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Old 06-03-2003, 03:06 AM   #61
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Interested in getting into Aquarium Lighting

Hey, I am glad I found this web site. Maybe you guys can help me and in return I can help you. My name is Kevin Alvarez. I am with SKR Energy Systems, Inc. My company manufactures energy efficient lighting fixtures and retrofit kits for the commercial and industrial business. I am very interested in starting to make an affordable retrofit kit and/or fixture for the aquarium sector. One of the first things I noticed when I was doing research is that most fixtures do not have a true specular reflector. The ones I did see were called Spider Reflectors and to be honest with you, I thought the price of those reflectors were a little high. I know we could manufacture a very similar product for a much more reasonable price.

I am going to be contacting IceCap Ballast tomorrow to see about establishing a distributor agreement. I am interested to hear what you guys are looking for in terms of lighting fixtures. Who knows, maybe we can help build it.

Maybe I can answer some of your questions regarding lighting in general. Again, I do not yet know much of the details of aquarium lighting other than the color temp. is extremely important.
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Old 06-03-2003, 02:58 PM   #62
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well, it would be great to get more competition in the area of retrofit lighting, as the current players all seem to have very high prices.

reflectors aside, all the parts needed to do a high quality compact size retrofit with compact or regular fluorescent are very hard to find.

first, finding single or small quanties of any of these parts is a chore, and next to impossible online, without huge markup at least.

#1 a true electronic ballast (not an electronic hybrid) ... sure many of us have experimented with the GE 5lb brick that claims it's an electronic ballast for T8 lights (but runs just about anything) ... but it weighs 5 lbs!!! there's gotta be a big coil or something in there ... true electronic ballasts only weigh a pound or so, but are very difficult to find on the cheap ... sure there is icecap, and naturallighting.com, but they want big bux for a rebranded ballast that probably cost $1 or $2 to produce and wholesales for around $12-$15

#2 bulbs. CF, PC or NO, bulbs with color temps of 5000 to 6700k (or higher for salties) are available under the brand names of Customsealife and others ... but if we're supposed to replace these every 6 months, good gosh that's expensive! at $20 to $50 each! Panasonic, Phillips and Osram-Sylvania make these bulbs, and resellers just re-brand them with custom silk-screening ... but unless you want to buy a case of 200 bulbs from a wholesaler, you can't find them anywhere ... sure you can get the Philips Daylight Deluxe 48" T12 from just about anywhere, and it's cheap, but heck, you need a LOT of those to equal the light you get from a single 96 watt Dulux-L or even a normal T8 is a lot brighter.

#3 sockets. 2 pin, 4 pin, medium bi-pin. Good sockets are as hard if not harder to find then the bulbs themselves, at least, at a decent price. Most of your hardware stores and home improvement warehouses sell medium bi-pin sockets, but they are the kind design to slip over or clip into an existing sheet metal fixture. There are the kind designed to hold a screw in their base, but the plastic is very brittle and breaks easily after a few bulb changes. The only 'good' ones I like are the kind that take a screw through the body and into a support behind the socket.... $5 ea at a local electricans supply shop ... $5!!!!! for a small piece of plastic with some brass springs in it ... sure I could buy a case of 10000 online, but what am I gonna do with so many.

Whenever you mention lighting on certain mailing lists, you get a flurry of responses recommending a company called ahsupply. I have no doubt that ahsupply sells a good product, and their prices are a lot more resonable then places like hellolights, but they are still too high for my budget, and I'm sure others as well.

I also am disheartened by businesses response when a hobbiest makes an inquery regarding lighting ... most places automaticlly assume a negative attitude, refusing to even check if they have a certain product ... "if it's for an aquarium, we can't help you." ... did their lawyer tell them this? I could kill myself installing a troffer light or ceiling fan just as easily as dropping lights into a fishtank, probably easier, since ceiling fans and troffer lights don't normally have GFCI protection.

Sorry for my rant, I just get upset at the lack of options available to the budget minded hobbist
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Old 06-03-2003, 03:58 PM   #63
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Sorry for my rant, I just get upset at the lack of options available to the budget minded hobbist
Don't worry, I have been singing this blues tune since I started.

I think that the companies charge what they do, not because it is a hobby, but, because they know that hobbyists will pay their price no matter what.

