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· Schroeder
1,175 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I decided to make my build all in one post so people can find everything about what I am doing, without reading through a ton of comments first. I will throw all of the things I think I forgot in post #4 as the post progresses so that way people can follow up without having to reread a lot of things. I have read a lot about the LED's and I have a seperate post where I asked questions as I went. I advise other people to do the same.
Here are some pictures of my "finished" product

Here is a list of some of the readings I collected:

Before I start I would like to thank Dan Zeinert, many members of, Mike at, and everyone else who paved the road which allowed me to do this build.

Also I would like to appoligize for my pictures... they were taken with my phone (year old Sprint HTC Evo with cracked lense)

I purchased:

Quantity________ Item Description _____________________________________________________________ Site ______________________________ Cost
-2x---------5.886x16 heatsinks-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------[]----------------------------------67.00
-1x---------36 Ultra Premium LED DIY Kit with Dimmable Drivers (18ww &18rb,Thermal paste, 60 degree 60-48D)----[]----------------------315.00
-1x---------DIY 2 color Dimming Kit-------------------------------------------------------------------------------[]--------------------------------------30.00
-8x---------Bulk Wire (blue)----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[]---------------------------------------2.00
-8x---------Bulk Wire (white)---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[]---------------------------------------2.00
-1x---------80mm Vantec Stealth Fan Kit-------------------------------------------------------------------------[]------------------------------------ 43.00
-1x---------75 feet of 20 gauge wire (green/red/black)---------------------------------------------------------radioshack-------------------------------------------- 8.00
-1x---------Rubbing Alcohol----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Menards----------------------------------------------2.00
-1x---------Drill bit--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Menards----------------------------------------------3.00
-1x---------Oil for drill bit-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Menards----------------------------------------------4.00
-1x---------Eraser(3 pack)------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Menards----------------------------------------------1.00
-1x---------Weller 140/100w soldering iron-----------------------------------------------------------------------Fleet Farm-------------------------------------------30.00
-1x---------Plexiglass sheet ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Fleet Farm-------------------------------------------16.00
-1x---------4% silver solder ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------radioshack--------------------------------------------5.00
-1x---------extra soldering tip (2 pack)---------------------------------------------------------------------------radioshack-------------------------------------------3.00
-1x---------shrink wire tubing--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ace Hardware----------------------------------------3.00
-2x---------Aluminum frame----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Fleet Farm-------------------------------------------15.00
-1x---------plexiglass cutting tool----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Fleet Farm-------------------------------------------3.00
-lots--------Nuts and bolts------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Fleet Farm-------------------------------------------4.00

Other things that I used:
-wire stripper
-other sized drill bits
-wire cutters
-tape measure
-needlenose pliers
-allen wrench
-box cutter

The total cost of my lights was $558. Many of you have some of this stuff already and I may save up to $55 easily. If I had the tools and a nice group buy discount from, I could have made this for about $440. My costs put me at about $10 per gallon but with the tools and a discount someone could make the same fixture for $8 per gallon.

The reason for choosing WW (warm white) LED's is because I have heard that SOME people are not big fans of how blue the CW makes the tank look. I didn't know if I would like the intense blue look, so I decided to just do WW.

The reason for choosing a heatsink from was because rapidled ran out of the size I wanted and I was too eager :p

So on July 15th at around 5pm I placed my order. I then sat around thinking about my setup and at 6pm I realized I wanted some more wire!!!! Frantically, I emailed rapidled's employee, Mike, and told him. He replied within 15 minutes and said that he cannot change my order because he packed my order and it was already out of his shop. WOW! 15 MINUTES! Then he told me that he forsaw me desiring more wire and decided to give me extra wire free of charge! I knew, prior to ordering, that even if I could have gotten a better deal (probably wouldn't as their prices are low), I would buy from rapidled because their customer service record was outstanding.

Moral of the story; Rapidled offers good prices, quick service, helpful staff, and generous staff.

I also talked to a lady named Amy from and she didn't know much led wiring but gave me the names of employees and phone numbers of companies that she sells balk to that can assist me.

I recieved the rapidled items on Monday and the heatsinks on Wednesday. I tested each led (took like 30ish minutes but I'd rather test than find out later that there is a problem) and then started to think about how I wanted them placed on the heatsink.

