Posted by Jack @ 9:56 pm on July 7th 2011

Lights and Reefers

Patrick Appel notes the apparently new to many concept of LED based home lighting technology. The short version: traditional incandescent light bulbs are grossly inefficient, wasting much of the energy on heat rather than light. Most of us are already familiar with power compact fluorescents, the spirally things now effectively mandated in Europe. Indeed, they are much more efficient in terms of light output per watt. But LEDs put them both to shame, generating extraordinary light, even full daylight spectrum light, for a fraction of the energy cost, with the added benefit of lasting for years and years.

Those of us in the reef keeping hobby, i.e., we who maintain salt water aquariums designed to house not merely fish, but also the far more challenging corals, have been following the tech in this area for years. Many of us, including yours truly, have already shifted our reef lighting method to LEDs. Most coral requires significant light, far more than traditional aquariums, and so lighting methodology has been a major source of discussion and experimentation. Very High Output fluorescents gave way to Metal Halides decades ago. More recently, narrow tubed T5 High Output fluorescents have been making inroads into the MH market share due to light efficiency and bulb-to-water heat transfer advantages. But LED’s are truly the new wave, and reefers the world over are converting. I shifted from a MH/VHO combo eating 820 watts to a pure LED rig that consumers a mere 165w, while also providing greater light spectrum flexibility and enormously greater bulb life expectancy. I may have to augment a bit with some additional LEDs to truly match the old set ups numbers, but I am confident I will keep it under 250 watts.

What I would like to know is if the “other” reefers have begun to transition. You know, the gardeners. Their community has been using metal halides for a long while as well. The significant heat production and electrical draw has been a downside exploited by law enforcement to find grow houses. LEDs, if usable in their “hobby”, would alter that equation.

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