If you reverse this and look at the indoor Horticulture sites, you will notice that the prices of their units have dropped in half since the public said bump the high prices and went DIY. Why wouldn't people that can, build their own for less than half the cost. It is utterly rediculous for companies to sell a MH fixture for an aquarium for in upwards of $600 when it cost them less than $200 to make. This is not an understatement either, because you can buy the ballasts, wires, sockets and 2 10K bulbs for $200 and these companies buy at wholesale and below so if you do the math, it is even cheaper. That is a 200% markup. I don't support that. This is where we come in as hobbyists.
We can put a hurting on these companies if we don't support their high prices. It is one thing to make money in a business, but it is another to be greedy . I am all for working to get a low priced DIY kit that beats all of them..I am not out to get rich, just help my fellow hobbyist .
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Old 06-03-2003, 07:07 PM   #64
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Guys thanks for your responses, I really appreciate the feedback! If you r opinions echo that of your fellow hobbyists I think I may really be avle to help all of you. I agree that a business can be profitable without being greedy and making hobbyists go broke trying to do something they love. I have already made some phonecalls within the industry and have a good feeling that we can create a quality product at a much better price. The key to keeping the prices low would be to minimize the advertising and marketing costs. This would most easlity be accomplished by doing two things:
1) SKR Energy Systems can create a quality product that can be easily ordered online at a fair price.
2) Satisfied customers spread the word to all other aquarium/coral hobbyists.

My e-mail address at SKR is kalvarez@skrenergy.com. Feel free to contact me with any ideas, questions or comments you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

Kevin Alvarez
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Old 06-11-2003, 12:29 AM   #65
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It seems as if the electronic ballast are rated the same (whether for a traditional fluorescent fixture or one for aquarium). Does anyone know if there is a major difference or any difference between an ICE CAP ballast and a Electronic ballast you can buy at Home Depot or Lowes?
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Old 06-11-2003, 12:37 AM   #66
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well, the ice cap's are supposedly "true" electronic, in that they are more flexible in the types of bulbs they can drive, and in their efficency

Advance ballast is now making "true" electronic ballasts, you can get them from Grainger for $40-70 (probably cheaper someplace else?)

Home Depot and Lowes sell some electronic "hybrid" ballasts, which have electronics to generate a high-frequency signal (burns the lights brighter) but still rely on a big transformer to provide that 400-600v punch a light needs to operate ... that big transformer generates lots of heat because it's wasting electricty ... instead of putting it into the bulb, it's using it to make heat.
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Old 06-11-2003, 12:44 AM   #67
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No way!

Can you please get me the part number for the ballast you say is $40-$70 at Grainger. I am in the lighting business and we sell electronic ballasts all the time at a fraction of that price. I am not sure what you mean by "true elec." ballast. I understand the difference between electro-magnetic and electronic. When you say "hybrid" are you referring to the "electromagnetics". The electronic ballast we sell do not use any watts of electricity.

Wow! I would love to help all of you. There is no need to be getting ripped off with your lighting purchases. If indeed we are talking about the same ballasts, then there is no reason why I can not help you - in supplying ballasts, reflectors and fixtures (which we manufacture), lampholders, lamps, etc.
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Old 06-11-2003, 11:32 AM   #68
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yes, by hybrid I meant electro-magnetic ballasts ... I use one right now (GE 432I), and it seems good 'nuff, but I'm sure a true electronic would help get even more out of the bulbs, plus it'd be great if the ballast didn't get so darned hot

if you've got your grainger catalog (394), check out pages 681 and 685

or view online

http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/wwg...ue&CatPage=681

681 has electronic's for T8 lights (probably could be used on power-compacts)

685 has electronic's for Compact Fluorescents (I couldn't find any Advance ballasts for more than a 40 watt cfl, must be a special order/oem thing)
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Old 06-11-2003, 08:40 PM   #69
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what about T5 Electronic Ballast with T5HO lamps

These lamps run kind of warm, but with some fans I think it could be a good fixture. But why not consider a fixture or retrofit kit with a ballast running (2) T5HO at 54Watts a piece. Do they make these lamps in the proper Kelvin you need?

Another option would be an Osram 332+ ballast. it would run (3) 32W T8 lamps at a ballast factor of 1.2 - meaning you will actually get 10,600 lumes and only 112 watts.

I dont kow how many lumens you need...let me know and I will try to develop a system for you. keep in mind, we also make reflectors which should add an additional 15-30% lumens depending on the tank size, shape, etc.
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Old 06-11-2003, 09:48 PM   #70
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I am no lighting expert by no means, so I cannot comment on lumens. However I know most people with reef tanks prefer 3 or more watts per gallon. So for instance on a 75 gallon tank (48") you would want at least 225 watts of light. Most people will want more though. I have a 100 gallon tank that has 960 watts of light over it. 9.6 watts per gallon. I acheived this with 2- 400 watt metal halides with 6500k bulbs and 4-40 watt NO actinics. Hope that helps some.
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