Yardboy

Diy Led Build Guide

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Yardboy   

DIY LED Build Guide

Let's just make this a HOW-TO LED construction guide. Not a rant on how other types of light are better, or justification for buying expensive LED fixtures, or claims that LED’s don’t work for this or that coral. This is just going to be a build guide.

Plenty of people in the club have lots of experience, and hopefully they will see this thread and make contributions to it.

I’ll be editing it to keep it neat, with credit to everyone who contributes.

Once the thread gets going, I will likely edit most of this out, but to get it going and outline everything it’s here now. So let’s start with an outline:

Links to Sites that sell Components

Should this be first? I’m thinking that after we get rolling it might be all that would normally be needed, so I’ll start here.

www.rapidled.com

Aquastyle Online

Note that if anyone has feedback on suppliers that would be helpful also. I've only bought from rapidled.

Links to how-to threads

here and on other forums and websites. There’s no reason to “re-invent the wheel” if it isn’t necessary.

Art Edwards thread and how-to video's of his LED build

aedwards LED build

Nano-Reef "Ultimate LED Guide" - these guys were likely the first to use LEDs, since they work so well on smaller tanks

Components of an LED setup

Heatsinks – mount the led's to these to keep them cool

Fans - keeps the heatsinks and thus LED's cool, making them last longer

Power Supplies/drivers/controllers – it's a bit more than just "plugging them in"!

LEDs – the colors and brands and wattages of the various led’s that will work for an aquarium

Optics – direct the light from the led into a tighter beam to get greater intensity into a smaller area. They either come attached to the led or can be snapped on. The angle of light coming from a 3W led is about 120 degrees. Adding optics narrows this so that the intensity increases. Typical angles are 80 degrees, 65d, 60d, 45d, 40d. Note that the smaller the angle, the smaller the beam but the greater the intensity. Why use them? With optics you can maintain intensity at greater water depth, but you must use more closely mounted leds to get coverage, which means using more leds.

Frames – holds the led light over the tank

Tools

Soldering Iron – I bought a 40W from Radio Shack, complete with spiral stand and little sponge pad to wipe the tip on.

Solder -

Multi-testers – device that reads voltage, amperage, resistance, etc. Handy when setting up a dimming circuit.

wire, nuts and bolts, thermal adhesives

Putting It All Together

So now that you’ve got all the components figured out (or not!), you’ve ordered all you think you need (or like me have just made a kit order from RapidLed!) let’s figure out how to put it all together.

Here’s where the “rubber meets the road” or rather, the solder meets the LED!

I started by getting a soldering iron, some solder and wire as recommended, and watching this video to learn how to do the basic task that all LED setups have in common, connecting all the LED’s together with their power sources.

Assuming you know nothing about it, here’s a great video on how to learn to solder.

Some Assembly Required

Now comes the time when you have to figure out what you want. Begin with the shape of your tank. Is it a small cube, a standard 55, a corner hex, or a mega-deep 180? The deeper the tank, the closer together the led’s will need to be, along with tighter optics.

Since led’s are point sources of light, the shape of the tank isn’t as much of an issue as using other forms of light, since you can build your fixture shape into whatever shape the tank is in.

So how many variables are considered when making setting up the light?

1) Shape and size of tank

2) Depth of tank

3) What color you want and will make corals grow a very complicated and opinionated decision that is usually avoided by using a couple of colors (often blue and white) and dimming circuits so you can vary the balance to please yourself.

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aedwards   

Earlier in the year Yardboy asked me to give a presentation on a LED build. I hate public speaking so one evening I knocked back a few and made this video instead. At the old house my upload speed was crap and the upload failed every time. When I saw this post it reminded me so I tried the upload here and it worked. The vid is in 3 parts, I hope the monotone and opinions aren't too painful.

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Yardboy   

Thanks Art! Looks good. Very helpful.

Any other input into the guide would be great. Some, like myself, will look at the video's to get an idea about how to go about it, but then print the text to have handy when they're doing the assembly so anything you want to add would be helpful.

