How to retrofit your light for cheap - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 19 Old 01-04-2010, 09:44 PM Thread Starter
How to retrofit your light for cheap

Due to a number of threads on here about people frustrated with the cost of the manufactured lights that have a higher wattage for plants. I decided to post the step by step of my retrofit of a 2ft allglass lightstrip, something I've done before. This is an easy project and can be done very cheaply. In this thread we will be removing the flourescent tube and installing two spiral compacts in this hood. This one will run 2x13watt bulbs for a total of 26watts. You can fit more in these though for example: 3x13watt, 2x18watt, and 2x23watt if you really shove them in there.

Below is most all of the stuff you need to do this. Actually its more than you need! Below is all the stuff you need to retrofit a hood and build a completely new 2ft hood. More on that later though. All of this was picked up at Fleetfarm, Home Depot, and Menards. Each store carries all the things you need though. Since mine are all withing a mile of each other I figured I would shop around.

Parts list:

Powerstrip- can be working or nonworking!

Twin light socket(Menards)- $4.29

6"x10ft Aluminum roll(Menards)- $4.45(optional)

Pack of (4) 6500K 13watt bulbs- $9.99

Some heat shrinks- $1.50

Tinfoil- ??? (optional)

Total cost: About $20 and you have two replacement bulbs and a lot of aluminum left

Tools you will need:

Power drill
wirer cutters(optional)
Hotglue/super glue(optional)

To be continued

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post #2 of 19 Old 01-04-2010, 10:01 PM
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I'm really liking this thread. I'm one of those someones who is tired of paying $33.00 bucks for a bulb for my fixtures.
The pictures are great as I'm visual in nature. Continue, please. :)

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post #3 of 19 Old 01-04-2010, 10:16 PM Thread Starter
First step: Take apart old light.

Below is the strip light I selected for my retrofiting. Its about 10 years old and still in working order. As you can see in the pic though all 4 of the screws holding it together broke(IDK how). The cords are the only things keeping its guts attached to it. Lately it started sounding like a giant angry bee and I'm sick of it.

If your hood is in better condition then mine you can will have to unscrew the screws holding the white reflector to the housing. Do not have the light plugged in.

Once you have the reflector loose it should only be held in by the wires. Look for two wirenuts. Once you find them remove them by untwisting them.

Next take wire cutters or scissors and cut the only remaining wire holding things together. If your strip light was still in working order leave a length of wire attached to the reflector side. The guts are still good and can always be rewired to something, so I wouldn't throw them out.

I then shortened the wire between the cord and the on/off switch. This is optional. Then I added the wire nut back on, along with a piece of heat shrink for later.

You should now be able to remove the insides from the housing. Leaving you with something like this.

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post #4 of 19 Old 01-04-2010, 10:40 PM Thread Starter
Step Two: prepping bulb socket

The only straight double socket I could find came with a lot of unnecessary bits attached. Some mounting brackets and a on/off pull chain.

Too start off remove the two screws holding the brackets to the socket. These screws hold the socket together too so put them back on but without the brackets. In the second pic you need to unscrew the golden bit to get that bracket off.

The socket should now be free of both brackets. The black wire can be pulled through the socket so it sticks out the other side. Cut the wires like in the second pic below, Leave about an inch of wire on the pull chain if you want to keep it. You don't need it for this project, but maybe you will find a use for it down the road. Or you can throw it away.

Finally we are left with the bare double socket.

To be continued

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post #5 of 19 Old 01-05-2010, 04:43 PM Thread Starter
Step three: Making the reflector

In this step we will make a nice reflector out of the aluminum roll. This is optional. You should have a reflector, two other cheaper reflectors can be made using white spray paint or tinfoil. With the paint simply spray the inside of the housing with a couple coats. With the foil cut and fit it to the inside of the housing. It doesn't matter if it is wrinkly. Too attach it use some super glue or hot glue.

If you are using the aluminum roll cut a piece slightly shorter than the housing. Large scissors cut it easily.

My perfered design copies the shape of my fancy reflectors. These are high quality reflectors that are super shiny and designed to reduce restrike. Restrike is where the light hits the reflector then is reflected straight back at the bulb. We can't make our cheap aluminum as shiny, but we can copy the shape.

