Discussion in 'LED Aquarium Lighting' started by Rapid LED, Sep 30, 2010.

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  1. Rapid LED

    Rapid LED 3reef Sponsor

    Sep 21, 2010
    Hi Everyone,

    There seem to be a lot of questions and misinformation floating around about LEDs, so we thought we’d share some answers to problems we encounter most frequently. The answers are based on our day-to-day experience working with LEDs and are by no means scientific. Here goes:

    Q: What ratio of royal blue:cool white LEDs should I use?
    A: Everybody has different preferences on how blue they like their tanks to look. Generally speaking, a 1:1 ratio using CREE XR-E LEDs will give you a 14k look, while a 2:1 ratio will put you closer to 20k. If you are using CREE XP-G’s then you would need more blue to achieve the same look as the white XP-G LEDs are roughly 30% brighter at the same power.

    Q: How far above the water should the LEDs be placed?
    A: It depends on what your set-up allows for, but we recommend at least 6-8” above the water if you are going to use lenses to avoid “spotlighting” at the top of the tank.

    Q: What angle lens should I use? What do the angles mean?
    A: The larger the angle, the wide the spread of light there will be. Thus, a lens that is 80 degrees will spread out much further than a lens that is only 30 degrees. However, the 30 degree lens will allow the light to penetrate deeper into a tank. Most CREE LEDs without any lenses will be about 110-120 degrees.

    Which angle lens to use depends on the depth of the tank. As a rough guide: if your tank is less than 20” tall, use 80 degree optics (or none at all), for a tank 20-30” tall, 60 degree optics would probably be best, and for a tank with a height in the high 20’s or 30”+ go with 40 degree optics. There are more angles available than just the 3 we listed so again just use this as a rough guide.

    Q: How many LEDs do I need to replace my MH fixture?
    A: 24 CREE XR-E LEDs will give higher PAR values than a 250W MH fixture. There isn’t an exact formula for this, but you can take that as a rough measurement and extrapolate to fit your desired lighting needs.

    Q: What are the minimum and maximum number of LEDs my driver can power?
    A: To calculate this, you need two pieces of information. First, you need to know the minimum and maximum voltage of your driver (ex. 9-48V). Second, you need to know the voltage drop across each LED (ex. 3.3V). Note this is only applicable to constant current drivers, not constant voltage drivers.

    Driver: Mean Well LPC-35-700, 9-48V
    LEDs: CREE XR-E, ~3.3V each

    9V driver min voltage/3.3V per LED = 2.72 LEDs minimum. Rounded up = 3 LEDs minimum (we can’t use less than 9V, so we round up to 3 LEDs)

    48V driver max voltage/3.3V per LED = 14.54 LEDs maximum. Rounded down = 14 LEDs maximum (we can’t use more than 48V, so we round down to 14 LEDs).

    Q: My LEDs flashed briefly and went out. What does that mean?
    A: 99% of the time it means your LEDs are fried, usually due to too much voltage and/or current going through them. Check to see if you have at least the minimum number of LEDs in your string. Also, make sure your driver has been attached to the LED string, i.e., ENSURE your wiring is COMPLETE BEFORE you plug the driver into the wall.

    Q: What’s the difference between the MeanWell ELN-60-48D and ELN-60-48P? What else do I need to dim them?
    A: Both drivers will require an external 10V power source for the dimming circuit. A lot of people like to use a 9V wall wart as it’s easier to come by. In addition, the dimming on the D is controlled with a 0-10V regulator, while the P requires a PWM controller. For those that want a knob they can turn to control dimming, you’ll want to go with the D driver. The 0-10V regulator is normally controlled through a potentiometer that can be purchased at Radio Shack for $3.

    In addition, these drivers are compatible with the various reef controllers on the market (ReefKeeper, Reef Angel, etc). Just look at the spec sheet to see if they are 0-10V or PWM compatible.

    Q: Do I need a fan?
    A: An extremely important but often overlooked part about building a quality LED fixture is cooling. In order to achieve the stated 50,000 hour lifespan of the LEDs, it is very important to make sure the LEDs are sufficiently cooled. While most heat sinks on the market work well, the addition of a single fan will drastically lower the temperature of the LEDs. Keeping the LEDs cool should extend their useful life because heat is the enemy of all semiconductors. A modest fan on top of one of our heat sinks will keep the temperature of the fixture down to just slightly above room temperature (room temp = 72°F) – not even warm to the touch.

    Q: How big of a heat sink do I need?
    A: This depends on several factors such as how high from the water you’ll be hanging your lights, what degree optics (if any) you’ll be using, the dimensions of your tank, but generally speaking you do not need the heat sink to be the same footprint as your tank. For example, if your tank is 48” you do not need a 48” heat sink. Keep in mind that light will be coming down at an angle towards the water, so there will be a good amount of spread to the light (obviously the larger the angle the better the spread). As an example, we used a 4.25” x 23” heat sink on a 30” x 18” tank at MACNA using 60 degree optics at about 8” above the waterline and had no problem whatsoever with coverage.

    Q: How do you wire LEDs together? How are they connected to the driver?
    A: Please see the attached picture for an easy visual aid on how to wire LEDs in series. Generally speaking, you’ll attach the LEDs to each other + to -, and from the driver to the LEDs + to + and – to -.