Now let's talk about why you can do such a good job in front of a camera but not in front of people! :lol::lol:

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abrian   

Thank you very much for putting this thread together! I am working my way through the references you provided, and am wondering if there is a guide you are aware of that lets you input variables like tank size/depth, coral types kept, and color rendering (i.e. 14k, 20k, etc..) preference and gives a guide to how many LEDs of what type to place how close together to achieve the desired results? I haven't made it all the way through the LED thread on nano yet, so maybe it is in there or on other forums, but a handy reference, like some of the reef additive calculators for Alk/Cal/Mg etc. would be a wonderful resource to play with. Again, thanks for putting this thread together! - Alan

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Yardboy   

Alan, I have not seen such a guide. I suspect if we were able to formulate one that you could just plug in your tank size/coral types and it could print out a configuration that included shape of fixture, number of leds in a certain pattern using types, colors optics and intensities we could be famous, have fans, groupies etc. :mrgreen:

That's a lot of variables though and once I learned to put one together myself I kind of quit researching what has been going on. Time to look again.

For myself, I'm tending toward using spot lights, small setups with different combinations for individual corals. the Japanese have been setting these up using small metal halides for years. Seems LED's would be more amenable to that kind of setup.

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kbass   

Great thread. I've done some research, and I'm looking to put 24 cree xp-e (royal blue), 24 xp-g (cool-white), and 6 to 8 moonlight over my 72 gal. So, best I can figure that's 5 drivers if I use meanwell from rapidled.com. So that's 5 plug-ins. Does anyone know a way to reduce that to 3 plug-ins (1 for whites, 1 for royal blues, and 1 for moonlights)?

Thanks for the help!

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aedwards   

Great thread. I've done some research, and I'm looking to put 24 cree xp-e (royal blue), 24 xp-g (cool-white), and 6 to 8 moonlight over my 72 gal. So, best I can figure that's 5 drivers if I use meanwell from rapidled.com. So that's 5 plug-ins. Does anyone know a way to reduce that to 3 plug-ins (1 for whites, 1 for royal blues, and 1 for moonlights)?

Thanks for the help!

I would put the blues on 700ma drivers and the whites on 1050ma drivers. Just run one of the blue channels for moonlights(it will be awesome) and get a full 12 blues for the 5th channel. you need more blue than white to ge a blue tint when they are all on. 50/50 is 10Kish.

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Yardboy   

I find that I much prefer higher K colors to white, so as Art says I use quite a few more blues than white. Sometimes I set the blues on constant current and put the whites on a dimming circuit to figure out just how much I want. If I was to put a driver on a controller I'm sure it'd only be the whites, leave the blues "full throttle"!

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kbass   

Great Advice...Tks!

aedwards...so are you saying use 60 leds (3-12 bulb rows of royal blues) and (2 - 12 bulb rows of cool whites) OR 48 leds (2 1/2 - 12 bulb rows of royal blues) and (1 1/2 - 12 bulb rows of cool whites). Under this scenario, all leds on during daylight hours and 6 or 12 royal blues dimmed during moonlight time. Also, when I say rows, I'm saying it for simplification. I intend on staggering the colors.

So that is still 5 drivers...6 to 12 leds on each driver. That's still 5 plugs. Is there a way to reduce the number of plugs? I was on looking on rapid and noticed the programmable dimmer (DDC-01 PWM Controller). Thought this might get me down to 2 or 3 plugs?????

Again thanks for the great advice!

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aedwards   

Great Advice...Tks!

aedwards...so are you saying use 60 leds (3-12 bulb rows of royal blues) and (2 - 12 bulb rows of cool whites) OR 48 leds (2 1/2 - 12 bulb rows of royal blues) and (1 1/2 - 12 bulb rows of cool whites). Under this scenario, all leds on during daylight hours and 6 or 12 royal blues dimmed during moonlight time. Also, when I say rows, I'm saying it for simplification. I intend on staggering the colors.

So that is still 5 drivers...6 to 12 leds on each driver. That's still 5 plugs. Is there a way to reduce the number of plugs? I was on looking on rapid and noticed the programmable dimmer (DDC-01 PWM Controller). Thought this might get me down to 2 or 3 plugs?????

Again thanks for the great advice!

Yea, I was saying 60. I just didnt see a reason to build half a "row". I looked over the dimmer manual and it will not reduce plugs(as a matter of fact it adds 1 for itself). You need 1 driver per 12 LEDs. The dimmer says it has 3 channels and you can put up to 3 drivers per channel. It states "if you have multiple drivers with the same color you can dim them together". Every driver has a A/C input, a D/C output and dimmable have a 3rd connection for dimming circuit. The dimming circuit goes to the dimming controller.

Here is an example of how to reduce plugs.

If you had 2 drivers with 12 White LEDs each and you wanted to turn them on and off at the same time and or dim them using the dimmer controller. You could connect the A/C side of both drivers to 1 Plug and the dimmer circuit from both to 1 channel on the dimmer controller. You could get away with 3 plugs minimum 1 plug for whites 1 plug for blues and 1 plug for the dimmer controller.

