Lighting Help

I'll skip the regular "I'm new to this stuff & the list..." intro and go
right to the question.
I've had little difficulty deciding on other items for the tank such as
CO2 equipment, filtration, substrate heaters, etc.  I will be using a
hybrid Dupla/DIY CO2 system, a hybrid Dupla/UltraLife/DIY substrate
heater, and a Mandrin II Trickle Filter.  Lighting however is proving to
be a tough decision.
A small fortune has been spent on a contemporary custom oak
cabinet/canopy and I'm too cowardly to attempt a MH retro right now so I
wish to stick with FL tubes.
That narrows the options down.
George Booth has an article on the Krib comparing various MH & FL tubes.
However, the article was dated 1992 and VHO was either not available or
not widely available and George made no mention of this technology.
I realize many people are having great success with inexpensive 40W FL
bulbs of all kinds.  However, are there any people here on the list with
any experience with VHO systems?  There is one fellow on CompuServe that
swears by his VHO AquaSun bulbs.  The URI AquaSun bulbs have internal
reflectors.  George has, on more than one occasion, stated that the
internal reflectors in FL bulbs have little influence on the performance
of the bulb.  URI has no literature to backup any performance claims but
alluded to a non-reflector version being planned.
That aside, does anyone know from personal experience that a 110W
AquaSun VHO bulb is 2x brighter than most 40W bulbs?  URI claims that
their AquaSun is 2.5x brighter.  Brighter than what?  A $30 Triton?  A
GE $2 Special?  I don't know.  The URI "tech" said he knew for a "FACT"
that the VHO 110W AquaSun is 2.5 times brighter than the NO 40W AquaSun.
When pressed for a paper version of that "FACT" he couldn't produce.
Champion claims that the AquaSun's are "too bright to look at".  All
very subjective if you ask me.
BTW, Champion has a retro kit that includes four 48" 110W AquaSun bulbs,
IceCap Ballast, Endcaps and Wiring harness for $339.
The IceCap Electronic Ballast receives a lot of ad space in the
magazines.  It can support VHO, HO and Normal Output FL bulbs in any
combination.  However, I haven't seen much user experience with the
IceCap posted to the net.
Claims have been made that an electronic ballast can greatly extend the
life of bulbs (VHO or NO).  URI wouldn't specify how much longer their
bulbs would last on an electronic ballast vs tar.  The guy alluded to 3
or 4 months longer.  He possibly stated the claim a little more
accurately in that an Electronic ballast will prolong the life of a
specific bulb compared to that same bulb on a tar ballast. VHO bulbs
however do not necessarily last twice as long as NO bulbs. The electonic
ballast simply runs the lamps much cooler, so that even NO bulbs would
have a much greater lifespan.
I've also been told that I don't want to add too much lighting.  It
seems that by going FL that it would damn hard to add too much light.
Even if I went with 6 VHO FL bulbs, they wouldn't begin to approach the
output of a MH bulb.
I feel like I'm going to have to follow George's footsteps and do my own
testing.  Unfortunately, I have no local shops that stock VHO lamps, nor
do I feel they would let me "hook one up" to play around with.
So I'm seriously considering the IceCap/VHO setup.  I can still purchase
some standard 40W bulbs for comparison and do a side-by-side.
Now that I've basically talked myself into buying this stuff, does
anyone want to try to talk me out of it or offer other alternatives?
Michael A. Bateman                                          "He's Gone"
Independent Networking Specialist                      August 9th, 1995
St. Louis, MO
314.282.3883                                  We'll all miss you Jerry!