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Re: Upgrading Eclipse 3 lights to PC

>The archives at The Krib and APD have a number of threads that talk about
>the possibility of upgrading an Eclipse 3 hood from two 18 watt T-8s to one
>55 watt PC.  This upgrade can be done by using either the Custom Sealife
>retro kit which Custom Sealife says is specifically for the Eclipse 3 or by
>using one of the AH Supply retro kits.  None of the threads in the archives
>were written by anyone that had actually done the upgrade.

I just recently swapped out an Eclipse three dual-15w for a 55w PC from AH
supply. Just did the upgrade about 2 weeks ago. Guess now there *will* be a
message in the archives from someone who did perform the upgrade ;-)

>In a reply that I received from AH Supply to an e-mail inquiry about
>upgrading an Eclipse 3, AH supply did not recommend the upgrade due to the
>additional heat the 55 watt bulb would generate.  Since the AH Supply retro
>has a better reflector than the Custom Sealife reflector, I would assume the
>AH Supply upgrade would run cooler than the Custom Sealife.  Yet Custom
>Sealife recommends the upgrade and AH Supply does not - I am confused.

I was concerned about the heat too. Especially since this hood was going to
be running for days unattended at times (little sister's dorm tank). I run
55w PCs on two 20 gallon tanks at home, and both of those are in All-glass
hoods (regular hoods with PC retrofit), and I had to add fans to those to
keep heat manageable -- and that was with externally mounted ballasts too.

>Does anyone have any personal experience with upgrading the Eclipse 3 with
>PCs?  If so, whose retro kit did you use, what is the heat situation, and
>are you happy with the upgrade?

Yes, I did the upgrade about 2 weeks ago. The upgrade is *very* effective
(*lots* more light). This gives almost twice the output of the 2 15w NO
bulbs, and you're going to be adding a much more effective reflector too
(in my case the AH Supply Miro reflector).

The biggest problem I had was that the miro reflector will NOT fit in the
molded light guard the eclipse hood uses -- even if you remove the white
plastic bulb assembly. What I did was to get some 1/8" acrylic sheet and
form it into a little box that would fit over the miro reflector in the
hood. The reason for this is that there is a LOT of splashing up near the
hood from the filter and I didn't want to mount the light bare for fear of
what would happen over time from all the water spray. I found a little $30
or so strip heater at http://www.usplastics.com made by craftics that let
me make nice bends in the plastic. While the thing was a bit tricky to use
correctly, and a real strip heater would be better, it did get the job
done. Making this plastic shield was tricky, but the electrical side of
things is easy.

After I had the acrylic lens (guard) built, I mounted the miro reflector on
little phenolic standoffs (phenolic can deal with the heat, phenolic tube
is cheap, and I had several feet of the stuff already). The reason for the
standoffs was to provide a 1/2" or so gap above the reflector to allow for
convection all around the reflector and keep the plastic of the hood from
directly touching the reflector. The hood appears to be ABS plastic, which
can get a bit weird if exposed to higher temperatures over long periods of
time. The same screws I used to mount the reflector to the hood with the
standoffs also hold the AH supply provided clips for the PC bulb. I mounted
the bulb in the usual way like this.

I remote mounted the ballast to keep things easier in the hood. I used a
length of my 105 Coleman Seoprene cable that I like between the hood and a
remote ballast enclosure (a small ventilated metal enclosure). I grounded
the reflector mainly since I had a ground wire in the cable I used, but it
isn't really necassary.

The remote ballast enclosure houses the ballast and a little neon pilot
light. There is no switch since the unit is always used with a timer
anyway. I mounted the ballast diagonally in the enclosure to allow the use
of a smaller enclosure. I help move stuff in and out of the dorm in the
fall and spring, so the smaller the stuff is the less I have to carry :-)

I drilled a pattern of holes in the hood on the ends, and on the front and
back edges above the reflector. There has been no problem with heat at all
(not too hot to touch, no discoloration of the acrylic lens I made, and no
deformation to the hood plastic). The holes are a bit harder than normal to
drill since the ABS tends to "grab" when you drill it. The solution: drill
feed SLOWLY, use a drill press if possible, and always start your holes
from the side you want a good finish on. Don't try to countersink anything.
Use stainless steel screws to keep things nice, and do NOT overtighten
since it is easy to crack both the ABS and the acrylic. Especially the
acrylic. Oh boy did I have fun with the acrylic. Be sure to have some
capillary cement on hand.

>Assuming that AH Supply is correct and the 55 watt PC upgrade is not
>adviseable, my fallback position is to put a decent reflector into the
>Eclipse 3 and switch the internal tar ballast to an external electronic.

I wouldn't worry about using the AH supply kit IF you 1) remote mount the
ballast (space is tight in the hood), 2) don't try to squeeze the bulb into
the acrylic lens the hood comes with, and 3) drill some vent holes on the
top above the light. I don't think you'll be able to find any good
reflectors that will fit in the original lens since it just doesn't have
the depth necassary.

>Any recommendations on electronic ballasts?  The Ice Caps are nice, but are
>they really worth the price?  (That is another topic discussed in the
>archives without any conclusion being reached.)  Also, the tank that I am

I don't think the electronic ballasts will be worth the money for only 15
watt bulbs. I don't think you'll get a really noticeable boost in light
output, and for the cost savings in electricity you'd need a lot of years
to pay off the investment in the electronic ballasts.

>upgrading is a double Eclipse; i.e. a 60" x 12" x 20" with two Eclipse 3s on
>top.  Would I be better off using one larger electronic ballast to power the
>four 2' T-8s or two smaller ballasts, each to power one pair of T-8s?

I'd try the PC upgrade. Aside from the work with the acrylic it's a pretty
simple upgrade. It is also a VERY noticeable upgrade since you are getting
a LOT more light (55 watts instead of 30 watts, and maybe a 2x improvement
in the reflector although that's just a guess).

Next time the hood can come back here I can take some pictures and post
them if you want to see how I constructed everything.


Waveform Technology
UNIX Systems Administrator