DIY Advanced LED Fixtures (Part 1, Parts)

DIY Advanced LED Fixtures - Now we get into the fun stuff.

In these entrys, we will discuss DIY Advanced LED Fixtures. The fun stuff, where you can have Storms, Ramping, Cloud Cover, ect. You can truly simulate the power of the sun, and it's movement and changes, throughout the seasons, and day.

To make a Advanced LED. We are going to need several parts. We will go over the most common of these, in semi detail. So that you can make the decisions needed for your build.

Drivers:
The first part, we will cover is drivers. This is arguably the first decision to be made. This choice will heavily depend on how Complex you want your lighting system to be, and how customizable. We will discuss 2 types of Drivers here, the Meanwells HLG and Meanwell LDD drivers. We will cover, their Pros, their Cons, and how they work.

HLG Driver:
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The first driver we will discuss is the HLG Driver by Meanwell. These Drivers are all self included. They are a Power Supply and Driver in one. They can be dimmed, by 0-10v analog dimming (more about this in Controllers).

The Pros for the HLG series drivers, is they are easy to hook up, Self contained, and relatively cheap and uncomplicated.

The Cons for the HLG series of drivers, is they use Analog 1-10v Dimming (this means, the lowest dimming they can reach is 10%), and as a Power Supply and Driver they are large.

The Outcome for the HLG series drivers, is they are best when only 1 or 2 channels is wanted, and the inability to fully turn off the lights is not required. If you simply want 1 color of LED (say a 6500k) to ramp up and down throughout the day, and turning on at 10% is okay, this is your driver.

LDD Drivers:

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Next will discuss the Meanwell LDD drivers. These small and deceptively cheap drivers require a power supply to function. They are not self contained, and each has its own set of wires (or pins) that needs connected. The wiring complexity, goes up quite a bit by using LDD drivers. They use 0-5v PWM control, to adjust dimming.

The Pros of LDD drivers, is they use 0-5v control, this allows for much more granular control of the dimming and a smoother ramping, they also have the ability to dim to 0 unlike the HLG drivers. They are also very small, and can be hidden away inside of a box, or the fixture.

The Cons of LDD drivers, is they have much more complex wiring (there is Boards to assist with this, more about that on the Assembly Article) and they require a separate power supply (can be a pro), all in they tend to cost more than the HLG drivers.

The Outcome: LDD drivers, are best for those attempting the more complex builds, with multiple colors, and more fine grained control.

Now, that you have an understanding of Drivers, let's move on to the LEDs themselves.

LEDs:
Purchasing the LEDs themselves can be quite daunting. With Spectrum's, CRI, L/W, and all these other terms clouding your mind. For the purpose of this Article, we are only going to cover the most common form factors we will use. Other aspects will be covered in other articles.

Strip LEDs:
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This is one of the most common LED forms on the market. They are used and marketed for all sorts of things, and uses, including grow lights. They go from bone cheap to extremely expensive. They are the Only LED form we will cover that does not require a driver, rather they require a direct DC power source. They can still be dimmed, with a proper controller however (more on that in controllers)

Strip LEDs, Pros - the Pros of Strip LEDs, are they are very easy to install, there is quite a few different combinations of colors, and controlling methods ect. They are very low wattage, and most do not require a Heatsink.

Strip LED Cons - the cons of Strip LEDs, can be wrapped up pretty easily by they are not bright. They have some fringe usage in the hobby. Such as bug enclosure lighting (We will do a build with them for that!), or small species. However on your typical Panther or Veilieds Enclosure they are simply not up to the task.

The Outcome - Stay away for most Cham enclosures, they simply are not bright enough.

Star LEDs:
Star LEDs are a common type of LED in DIY LED lighting. They are simply small LEDs mounted on to a board shaped like a Star made from Aluminum. They are usually only a Few Volts each, which means a driver can run quite alot of them (more on this later). They come in different price ranges, but usually 2-4 dollars per star is about average. They come in a vast amount of colors and Spectrum's and by using them you can truly customize the way the light is colored.

Star LED Pros. They are relatively low Voltage, can be had with exact color requirements for extreme customization, are fairly cheap.

Star LED Cons. The Wire complexity is highest using LDDs and Star LEDs. You will have ALOT of wiring to do. Diffusing the colors perfectly, can be tricky and takes immense planning, and good diffusion.

The Outcome. Star LEDs are great for when you want to truly customize the light, to your exact specifications. However it is suggested to have equipment to dial in your specific needs which is pricey, and the build is much more complex. So while they are great, they are not very beginner friendly.

LED Pucks (AKA: Arrays):
Puck LEDs are one of the easiest ways to get good customizable light with out much work or wiring. These are similar to stars, except instead of a single LED on a Star Board, there is many LEDs on a Puck shaped PCB. The colors have been chosen for you, and the channels limited to what has been provided. They are usually made with a theme in mind, usually for the aquarium hobby. Our theme would be "Freshwater", or "Horticulture".

Puck Pros. Pucks are very easy to build with, usually diffuse pretty well as is, and have alot of channels for good light customization.

Puck Cons. Pucks are usually much more expensive than other options, and while the lighting is somewhat customizable, it's still limited by the choices of the pick maker.

The Outcome: Pucks are great for a beginner who wants a very close to out of the box system with alot of Channels.

Chip On Board (CoB) LEDs:
Chip on Board or COBs, are one of my personal Favorite LEDs. They are large LEDs mounted to a board. They are EXTREMELY bright. They come in many different colors (though not as many as stars) are usually high efficiency, and can be suited to your needs. They are rather expensive however. The Jungle Dawn spots, that alot of the Forum goers like, are Made with COBs.

COB Pros. COBs are simple to build with, they are ridiculously bright in most cases, only requiring 2-6 for a Large Viv.

COB Cons. COBs can be pretty expensive, per COB. They are rather large though smaller than Pucks, and are hard to diffuse.

The Outcome: COBs are best as a middle ground, customizable to an extent, but not as much as Stars, Very bright without too many so to make wiring easier.


Not done, but have to take a break. Will finish soon.

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