At first I was kind of mad at rapid because I THOUGHT they gave me 18 RB (Royal blue), 9 WW (Warm White) and 9 NW (Neautral White). Upon further inspection I realized that I recieved what I ordered and that the NW was actually WW and the ink just got smeared... I felt dumb.

The starboards that the LED's are attached to are hexagonal and measure 2cm in diameter and the LED itself was a square with sides approximately 3mm across.

For the build, I was thinking of hiding the wires on the other side of the heatsink. To do this I would drill 2 holes near each LED. When recieving the heatsink, I realized I would like to be able to position the LED's under two fins of the heatsink. That way I would be able to place the blue wires on different rows as the white. Also this would be nice for disappating the heat. The heatsink's fins are 1.15cm apart from each other. I was able to get this to work but it was a tight fit for some of the LED's.

Since I am placing 18 LED's on each heatsink, I decided to leave 2.5cm surrounding the edges where I do not have any LED's and then space them by 4.7cm and 2cm. I considered using a program to map out what would leave the most even distribution of color while still allowing maximum heat distribution using the fins (probably using a program called ARC-GIS), but I was lazy.

Using a drill press would have been nice for this but I didnt have access to one.

· Schroeder
1,175 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
I have my fans raised about 2 inches above the heatsinks so the air being moved will affect more of the fins of the heatsink. One thing I thought of, was that it may be nice to have holes drilled across all of the fins to allow for more movement. On a side note, the fan's I ordered turned out fine but I guess I underestimated how much air 27 CFM was. When I get more money, I may change out the fans for ones with more power.

For soldering, I have read that solder with silver in it, makes things easy and conducts more electricity. I looked into what kind of soldering iron I wanted and found that when people use low wattage soldering irons, they often will burn out the piece they are installing due to too much heat being transferred (in our case, to the LED itself). I looked at butane soldering irons but they seem to be more of something to use on plumbing and I read they often burn the circuits as well.

My first step was to drill my heatsink. I was using 20 gauge wire for connecting the LED's and wasnt sure what the diameter of it was. It turn out that it about 1/16 inch. I used 5/32 inch bit and it seemed to work well but a 1/8 inch may have been a bit better. I wouldnt suggest getting a 3/32 as it would be really hard to thread te wires into the holes.

Once I had everything I wanted, I started by cleaning the heatsink with an eraser (seemed to work GREAT) and then used rubbing alcohol to clean it further.

The heatsink on the left is cleaned and the right has not been cleaned yet.

After that I used a pencil and a heatsink to mark off where I wanted the LED's put.

I then marked where I wanted each hole drilled and took my punch and a hammer and put in a dent to help me guide my drill bit.

Once I had all of the spots punched I took my drill and made small guiding holes to put my oil. Put in a drop or two in each hole, then drilled all of my holes, each time clearing out the bit 2 or 3x per hole. This way, the bit stays cool and last a long time.

After that jp41time (from advised me countersinking the holes (I did it with a slightly bigger drill bit but waiting too long so it was a pain).

After I finished drilliing the heatsink, I cleaned it up again. This is what it looked like on the back:
It is now time to start pasting the LED's in place. I got a piece of aluminum foil and basically copied the method I found off of Ricket's Reef (youtube guide). To sum it up, put equally sized dabs of both parts of the paste and mix it. Put a thin layer on the LED. I put just enough so I couldnt see the aluminum on the starboard (not sure if that is the correct amount. Then press the starboard firmly to the heatsink. Make sure that you don't get the spreading tool covered with lint or dirt.

I placed all of the LED's in line and got to work soldering. I had the LED's in the following pattern (numbers represent which driver was used and D1,D2,D3 are the drivers themselves):

heatsink#1 heatsink#2

Driver 1 will run at 0.8 amps
Driver 2 will run at 1.0 amps
Driver 3 will run at 0.8 amps
Rustl3r (from helped me understand why I would want to drive different levels and help me choose these levels (they are recomended for the longevity of the bulb).

the colors were in the following pattern (W=white and B=blue):

|B-W-B-W-B-W| |W-B-W-B-W-B|
|W-B-W-B-W-B| |B-W-B-W-B-W|
|B-W-B-W-B-W| |W-B-W-B-W-B|
heatsink#1 heatsink#2

· Schroeder
1,175 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I am brand new at soldering so this was a new experience... I advise reading up on how to solder on google. I found that it worked easier if I twisted the wire's tip, put solder on the wire, heated the solder on the pretinned starboard, then soldered the two together (I probably had too much solder but...). jt41time advised me to use a ohm meter to see if my wires were being grounded through the heatsink but I do not have a ohm meter so I will have to wait.

