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Old 05-19-2007, 10:12 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

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Originally Posted by furballi View Post
I'd check the specs on the new ballast to see if it is rated for 36 watt. Most commercial stuffs have a 10% tolerance, so you're probably okay. Yes, I would not run a 32 watt and a 36 watt off of one ballast.

I would expect more oxidation at the ends of the wire since these are exposed to higher than average humidity. Copper will turn green when oxidized. You may want to tin all copper terminals apply RTV silicone to improve corrosion resistance.

Use an ohm meter to check the resistance from the power terminals to ground (usually the metal reflector). Anything under 100 ohm is suspect. Also make sure the body of the ballast is grounded to the 3rd round prong of your AC plug.
Hi Furballi,

Thanks so much for the tips. However, I checked with several electronics suppliers and they think that there is absolutely no problem with running a 32W and a 36W bulb off the same dual F32 electronic ballast - all that happens is that the 36W is slightly underpowered, which doesn't matter, since it's a very high efficiency bulb which throws a lot of light that is highly beneficial in photosynthesis.

Questions:

1) How exactly should I ground the body of the ballast? Just tie a wire around it and insulate it with electrical tape and run the covered wire to the third prong of the outlet? And are you sure this should be done if the wiring instructions provided no instruction for doing this?

2) How can I tin all copper terminals? With a soldering iron and raw tin soldering wire?

3) Where can I get RTV silicone to improve corrosion resistance and how would I apply it?

I tend toward adopting the simplest and least expensive solution that will work - taking everything into account, I think that the very simplest and least time consuming things to do are:

1) replace my end caps, either with the water-resistant ones I have (6 of 8 have lasted +8 years without problems) or, for $40 total, replace them with fully waterproof end caps. The problem appears to have originated from corrosion from moisture inside the end caps.

2) use polycarbonate tubes to cover my T8 bulbs to help prevent moisture from reaching the end caps and to protect the bulbs. This is simpler and easier for maintenance that using the glass tank covers I have.
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Old 05-19-2007, 12:14 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

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Originally Posted by fishstein View Post
Hi Furballi,

Thanks so much for the tips. However, I checked with several electronics suppliers and they think that there is absolutely no problem with running a 32W and a 36W bulb off the same dual F32 electronic ballast - all that happens is that the 36W is slightly underpowered, which doesn't matter, since it's a very high efficiency bulb which throws a lot of light that is highly beneficial in photosynthesis.

Questions:

1) How exactly should I ground the body of the ballast? Just tie a wire around it and insulate it with electrical tape and run the covered wire to the third prong of the outlet? And are you sure this should be done if the wiring instructions provided no instruction for doing this?

2) How can I tin all copper terminals? With a soldering iron and raw tin soldering wire?

3) Where can I get RTV silicone to improve corrosion resistance and how would I apply it?

I tend toward adopting the simplest and least expensive solution that will work - taking everything into account, I think that the very simplest and least time consuming things to do are:

1) replace my end caps, either with the water-resistant ones I have (6 of 8 have lasted +8 years without problems) or, for $40 total, replace them with fully waterproof end caps. The problem appears to have originated from corrosion from moisture inside the end caps.

2) use polycarbonate tubes to cover my T8 bulbs to help prevent moisture from reaching the end caps and to protect the bulbs. This is simpler and easier for maintenance that using the glass tank covers I have.

I look at it from a design/reliability point of view. Most commercial stuffs can handle +/-10%, but only with a balanced load. Will it work? Yes. Will it last as long as a balanced load? No. You could put four 195/60/15 tires from Michelin, Goodyear, Kumho, and BF Goodrich on your car, but that would not promote a good handling vehicle.

If each ballast is designed to drive a pair of T8s, then you should closely match that pair of T8s for best performance and stability.

UL certified ballast should come with a green wire. Connect this green wire to the ground prong of your AC plug.

Use 60/40 solder or equivalent and a soldering iron (about 30 watt) to tin the copper wire. Home Depot has RTV silicone. Apply a 1/8" to 1/4" coat to cover unprotected metal surfaces. There is no such thing as a waterproof end cap. Normal condensation will cause metal to oxidize.

