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PC55s on a few different ballasts

Caveat:  these are three experiences with ballasts.  Skip this message
if that sounds boring.  :-)

I tried some philips Power Compacts 55 watt bulbs (PC55s) on a few
different ballasts.  I did *not* use an amp meter, voltmeter, or liht
meter.  But the differences were gross enough that they were easily
detectable without meters.

IceCap Model 430.  IceCap has said that the 430 will drive a pair of
PC55s at 148 watts total.  On a different occassion, IceCap told me
that it drives a pair of PV55s at about 220 watts total.  I have asked
IceCap to reconcile its differences but haven't heard back yet.  On the
430, the filament ends blackened noticeably in one day.  Blackening
continued so strongly that I stopped using the 430 after 3 days.  A 3
inch fan was used for cooling in the 30" twin bulb hood.  The ballast
barely felt warm at all, and only in one spot.

IceCap Model 3000.  IceCap say this model will drive a pair of PC55s. 
By IceCap's own account, this ballast was originlly made to drive a
pair of 4 foot T8s (which are rated for 32 watts each).  They later
added PC55s to the list of items the ballast works on.  IceCap says the
3000 will draw a maximum VA of about 64 (basically 64 watts) but also
says it drives a pair of PC55s at 110 watts total (Isaac Newton cover
your ears).  PC55s run very very cool on the 3000 -- and not very
bright either.  I would guess that it drives them way below 110 watts
-- in fact, I'd guess about 64 watts total.  The ballast felt warm all
over, practically cozy.

Fulham Workhorse 5.  This ballast has a max draw of 128 watts.  It
appears to drive a pair of PC55s at about 110-128 watts.  The bulbs get
hot but not rediculously so.  The ballast gets hot, but you could wrap
your hand around it and leave it there and feel no pain.  Less than 130
degrees F.  To tell if the WH5 was any brighter than the 430, would
take a good meter.  There's virtually no blackening of the bulbs over
months of use.

IceCap are nice folks that make very durable, high quality ballasts,
and the service is said to be very good -- notwithstanding that IceCap
apparently doesn't like to tell people the output watts on various bulb
combinations (an old gripe in the hobby).

My personal opinion is that IceCap tries to make too much of the notion
that just about any flourescent will work on its ballasts below certain
maximums.  Some combinations are terrifically underdriven and others
are so overdriven that the bulbs can be destroyed in weeks or less --
anyhow I have had 20 watt bulbs that burnt up that quickly although
IceCap said they would last.  In fact, and to its credit, IceCap then
tested the brand and size of bulbs I used and finally conceded that the
bulbs died after a few weeks on a 430.  IceCap suggested a fan would
make them last longer.

Fulham also says that lots of different combos of bulbs work on each of
its ballasts.  But Fulham is more conservative than IceCap -- spreading
the combos over a line of 9 ballasts compared to IceCap's line of 3

If you want to know how many watts a ballast is gong to drive through
your bulbs, look at the amp rating on the ballast and multiply by 120. 
While that won't give you the true value, it will be close (probably
within 20% in most cases) and much closer than assuming that your bulbs
will be driven at the wattage printed on the bulbs. 

Lot of folks are delighted with their purchase of IceCap and Fulham
ballasts -- indifferent to over or underdriving their bulbs.  Fulhams
are most commonly purchased in the aquatic gardening hobby with lights
kits from AH Supply.

IceCaps are available from many aquarium supply stores, especially
those that sells items for reefers, among whom VHOs and IceCaps are
widely popular.

Scott H.

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