Below is a diagram of the shape I want to get. I use a sharpie to mark the reflector where it is suppose to bend. Then use a piece of wood or some hard edge to help with the bending. It doesn't need to be perfect. Make sure the reflector is as wide as you can get it. It should touch both sides of the housing.

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post #6 of 19 Old 01-05-2010, 05:25 PM Thread Starter
Step 4: prepping reflector for mounting

Now that you have the reflector and socket all squared away we need to start mounting them in the housing. We will start with the reflector. If your hood still had functioning screws holding the white reflector in you can use those same screws and thread holes for mounting the new metal reflector. In my case I don't so mine will be a little different. I am using to small screws to hold the reflector in.

Either way use a sharpie to mark where you want holes in the reflector. You should have at least 3 holes one on each end of the reflector and one in the center for mounting the socket. Then find a sharp nail and hammer it into the mark on the reflector. Then pull the nail back out. Tada now you have a hole.

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post #7 of 19 Old 01-05-2010, 06:02 PM Thread Starter
Step 5: Prepping the housing for mounting.

Once you have holes in the reflector place it in the housing and use a sharpie to mark where you need to make holes in the housing. If you are using the original screws you only need to make one hole in the housing, which is the center hole for mounting the socket. In my case I need two additional holes for mounting the reflector. It is best to use a powerdrill for this step. If you don't have one then use a hammer and a sharp nail to make the hole, but make sure it is wide enough for your mounting screw(s). Be careful if you are hammering, go gently as you can crack the housing.

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post #8 of 19 Old 01-05-2010, 06:14 PM Thread Starter
Step 6: Lengthening wire on socket

Since the black wire is so short I decided to lengthen it. This is optional, but it makes the mounting easier if you have some extra cord length. You can use the spare cord from when you cut off the pull chain. Use scissors/wirecutter/or a real stripper to remove the plastic off the ends of the cords. Cut a peice of heat shrink and put it over one of the cords. Twist the ends of the two wires together. Slip the heat shrink over the connection. Use a lighter and GENTLY heat the heat shrink. DO NOT light it on fire. Its important to use a heat shrink and not a wire nut because the heat shrink creates a more water proof seal than the wire nut.

Pics for those that have never done a heat shrink.

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post #9 of 19 Old 01-05-2010, 06:38 PM Thread Starter
Step 7: Wiring things together

Get a 3/8 thick nut that is pretty wide. Slip it over the wires on the socket. This nut serves as a spacer to put some distance between the socket and reflector otherwise the bulbs won't fit.

Next feed the wires from the socket through the center hole in the reflector. If the hole is not big enough it can easily be widened using pliers. Make it extra wide because you will also need to fit a bolt through it later. Find the two wire nuts that came off the fixture and strip the ends of all the wires. Cut and slip on two heat shrinks. Connect the two wires from the socket to the two wires from the cord. Since this is AC current it doesn't matter which cord goes where. Attach them using wirenuts for the moment.

Now you can plug it in and turn it on. It should light. If you are using brand new bulbs they will be a little dim at first. It takes a little time for them to break in. If its not working unplug it and go back over your connections. If you can't find the problem feel free to PM me.

If its lighting like it should unplug it and remove the wire nuts and use the heat shrinks to connect the wires.

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post #10 of 19 Old 01-05-2010, 07:08 PM Thread Starter
Step 8: Bolting things together

To finish up our light we need two small screws(optional) and one larger screw along with a washer and nuts that fit all the screws. Some my have to buy these, some my have them lying around the house.

If you are using the two small screws to mount the reflector you can screw them in from the outside of the housing. Then put the reflector on so the screws also go through the two holes on it. Then put on the nuts so the reflector is held down tightly. If you are using the original screws attach the reflector with these.

The big screw I used was 2.5" long. Apply some electrical tape to the center of the screw. Since we will be sending it through the center of the socket it will be very close to both terminals in the socket. The tape is to stop it from causing a short.

Feed the long screw starting from the outside of the housing and go through the hole in the reflector, the 3/8" nut, and through the center hole in the socket. It may take a little wiggling, but should go through and stick a little out the other side. Put a washer over it then but on the end nut and tighten it. I just tightened mine by hand, you can use a screwdriver if you want. The socket will be able to spin on the center bolt, however it should not spin too freely.

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