I always put a glass cover on top of the aquarium and leave a 1" air gap along the length of the aquarium for gas exchange. My T8s sit 1.2" above the glass. Never had any corrosion issue.
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Old 05-24-2007, 06:15 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

1. Most endcaps will not withstand being "tinned" and still function properly. They're plastic and will either melt from the iron's heat or the copper "springs" that contact the bulb's pins will lose tension.

2. Solution is to replace all endcaps then lubricate new hardware (pins and prongs) with dielectric grease if you're concerned about corrosion. Dielectric grease is available at auto parts suppliers.

3. For safety's sake remove all electrical tape connections as well. Those are prone to corrosion also. Use a wire nut with a touch of the grease in it to make the connection tight and clean.
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Old 05-24-2007, 07:01 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

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Originally Posted by MemphisBob View Post
1. Most endcaps will not withstand being "tinned" and still function properly. They're plastic and will either melt from the iron's heat or the copper "springs" that contact the bulb's pins will lose tension.

2. Solution is to replace all endcaps then lubricate new hardware (pins and prongs) with dielectric grease if you're concerned about corrosion. Dielectric grease is available at auto parts suppliers.

3. For safety's sake remove all electrical tape connections as well. Those are prone to corrosion also. Use a wire nut with a touch of the grease in it to make the connection tight and clean.
Hi Memphis Bob,

Great advice. Thank you very much. I was concerned about melting the plastic in the end caps. Do you know where I might be able to get dielectric grease online? Is there a particular brand name under which it would be marketed?

I had been using electrical tape and you are absolutely right that while the tape connections were not inside the hood but under the tank, it's still a good idea to replace them with a wire nut.

Do you know where I can buy some wire nuts? I just haven't bought electronic parts in ages except for my ballasts and wires.

Have a few other questions, will post later today. Again, thanks for the great advice.
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Old 05-25-2007, 08:26 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

http://www.autoaccessconnect.com/digr.html
Dielectric grease. No O'reilly's in NYC? Any auto parts retailer should have Permatex or another brand.

Hardware stores will the place for wirenuts as well as wherever you buy ballasts/wires.

Corrosion of the endcaps most likely did cause your original flashing.
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Old 05-31-2007, 01:53 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

Hi Furballi,

I'm almost done refurbishing my hood. I'll have all the materials hopefully by this weekend. However, I checked and my UL approved Sylvania ballasts never game with green grounding wires to ground the ballast body to the third prong of a plug. I'll have to attach a wire to do this - do you know where on the ballast I should attach it and with what? Is there an electrical wire nut that can be used to secure the grounding wire to the ballast?

To share some good things I found out:

1) I hated using the 2 heavy glass shields (1/4 inch glass) that came with my 75 gallon aquarium and stand, which I bought second hand in great shape from someone moving out of town quickly. It was a pain (with danger of dropping and breaking them) to move them out of the way whenever I wanted to go into the tank. I checked with several sources, including lighting design companies and a plastics engineer, and it turns out that light, cheap 1/8 acrylic will give me better light transmission than the 1/4 inch glass and weight almost nothing. I'm cutting two pieces to go over the two sides of the tank. They should be easy to clean and easy to move.

2) Every end cap manufacturer should post a warning about failure of end caps from corrosion. Two highly experienced longtime aquarium specialty planted tank/reef aquarium staffers I spoke with said that all end caps eventually fail due to corrosion and/or poor contact, resulting in arcing and melting, and they loved the idea of using dielectric grease to protect the leads, which I told them I learned in this forum. I plan on posting this warning on the equipment and lighting forums. Perhaps it should be added as a sticky for lighting setup.
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Old 05-31-2007, 01:55 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

Hi Memphis Bob,

Thanks again for the great suggestion of using dielectric grease. Fantastic idea.

I'm looking for as small a quantity as I can get my hands on because a lot of us folks in NYC don't bother keeping a car (rental is only 2 blocks away for when we need).
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Old 07-27-2007, 11:16 PM   #18 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

no matter what the verdict on the meltdown, there is a more dangerous issue here. fire. i have replaced every outlet in my house that ANY aquarium accessories plugged in with GFCI. the next time it happens,(and i hope it never does),it will just trip the outlet overload and that will be enough of a warning to tell you something ain't right.

AG
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