    LED wiring diagram - 3reef Photos

    If there are any other questions out there feel free to ask them and we can answer them as a group. Also, if you’ve experienced anything different than what we’ve stated feel free to share that experience. A lot of this is more art than science so the more experiences we have to draw upon the more beneficial it will be for everybody.

    Updated FAQs for dimmable drivers (specifically Mean Well ELN series):
    Q: I am trying to adjust the V (voltage) and I (current) of my driver but I am getting inaccurate results when I turn SVR2.

    A: The driver must have a load. Without a load you cannot measure the current or voltage output of the driver accurately. Connect the minimum # of LEDs to the driver before attempting any measurements.

    Q: What is the minimum # of LEDs for my driver?

    A: ELN-40-48-D: 8 LEDs

    ELN-60-48-P: 8 LEDs

    LPC-35-700: 3 LEDs

    (Assuming you're using 3W CREE LEDs. Otherwise please see our original post for how to calculate minimum loads)

    Q: What do SVR1 and SVR2 do on my D or P model driver?

    A: SVR1 adjusts maximum voltage. SVR2 adjusts maximum current.

    Q: Can I run my D or P model driver without a dimming control unit (ie. potentiometer or PWM controller)?

    A: Yes, attach a constant voltage power source of 10V (a wall wart will work) to the driver and set SVR2 to your desired output current. It's kind of the poor man's way to dim but it will work.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2010
    1 person likes this.
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  3. sostoudt

    sostoudt Giant Squid

    Jul 9, 2008
    Chesterfield, VA
    do you have a spectral analysis of different leds?

    Do you have par data for leds?
  4. evolved

    evolved Wrasse Freak

    Feb 26, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    Data sheets for the CREE LED's are easy to find with the info you seek. Google CREE XR-E (or XP-G) and you'll easily find them on CREE's site.

    XR-E: http://www.cree.com/products/pdf/xlamp7090xr-e.pdf
    XP-G: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBMQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cree.com%2Fproducts%2Fpdf%2Fxlampxp-g.pdf&rct=j&q=cree%20xp-g%20datasheet&ei=OdSkTL6dMoeWswae9KGfCA&usg=AFQjCNEelUgZkfvcRBfrF1DnVQMqeVcRQg&cad=rja
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2010
  5. evolved

    evolved Wrasse Freak

    Feb 26, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    Question for Rapid:

    I've seen some people add a 1A fast-acting fuse to the circuit for better protection of the LED string. Thoughts?
  6. Matt Rogers

    Matt Rogers Kingfish Staff Member

    Dec 31, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    Great info. Thanks for posting this. I threw it on the homepage for more views. Thanks!

  7. WhiskyTango

    WhiskyTango Eyelash Blennie

    Oct 9, 2009
    Niantic, CT
    Thanks for the info.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  9. Rapid LED

    Rapid LED 3reef Sponsor

    Sep 21, 2010

    Spectral analysis is provide by CREE on Page 5 of their XR-E datasheet at the following link:

    We don't have any spectral data for LEDs we do not sell.

    Regarding PAR, Sanjay Joshi has a nice article up at:
    Feature Article: LED Lighting Tests: Aquaillumination, Blue Moon, Eco-Lamp KR-91, Ecoxotic Panorama | Advanced Aquarist's Online Magazine

    The article compares various complete LED fixtures and provides PAR values. The one to take note of is the Aquaillumination analysis. The AI light uses CREE LEDs, similar to the ones we sell (if not the same), so PAR and spread measurements are relevant to getting a clear picture of how bright and efficient the LEDs we sell are.

    As an aside, in the article, note that the fixtures that use ~100 pcs of no-name LEDs such as the Bluemoon Aquatics 90W model draw more power but produce far less PAR. In this case, the Bluemoon Aquatics fixture draws 24% more power, but produces ~12% of the PAR of the AI fixture at 24". If you make a DIY fixture with our LEDs, you would see similar results.
  10. Night-Rida

    Night-Rida Finback Whale

    Jul 3, 2009
    Tampa, FL
    x2 on that matt. good info, alot of 3reefers will benefit! K+
  11. Rapid LED

    Rapid LED 3reef Sponsor

    Sep 21, 2010
    I don't think it's necessary if you're using the proper driver for your LEDs. For example, CREE XR-E LEDs can handle up to 1000mA max. Thus, we suggest using a driver around 700mA for a couple of reasons. First, you won't blow your LEDs by pushing too much current through them (voltage is another issue altogether). Second, lumen output isn't linear as you increase current. Though increases in lumens aren't terribly inefficient at higher amperages, your not going to get the same gains from 700mA to 1000mA that you would from (for example) 300mA to 600mA.

    If you do need to use a dimmable driver that can output a higher current than your LEDs can handle (ie. Mean Well ELN-60-48D or P), make sure you can limit the current output. For the MW ELN drivers there is a knob inside the case called the SVR2 which will limit the maximum current output of the driver. The factory setting is at maximum current (1.3A) so unless you're using XP-G's you'll need to turn that down or your LEDs will fry instantly.

    If you do these things you should usually be okay, however adding another measure of protection is never a bad thing.
  12. crank2211

    crank2211 Purple Spiny Lobster

    Jan 13, 2009
    I took this route with my build. I figured I was at RadioShack anyway, and they had them there and also they were cheap. So I got a couple with an inline holder. I already fried two fuses while I was dialing the driver.