watts of blue light come on prior to the white light is not a natural sunrise or sunset.
That basically leaves Aqua Illumination manufactured in the US or the Pacific Sun manufactured in Poland.
I was weary of 1 watt LEDs being able to produce light strong enough to penetrate 24" so I stood by the sidelines during the initial offering of the group buy on the Pacific Sun Lamps. What changed my mind before the group buy expired is when Wingo had attended a LIRA meeting and brought along a 90w Sunpod that he had produced using 1 watt LEDs. He held this above one of James 225g tank that had a 72" Solaris I4 series in the background and a 36" Thortek towards one side in the front. Everyone was looking at the difference of the 3 lights while I interestingly watched how his 1 watt LEDs lit up the bottom of the tank. I also thought about the nonuse of focal optics and how this would effect lighting up a 24" deep tank with a module that is only 8.5" from front to back. I also knew that the Aqua Illumination modules used 46 degree focal optics on their units so not much better then my Solaris units in terms of the light spread.
I ponied up my money and went in with the Pacific Sun group buy at $650 a module x 2. The modules came in late Nov 09
This should be the real conservation factor in energy use :idea:
They are replacing two 250w Metal Halides & two 110w VHO Actinics and maybe the use of my energy sucking 1/4 hp chiller


Each lamp module measures 14.5"Lx8.5"Wx2.5"H

Electronic drivers/power supply with aluminum heatsink casing

Driver measures 9"Lx5"Wx2.5"H, power cord is 5.5' & lamp connection cord is 8'

Lamps coincidently happen to fit perfectly in this aluminum light rack that cali_reef made for my Luminarc 3 mini stealth pendants, so basically plug-n-play for me. The Lamps come with hanging hardware that I did not need to fuss over


Drivers mounted out in the open to dissipate heat, wires tied

Modules over tank & wire slack checked for movement of light rack. Lamps are 4.75" above the water surface.


Now again, my photo taking sucks wind so be gentle. What I wanted to mention was that the tank appearance is slightly whiter then what the pictures look like. Prior to these LEDs, I had used Luminarc 3 mini stealth with Aqua Connect 250w 14k SE bulbs with Icecap electronic ballast. The comparason is that the Pacific Sun 16k modules are slightly bluer then the Aqua Connect 14ks which really isn't that blue compared to other 14k bulbs. About the same intensity as the AC14k. I took 5 weeks to acclimate these lights. Actually all my LED lights, I take about 4-5 weeks starting at 50% for 2 weeks then graduate up 15% per week








I'm quite happy with these LED lamps. I can graduate a sunrise/sunset for up to 60 minutes, choose a lunar cycle and control individual blue & whites for color temp and control the intensity for acclimation purposes. This is all done through PC software via a Bluetooth connection to the Lamp modules. There is a glitch with the PAR programming that I would use to simulate cloud cover for 15 minutes, 5x a day, but this will be fixed with an update.
I've been able to see definitive growth in this tank in the short 5 week period. Wow, 1 watt LEDs can grow SPS corals, who would've thought :)
If you wondered about the light spread with no focal optics. I can definitely tell you that without focal optics, it causes very good coverage for a 24" deep tank. In one of the pics, you can actually see how high the light spills out of the glass. I believe that these are about an 120 degree light spread. If the company asked for my opinion, I would actually like to see 80 degree focal optics to control the light spill.
Thumbs up for this product!

So did I say that I was addicted to LEDs? In Jan 2010, I decided to convert my 12g nano tank to LEDs :lol2:
This is a 12g Aqua Pod with a gutted canopy and two Ecoxotic Panorama LED strips installed. They put out a ton of light. One would have been enough but I didn't know that at the time. Probably one Panorama & two blue Stunner strips would have been a better choice.

Can't see it in this pic but the shimmer is amazing. Much more then any of my real LED fixtures that cost thousands :lol:



Well that's it folks, my LED experience :)
 
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Awibrandy

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Great post!! I actually enjoyed reading it! Now if I could only afford the LED fixtures I'd be thrilled.:)

How's your electric bill with the LED vs the MH/VHO?
 

pecan2phat

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Manhattan Reefs
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My fans have not even been on since I changed over on the 120g. Even in the winter time, the temp would go about 2 degrees over the preset heater mark.
I'll be able to tell come this spring.
I would have been honestly undecided if one of the Solaris units went over the SPS tank but the Pac Sun seems to cover almost all the deficiencies in terms of coverage, visual asthethics, and growth ability.
 

pecan2phat

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Manhattan Reefs
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The biggest bang for the buck is when you switch over from MH to LEDs for energy consumption. In my situation, I switched over on 3 setups but 2 of them were T5s. The MH switch over is less then half of the previous consumption but with the T5s, the Solaris units actually use more energy due to their high powered LED concept. I use to spend about $700 in bulb replacements every 14 months :eek:
 

Awibrandy

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How about your electric bill? How much did it go down per month, if at all?
Did you answer this question, and I'm just to dumb to have seen the reply?LOL
 
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Alex

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great post, so the Leds use less power than the MH but more than the T5's. However with the minimal use of fans, chillers and heaters you are still saving money on your power consumption. whats your take on some of the Diy Leds, or some of the other units being marketed ? And the next question was already answered," you are thrilled by your new lighting option".

Also would you try to Diy a unit to your specs?
 