I messed up one LED (my last one to wire up). I plan on replacing it in the future but... that is going to be a while down the road.

I used 80 degree lenses for my LED's and some were not on too tight... jt41time advised to use high temp hot glue to hold it on. He also advised using hot glue for the popped off 120 degree default lenses for my XP-G bulbs that I accidently knocked off.

I used more wire than I first purchased from rapidled so I had to buy more at radioshack (20 gauge). There was a definite diffference. The green wire is from radioshack and it is very firm and hard to feed into the holes. It is clean though

To be able to feed the green wire into the holes, I pre-bent it into a good shape and then used pliers to put it in place.
Here is a picture of me trying to bend it before feeding it:

And here is a picture of it in place:

Here is a picture of how I intertwined wires. It helped a lot and was easy to do:

Side note: when screwing on the face to the 2 color dimmer box, it is easy to screw too far and crack the plastic.
This is what my dimmer looked like when it was all wired up:

I found these steps on reefcentral for the drivers:

1) Wire the entire circuit up, but don't turn it on (yet).
2) Adjust the internal trimpot all the way to the lowest setting. Make sure you get the current pot, not the voltage pot (not used).
3) Connect a 10v source to the dimming circuit.
4) Break the LED circuit and put your multimeter in series with the LEDs (as you described) and set the multimeter to an appropriate range if applicable.
5) Plug the meanwell in.
6) Check the current reading on the multimeter. Adjust the internal current limit pot up until you hit your desired current.

To get the drivers to work you need to be able to plug it into the wall. Wiring this up was my next step. I simply cut back part of the tubing and got rid of some of the string . I used wire shrink wraps to keep everything nice and pretty. The wire in the outlet attachment was 16 gauge... in case anyone was curious.

When wiring up the entire circuit, I didnt have anything plugged in. Make sure that when you make the circuit, you have the led's in the circuit or you will fry your multimeter.I have to say, opening the drivers are shockingly difficult. There is the 4 screws on the outside and then to keep the top even more securely fixed onto the bottom, they put two clips on the sides. To help me out, I took a pencil and labeled each of my drivers in case I ever want to change things up. I put both the bulb type and the amps I have it running at. When using the multimeter, I decided to have the dials on the driver as well as my dimmer to their minimum (because I was nervous), then I slowly turned it up. It did not take too long.

I was told that .75A is best for the longevity of your XP-E bulb and 1A is good for keeping the XP-G last. Their max output though will be at 1 and 1.5 respectively. I put my drivers to .8A and 1A I may change my setting in the future but it is unlikely since I don't plan on having an anemone or SPS for quite some time.

My next step was connecting the two heatsinks. I did it with two 4 ft strips of aluminum. I wanted to put 2 bolts on each side of each heatsink (totalling to 8). To make sure things would line up, I clamped the heatsink to the strip of aluminum and drilled threw both at the same time. I bolted them as I went to help prevent movement. After I finished the first side, I unbolted it and did the other. This helped keep the hole thing stable and easier to drill. To put the not on the other side of the bolt, I used a needlenose pliers. If I had more money, I would have gotten hollowed square aluminum pipes and put a rail similar to ones used in a drawer on it so I could move the heatsinks while moving around rocks and other objects in the tank.

So after I hooked up my drivers to the dimmer and LED's, I drilled 4 holes in the corners of each of the heatsinks. These 4 holes would hold my plexiglass splashguard (I had 1 for each heatsink and one for the wire section (center) of the build). The two above the heatsinks were 18 x 6.125 inches and the one above the wire section was 10 x 6.125 inches. They had some overlap. When cutting the plexiglass, I spent a ton of time scraping at it to make sure that I did not break the glass wrong. I actually went all the way threw with my tool... I may end up adding a fifth supporting bolt to the heatsink to help support it more.

This shows the center splashguard that protects the wires

This shows how they are being held onto the fixture (I am missing some nuts)

This shows how close my lenses get to the splashguard

I also put in 2 holes for each heatsink (holding the fans). I wasn't sure what way would be most effective for keeping the whole heatsink cool and Fat Tony (from advised me to have the fans pointing down. I had a problem getting the fans to fit since my bolts were 1/4 inch wide and the fan's holes were probably 5/32 inches in diameter. I had to drill the hole for the fans a bit bigger. I do not think that the fan would be able to be drilled more than 5/16 inch. When putting the holes in, make sure you measure multiple times because you cant expand that hole much more.