In the case of 5 drivers and 5 groups of 12 LEDs if 3 groups were blue and 2 groups were white then you could make 1 plug for the blues and 1 plug for the whites. Each driver only needs a plug if you want to turn it on and off individualy.

Hope this helps.

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In the next 2 weeks I am going to start a 110 Cree LED build for my 210 Reef tank. I will be using T-slot framing for the frame and heatsink and 2 mean well drivers. The Crees will be a 2-1 mix or royal/blue to white. I will be using XER and XPG for the leds with 55 and 60* optics. I will will be documenting the build and posting as many pictures as possible on Reef central and here. I have never done this before but I have a friend that is an electrical engineer and have read allot on reef Central so I am going to give it a try.

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Yardboy   

lucky,how about a link to the T-slot framing and why you chose that so I can add it to the guide?

Anyone want to give a brief description of the different led's and restrictions on their use? Please!

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kbass   

Does anyone know if there is a driver that would handle 24 LEDs?

Edited by kbass

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Yardboy   

Note that these have to have parallel strings of leds of the same size. Kinda tricky if a string or two goes out (only takes one led in the string) and suddenly the rest may be running overcurrent and blow out. Still, if you're careful it's a lot cheaper than a bunch of smaller drivers.

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Yardboy   

Does anyone know if there is a driver that would handle 24 LEDs?

Are you being hard to get along with! :-D

Here's one that will do 20, but I can't vouch for it's quality. Can't find a 24 myself. Good luck with it!

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Lucky Snapper which meanwell will drive 55 LED's? Is it dim-able?

Total LED's 111

Moonlight 6

The drivers I am use are

HLG-240-48b will drive 6 strings of 12 XR-E Royal Blue @ 833 mA XR-E max Amp 1000 mA

HLG-185-48b will drive 3 strings of 10 XPG Cool White @ 1.3A or 1300 mA XP-G Max Amp 1500mA

For the moonlight LPC-35-700 2 strings of 6 @ 350 Ma

I have the LED's I am just waiting for my drivers to arrive to start the build.

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ftc0369   

Any comments on the following kit:

http://www.aquastyleonline.com/products/120--LEDs--DIY-Dimmable-Kit.html

How do the Bridgelux LED's compared to CRE?

I have a 75 and is 120 LED's overkill? Mounted on (2) 19.4cm X 2.2cm X 50cm (7.7"X0.9"X19.8") Aluminum Heatsink - end to end.

LED's be a mix of 80 blue to 40 white(all white being 10K)

thanks for the help/info.

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Yardboy   

i could not find any direct comparison to Cree's, but the Bridgelux are not cheap chinese knockoffs and plenty of people are using them. The price seems very reasonable, but note you will still need the heatsink, a pretty hefty one for that many LED's. I don't think it'd be overkill over a 75, especially since they are dimmable and you'll be upgrading to a larger tank eventually. :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

My only recommendation is to be very fastidious about attaching the leds to the heatsink with thermal glue or use screws and thermal paste instead. I've had some of mine come off the heatsink and they don't last long like that.

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kbass   

I just built a led light for my 72 gal tank. I used CREE 36 RB XP-E and 12 CW XM-L (48 total). Although I have yet to permanently put them over my tank, I did test them. They are very bright. I currently have a 6 t5 bulb fixture, and the leds are brighter. That is with the XM-Ls running at 1/2 power. 120 leds...wow...really bright.

I did a lot of reading and decided to cut corners on the heatsink and go with 1 1/2" u-channel. I found 1/8" thick at a welding shop. The stuff a Home Depot looked too thin for my liking. After I got all the light running, I let them run for about 30 to 40 minutes, and although I can still hold on the U-channel, it is still pretty warm. So I ordered a couple of fans to go over the assembly.

I agree with Yardboy, I drilled and tapped holes to attach the leds with a little thermal grease. It wasn't near as hard as I thought it was going to be. I also used nylon screws to hold the leds on. If you decide to go this route, order your nylon screws online (ebay). They will be ALOT cheaper.

Couple of lessons learned:

1. Use a small gauge wire (20 gauge is plenty) -- MUCH easier to work with.

2. Use the solder with rosin core (Radio Shack) -- the thin stuff.

With the months of reading, I seemed to miss those little (but big) things. :-D

Best of luck...they sure look nice.

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