SWITCH420

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good info i like leds but im waiting 4 a lil more time 2 pass b4 i get in to them.i am waiting 4 them 2 work out the bugs.another year or 2then i will see . i might try a small diy led 4 1 of my smaller tanks
 

pdnyc69

acan and zoa master
Manhattan Reefs
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yonkers ny
I just ordered the 72" aqua illumination led fixture. I can't wait to get it. I have a 36" thortek led light over my small tank and love it. Lots of growth and great effect on the tank. I recomend to everyone
 

fernandokng

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Great write up!

I notice that my heater turns on a lot more during the winter time because the LEDs don't heat up the tank as much as the MHs do.

But heating up the tank is much easier to do than cooling down the tank my opinion, especially during the summer months.
 

Aqua Pro Builder

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Manhattan Reefs
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Warren,
I always know 1W LEDs can grow coral and used them for over 2 years!!! LOL. The 90W that you saw I brought actually burned some of my acans to charcoal(one can see charcoal like burn marks on them.)
I do feel that you will be addicted to it unless your tanks crashed. The dynamics and speed of advancement in LED will keep you craving for more. Every 36 months, the brightness of new LED doubled and cost keep coming down. More controllers suitable for your need will emerge(not to mention the vast varity of controllers already on the market for regular illumination purpose.)

Awibrandy,
You should have come to the LIRA last Friday, because I forecasted with strong evidence that by the end of the 2010, you probably can afford one such LED fixture and expect them to be close to any brand name MH/VHO fixtures because last year, Cambridge has found a way to reduce LED material cost by 90%. You hear it right 90% reduction in core material cost-not 10% off. Most market observers are forecasting the LED bulb cost will dropped below CFL bulb by end early 2011. Did I tell you that another University In Turkey has demonstrated a LED of 300lm/watt i.e. 3 times that of CFL in 2008 and that the technology should be in commercial runs as of now. So new LEDs are going to be double as bright as the Cree XRE or the Rebel 3, may be even as of speaking.

Oh but if you cannot afford a brand name MH/VHO fixture now, you won't be able to afford a LED fixture anytime soon either as most brand owners will still hold the price at the same range no matter what lighting technology they use.
 
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reefs4life

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Manhattan Reefs
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New Rochelle, NY
Very nice thread!

I love the eco-lamp LED fixture I won at the swap. I made a little frag/fuge setup in a 30G extra high and the frags are actually growing really well. Unfortunately the price tag is way to steep for me to even consider buying a fixture to fit my 75G and soon to be 210G
 
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James983

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Wingo,
I am a LIRA member and I have been out of the hobby for 9 months since my 150 leaked back in March 09. I missed the last several meetings. I have been exploring lighting options for a new tank I want to build in the fall. I sold my Aquactincs T-5 that I really loved. I would like to build a 180 gal. mixed reef (mostly SPS). From what I have read LEDs may be in my future. Still not sure if the extra cost justifies the purchase. In your opinion (if it were you), would you wait til the cost comes down or should I just start looking for another T5 setup? As I said the tank wont be setup til the fall at the earliest.
 

qy7400

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Wingo,
I am a LIRA member and I have been out of the hobby for 9 months since my 150 leaked back in March 09. I missed the last several meetings. I have been exploring lighting options for a new tank I want to build in the fall. I sold my Aquactincs T-5 that I really loved. I would like to build a 180 gal. mixed reef (mostly SPS). From what I have read LEDs may be in my future. Still not sure if the extra cost justifies the purchase. In your opinion (if it were you), would you wait til the cost comes down or should I just start looking for another T5 setup? As I said the tank wont be setup til the fall at the earliest.

Wingo gave a great presentation Friday and has me re-thinking LEDs as well, for a 180 at the current prices for LED vs T5 you're looking at around 4 years for the brake eve point cost wise on the lighting so the first question is do you plan on staying with the tank past 5 years; hopefully yes and LED are favored.
 

Aqua Pro Builder

Vendor: WingoLED
Manhattan Reefs
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Since you are going to build it in the fall, don't worry about it now. By the time, you are ready, the LED world may have completely changed-you may be looking at 150lm/W to 200lm/W soon. So unless you are having corals to keep now, you should just wait til you start to build the tank. As for me, I have corals to keep now and I am just like Warren who are addicated to LEDs already, so I will continue to buy and build light for my own use and/or sell units to other people.

Wingo,
I am a LIRA member and I have been out of the hobby for 9 months since my 150 leaked back in March 09. I missed the last several meetings. I have been exploring lighting options for a new tank I want to build in the fall. I sold my Aquactincs T-5 that I really loved. I would like to build a 180 gal. mixed reef (mostly SPS). From what I have read LEDs may be in my future. Still not sure if the extra cost justifies the purchase. In your opinion (if it were you), would you wait til the cost comes down or should I just start looking for another T5 setup? As I said the tank wont be setup til the fall at the earliest.
 

Aqua Pro Builder

Vendor: WingoLED
Manhattan Reefs
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225   2   0
Wingo gave a great presentation Friday and has me re-thinking LEDs as well, for a 180 at the current prices for LED vs T5 you're looking at around 4 years for the brake eve point cost wise on the lighting so the first question is do you plan on staying with the tank past 5 years; hopefully yes and LED are favored.
Thanks.
 
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