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CustomSeaLife PCMH72 Lighting Fixture
I thought I would discuss a CustomSeaLife lighting fixture I bought recently
and ask for your help. I've recently set up an Oceanic 175 gallon bowfront
tank in my dining room. I chose an expensive light fixture which I thought
would provide some interesting possibilities: the CustomSeaLife (CSL)
PCMH72 Aluminum fixture which has 3 - 175 watt 5500K Venture metal halide
(MH) bulbs and 2 - 96 watt 6700K power compact (PC) fluorescent bulbs.
Each of the MH bulbs and the two PCs bulbs together can be set up on
different timers to create a very wide range of lighting possibilities.
Let me start out with what I like about the fixture. The "powder coated"
aluminum hood is attractive and has a nice finely speckled appearance. The
reflector seems very brilliant and is dropped down below the hood an inch or
so to allow for good air circulation and protection of the wiring harnesses
and system which seems well put together to me. All the bulbs worked when
I set the unit up and turned it on. And the light is indeed quite bright
and dramatic, and will provide a variety of lighting options. The "point
source" light for the MHs is also quite interesting and I look forward to
locating plants to take advantage of these options.
Some problems: The first issue is trivial, but nevertheless very
irritating. While the guts of the fixture was packed extremely well with
bubble wrap and tape with all the parts safely secured inside of the hood,
the ballast for the CF lights was packed loose with fixture which was NOT
protected in any way. As a result, the CF ballast banged around on the
inside of the box, scratching and denting the outside surface of the
fixture, marring the black powder coating on the hood. Stupid, stupid,
stupid is the only comment I have on that practice. Unbelievable.
The next problem concerned the fan (about which I was warned in advance).
CSL fans are simply astonishingly noisy. Two people in San Francisco
advised me not to buy the CSL unit for this reason alone. I decided to
ignore this advice on the assumption that I could replace the fan, if
necessary. When I turned the unit on for the first time, I simply laughed
out loud. The 4 inch 45 cfm CSL fan sounded like a jet engine taking off on
a runway. It is simply amazingly noisy. It is inconceivable that one could
dine in one's dining room or sit in one's living room calmly with this
industrial device operating! I just can't imagine what CSL engineers had in
mind when they specified this component. (I can assure you they don't use
their own fixtures in the living areas of their own homes, period!) The
next day I called Champion Lighting and bought the new Ice Cap "Super Quiet"
thermostatically controlled, variable speed 4 inch fan for $55. This fan is
truly amazing. At the lowest level, it provides 65 cfm of air movement and
is virtually inaudible. At higher air flow levels there is more noise, but
by careful placement of the temperature sensor that comes with the fan, very
quiet operation with good air flow is possible. One problem solved! :-)
And BTW, the mounting holes for the Ice Cap fan matched the CSL unit
perfectly. I had the new fan installed in 10 minutes!
The next problem is that one that has me stumped. While the PC bulbs come
with a quiet high quality electronic ballast, the metal halide lamps come
with very heavy, clunky, and it turns out, loud ballasts. When the units
are turned on, there is first a loud sporadic croaking noise (10 seconds to
1 minute), which followed by a very high pitched whine (1 to 4 minutes),
which is followed by a surprisingly loud low-pitched humming noise (which
lasts forever!). Even when I am downstairs with my two pre-school boys
yelling and screaming, I can hear the CSL MH ballasts humming away in the
dining room upstairs. FWIW, believe it or not, I am not a noise-sensitive
person. The CSL fixtures are just plain noisy and to that extent in direct
conflict with the beautiful contemplative hobby we have all come to know and
What to do? Should I buy electronic ballasts for the Venture bulbs supplied
with the CSL unit. Pet Warehouse sells electronic Ice Cap ballasts metal
halide lights for $175 each! This would increase the overall cost of the
fixture by over 50%! Are there any other possibilities you can think of?
My buddy Dave Gomberg would probably order good ballasts from Graingers for
me, if we could figure out what to buy. Can I open up the darn tar ballasts
(if that is what they are) and quiet them down somehow or other? I've tried
putting pads on the ballasts but haven't noticed much effect. Can I put the
ballasts in some kind of sound insulated box? If I were to do that, how can
I get rid of the heat produced?
Your thoughts will be greatly appreciated. All in all not such a good
report on an alleged top-of-the-line fixture.
Regards, Steve Dixon in San Francisco (at the moment 2 miles away from my
humming CSL MH ballasts! :-))