To clean things up a bit I used firm wires to bind my other wires. Also, I used some of these wires to hold my dimmer up for the time being since I dont have a box to put my drivers/dimmer.

The one thing I still want to buy is an aluminum box for my drivers. I figure it should be 7.5x10x4 inches. I am considering using a box used for controlling where hot air flows in a house. I saw one at Menards for about $10. It had a 120mm in diameter circlular hole on it and no top. The top isnt a big deal and if I were to get that, I would put a fan in the hole (its easy to find a 120mm fan).

If I owned my own house, I would probably hang the fixture from the ceiling but I am a renter so that is out of the question.

If anyone has any questions or comments, please feel free to ask away. Here is a post where I asked a few questions and some people on helped me out:

· Schroeder
1,175 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
This is where I will add new info for people that want to check back:


Question So since you added a plexi glass shield, there isn't really any reason to drill all the extra holes for the wiring was there ? Just an aesthetic thing ?
Answer I added the plexi to stop water from not only splashing on the wires but the starboard and the LED itself. Hiding the wires does little outside of pleasing my eyes.

Question Do you need to adjust the voltage?
Answer Mike from informed me that the 60-48D drivers are self adjusting between 24 and 48 volts.

Notes to Add:
-I should have gotten stainless steel bolts and nuts. The pieces I plan on buying are:
8x 1/4-20 HEX BOLT (STAINLESS STEEL) 3/4 inch long
4x 1/4-20 HEX BOLT (STAINLESS STEEL) 4 inch long
8x 1/4-20 HEX BOLT (STAINLESS STEEL) 2 1/2 inch long
This will total to 15$ including shipping from:

-I am going to add a splash guard to cover the front of the led's so I can add top-off water without worrying about ruining my fixture (I dont have a sump to add it to). I will add pictures later

-In the near future, I am going to take hot glue and put it on the holes I fed the wire though. This is just incase I splash water on the top of the heatsink. I would hate for it to be pushed into the hole and hit the circuit.

· Schroeder
1,175 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Today I finished building my canopy (my old one didn't fit my skimmer and lights at the same time) and i put the lights up. Everything was going great until... I tried to mess with the dimmers. I realized one of the connections in the potentiometer wasn't so great so I was going to use hotglue to hold the wire in place. I pulled the wire and heard a crack. I open the dimmer box to find that one of the wires was threaded but not solder... but wait there is more... I found a burned out potentiometer! Now the light works and all but that line doesnt dim. I am going to order a new one (only costs $3.50) but it doesnt make me happy :p

I have to say too that the shimmer on the rocks is cool. The shimmer on the sandbed is what I don't currently like and I have a big sandbed...

· Schroeder
1,175 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I never saw shimmer caused by led's like I am seeing in my tank. It may be because I have one of the lines off but I have to say, it seems to pulsate more than I expected. I read up on it and found someone saying that
has reduced their par but they dont see the shimmer and still have enough par to grow SPS.

I am going to see if I start to like it after a bit because I have read about a lot of people changing and liking the shimmer effect.

· Schroeder
1,175 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
probably about 20 hours or so. I messed up on my soldering (at first I soldered it all as if I had 4 drivers). That and the fact that I had NO CLUE what I was doing made it take forever. I think after doing it once, I could make a LOT nicer fixture in less than 7 hours.

· The Dude
468 Posts
have you figured out what your par is? I like the setup. I think your typing in this thread probably took longer then setting up the system. lol thank you for sharing your build here and I will be keeping an eye on your thread. cant wait to see a picture of it up and running. One thing, I think you will want to add some blue LEDs. it really brings out the shimmer and a lot of things, corals, use that color light also.

· Schroeder
1,175 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I have not figured out par. I ran into some problems with some wiring which i will explain later. Once things are good again, I will get a par meter and post my results. My XP-E bulbs produce a blue color at approximately 460nm.

· Registered
1 Posts
I think after doing it once, I could make a LOT nicer fixture in less than 7 hours.
Did my BC29 build (from Rapid LED) a month ago and it took about 8-10 hours. Could do it again in half the time. The "shimmer" does take some time getting used to, at first it looks like a heat distortion illusion, I'm used to it now and enjoying some nice coral growth.
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