Everything you ever wanted to know about DIY lighting, but were afraid to ask

#1
Cheap & easy DIY lighting, step by step: CF and NO

Alot of people have been asking for instructions on upgrading lighting lately; seeing as I'm upgrading mine currently, I decided to post step-by-step instructions. There will be two entries; the first for installing Compact Flourescent (CF), which is the cheapest, and arguably, easiest method; the second post will be for normal flourescent tubes/overdriven flourescent.

I'm in the process of doing it right now, so the instructions will be here in a hour or so.
 

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#2
Compact Flourescent

1. First thing's first: gather all your supplies. I got mine at Home Depot and Canadian Tire; any hardware store should be fine. This includes (Fig. 1):
  • Bulbs(Duh), I got 6 for $20 at home depot
  • bulb sockets(2)
  • something to hold the sockets to the hood. I used PVC U clamps used for holding plumbing, You'll probably need to find something different; step 4 will show why.
  • Electrical cord: I used a cheap extension cord and cut the female end off
  • A couple feet of wire. I used 16ga. speaker wire, Because I had some lying around.


Figure 1: Everything ready to go.

There are other odds and ends too; screws to hold the U clamps, something to use as a reflector(I used aluminum foil), solder(Not mandatory), and Heat shrink tubing. Heat shrink goes over the wire, and when heat is applied(From a cigarrett lighter, etc.) it rapidly shrinks, forming a watertight seal around the wire. It isn't absolutely necessary, but It's great stuff; IMHO, it ranks up there with Bungee cords and Vice Grips as mankind's greatest accomplishments.


2. Prep the old hood. My origional hood was a incandescent unit, so there was nothing to pull out (Fig. 2). Newer hoods will have to be completely gutted; this means the flourescent tube, the plastic(usually white) behind it, and anything under that. The tube can be removed by simply rotating 90 degrees and pulling; the white plastic is help on by screws, which you'll see when the tube is removed.


Figure 2: My hood. Although it isn't completely gutted, the light sockets in the center will be remaining; for this article I'll be installing two additional sockets on the sides. Ignore the wireing and endcaps for a flourescent tube; it is irrelevant to this post.

3. Wireing. This is usually the most time consuming step, but it's straight foreward. First, cut the extra wire into two equal lengths(So they can reach opposite sides of the hood). Then, all the wires need to have their ends stripped. I used a pocket knife, but wire strippers would be quicker.


Figure 3: The female end of the cord cut off, and all the ends stripped.


Here you can see both positive wires soldered to the positive end of the electrical cord. Soldiering isn't absolutely necessary either, but it's a good idea. NOTE: if you intend to use heatshrink, make sure you put it over the wires before you connect them!


Here we have both the positive and negative ends connected to the power cord, and the heatshrink done. Not that there are two wires coming off, each with a positive and negative.


Closeup of the heatshrink. Amazing stuff!

Next, if there isn't one there already, Drill a hole in the hood for the wires to pass through. Once that is done, pass the power cord through the hole, and join the individual wires with the sockets. Some sockets require you screw the wires into them; mine had about 4" of wire already, so I soldered it to the speakerwire.


The bulb sockets, wired and ready to go

4. Mount the sockets. One of the big things with DIY, is that small things often go wrong. Case in point: I had bought U clamps to hold the sockets in place; These proved to be too large! I will have to find another method. However, I suspect that most people will find another way to do the mounting, so I'll continue. For the time being, I'll use another great invention - Two sided tape. No one said I was a professional.
 

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#3
Compact Flourescent, continued

So, once it is all put together, it's simply a matter of putting the hood back on top, and turning it on.


Lights in, everything done.

Here's what it looks like when turned on, along with my overdriven floursecent tube:


With camera set on night exposure:


Here's what happens when you accidentially touch the soldering iron:eek:



Finally, a pic of my tank with everything up and running:

It's a bit blurry, but my camera is on the fritz for some reason.


So there it is, all that is required for DIY lighting. I still need to find something to hold the sockets/bulbs, but untill then, the lights will stay off.

If there is anything I should add, or anything that isn't clear, just mention it and I will edit the post.
 

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love_fish

Large Fish
Sep 25, 2005
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#6
Wow, nice job. I know exactly what to do now, thanks so much.

Although, i do have a few questions:

Should you have 4 or 2 CFs, i noticed you have 2. Also, my hood already has the outlet cords built in, can i just leave them and build off of that? Also, how do i incorporate the switch my hood already has into this? All i see is the method of getting the power, not how to turn it on and off.
 

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hyunelan2

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Jun 1, 2005
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#7
Looks good, but I am questioning the use of the speaker wire? I don't think the insulation is rated to carry a 120v current? Maybe it is, dunno. Probably won't hurt anything, but if anyone is picking up supplies at home depot, might as well get some regular household wire for the project.
 

love_fish

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Sep 25, 2005
501
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#8
Oh, i thought id add another question. How do i know which end is positive and negative on the wire? Isnt black negative?

