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Re: Wiring flourescent lights

> Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2001 12:21:44 EST
> From: Biplane10 at aol_com

> Just thought I'd check with any resident electricians on the list.

I'm just an EE so I can only suggest a solution.

> I've just finally completed building a wooden canopy, and wired a compact
> flourescent with 2 x 55 bulbs in a hood. I decided to go with a hinged
> design, and wanted to wire a switch in to control an on/off on only the
> that is on the hinged (front) panel. I thought it would be a nice touch,
> keep from blinding myself momentarily when opening for feeding etc., while
> leaving the other light on.
> I recall reading other's designs that had just such a switch... For
> clarification, this is wiring in a switch _after_ the ballast, to one
> only.
> What's the verdict on this? Anybody done it?

That particular setup doesn't sound good to me.

Our hoods have always had switches on the light banks so we could avoid
blinding ourselves when we lift the hood. We have switches on both front and
rear bulbs more for completeness than any practical reason. We currently
have AH Supply CF kits in the hoods: two electronic ballasts and four
55-watt bulbs (two front and and two rear). The ballasts each run 2 55-watt
bulbs. The ballasts are designed to run two 36-watt, two 40-watt or two
55-watt bulbs (and, I suppose, any combination of those?); your ballast may
or may not do that. One ballast runs the front pair, one ballast runs the
rear pair.

I use a push button switch I found at an Ace hardware store to control the
bulbs. It's a push-on/push-off type switch versus a switch with two
positions like a wall switch. It's designed for fluorescent applications.
There are three wires - a common, a wire that is either connected to common
or not (on/off) and a third wire wire that is momentarily connected to
common when the switch goes on (used with starters, I imagine). I don't use
the momentary connection; I cut the wire off. Thus it's a simple on/off

The switch is wired in series with one of the 110v leads to the ballast, not
to the wires going to the bulbs. When the switch is off, there is no power
applied to the ballast or the bulbs. The switch should connect to either the
black or white 110v wire from the ballast (typical color coding). One is
better than the other for safety reasons (hot vs neutral, the reason most
110v two prong plugs are now annoyingly polarized) but I'm not an
electrician so I always forget which is which. I would guess you want the
switch to break the hot side.

The bulbs turn on instantly when the switch is pushed - noticeably faster
than the old setup with tar ballasts. And I still have timers controlling
the overall photo-period; 10 hours per day for the front, 8 hours per day
for the rear.

Make sure that electrical connections going across the hinge use stranded
wire instead of solid wire - solid wire will break after it flexes a number
of times. I spliced in some 18 gauge stranded wire where wires crossed the
hinge and ran the wires parallel to the hinge for about 8" to reduce the
amount of flexing that would occur.

> Also once it is wired for 55 watt bulbs, what is the problem with running
> watt bulbs on there? I was advised not to do this, as it could be a
> fire hazard, as well as cause damage to the bulbs and/or ballast. But, I
> a Custom Sea Life Britelite which has 2 x 65 watt ballast, and a rep at
> company had no problem advising me to replace the 65 watt 8800 k bulbs
> 55 watt, lower temp. bulbs. for a planted tank.

It depends on the design of the ballast and the bulbs. AH Supply picked a
ballast that works on a range of bulbs. You might find that the 40-watt
bulbs have
different connections from the 36-watt and 55-watt bulbs.

BTW, I use Philips 5300K bulbs in front and Sylvania 6700K bulbs in the rear
(maybe the Philips is the 6700K; I can never guess right when given a binary
choice, like the black/white wire thing). The color balance on recent photos
taken with Kodak Royal Gold 200 speed film was superb - the best I've seen
yet especially considering they were printed by a regular old 1-hour
developing machine.


George Booth in Ft.Collins, CO  (booth at frii dot com)
The website for Aquatic Gardeners by Aquatic Gardeners