Another question, you said cut the wire into 2 pieces, it looks like there's 4 wires there though. Or is that one wire with a positive and negative side to it? I'm talking about the photo from number 3, the second pic.
 

zoo minsi

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Jan 8, 2005
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#9
theres not really a positive and a negative with AC, but black is usually your hot or power wire and white is your neutral and green if you have one is your ground. nice step by step bigred im sure it will help alot of people out.
 

#10
Should you have 4 or 2 CFs, i noticed you have 2. Also, my hood already has the outlet cords built in, can i just leave them and build off of that? Also, how do i incorporate the switch my hood already has into this? All i see is the method of getting the power, not how to turn it on and off.
Yes, I do have 4; 2 were installed previously. You can go 2 or 4, it all depends on the wattage you are aiming for.

You shouldn't have any problems working from the power cord that is already there, just make sure you wire everything up to it correctly. As long as you connect the wores after(As opposed to before) the switch, it should still work.

Looks good, but I am questioning the use of the speaker wire? I don't think the insulation is rated to carry a 120v current? Maybe it is, dunno. Probably won't hurt anything, but if anyone is picking up supplies at home depot, might as well get some regular household wire for the project.
Voltage doesn't have an impact, it's amperage that determines the wire. I agree, anyone who is going to buy wire should get normal electrical wire(of sufficient thickness); I just used what I had lying around(I have over 60 meters of the stuff).

Oh, i thought id add another question. How do i know which end is positive and negative on the wire? Isnt black negative?
What Zoo said is right, positive and negative technically isn't important with AC, but for all intensive purposes consider black negative, white positive. You can sometimes tell which end is which by the plug - if it's a polarized plug(One side is wider than the other), the wider side is positive.

Another question, you said cut the wire into 2 pieces, it looks like there's 4 wires there though. Or is that one wire with a positive and negative side to it? I'm talking about the photo from number 3, the second pic.
You're right, it is speaker wire with a positive and negative side which are seperately insulated. If you buy single sided wire, you'll need four equal length pieces. I said two pieces but I really had four.
 

Shaunna

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Oct 6, 2005
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#11
I want to say that this is pretty easy to understand and coming from me that is HUGE!!! I do have a couple of questions though. My hood is a stock flourescent hood and I was planning on just doing the retrokit from ahsupply and then Joey was going to build the hood but if I can just do the compact flourescents on the hood that I have that would be great. So would 2 CF bulbs be enough to put over a 29 gallon if I was planning on planting it ata bout 3 wpg? Also, when I go looking for the sockets will there be certain ones for higher watts?
 

#12
For a 29, you'll most likely need to go with four bulbs instead of two, unless you can find higher wattage bulbs where you are. The highest I've seen around here were 40 watts, which would give you 2.76 wpg, but they are only 2700K, so they won't look pretty;) Four 23 watt bulbs will give you 3.1 wpg, and you'll have more colors to choose from.

Sockets come in many shapes and forms, but all will handle anything we can throw at it, and then some. Think about it, they can handle 120 watt incandescent bulbs no problem, 23 or 40w is a joke. The only thing to look for is price, how well they'll fit in the hood, and whether they are waterproof or not.

I selected my sockets simply because they are the cheapest ones available. The fact that they are waterproof outdoor units was just an added bonus.
 

love_fish

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Sep 25, 2005
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#13
Alright, thanks for the clarity bigred, i tihnk i can do this now.

Oh wait another question lol. Since i need to add more than 2 bulbs, i should get more wire right? ANd to incorporate the switch, should i just splice that in too?
 

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#14
Exactly; just double everything up after the switch.

A better solution would to be what I do, which is to run it all off timers. I run seperate power cords off each pair of bulbs and the tube, three total. The timers are only around $5 each, and can be found at any hardware store.

With this set up, I have three sets of lights which are staggered by about 10-20 minutes when they come on and turn off. This makes a more natural setting; instead of dark one minute, 100% light the next, it goes dark-33%-66%-100%, then in the evening it goes 100%-66%-33%-0.
 

love_fish

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Sep 25, 2005
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#15
Thats a good idea, but im sure ill be drained after doing this as im not the brightest when it comes to this. I even took an electronics course and i dont understand some of this. I was thinking instead of heat shrinking, i can splice all the wires i need together, and put those little caps that hold them together on it. Would that be ok?
 

love_fish

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Sep 25, 2005
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#18


Is this how the wires should look like. Just a note, that's only half of the wires there, the other ones will look identical.

Do i need to move the switch wire down before the other wires, or will it be ok just with them.
 

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