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Old 05-17-2007, 05:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

I'm hoping someone out there can tell me why one of my endcaps "flashed" - the plastic/rubber partially melted to the end of the T8 bulb and scorched the inside of my wooden tank hood a few months ago; and then another end cap started to burn/melt today - I suddenly smelled burning plastic/rubber and noticed it was coming from the hood - and then pulled the power. The heat was high enough on that endcap to partially melt it, burn a hole through the side and fuse it to the end of the bulb.

I suspect that the culprit is either 1) age - that either the endcaps needs to be replaced after many years use or the ballasts need to be replaced OR 2) the ballasts not being able to handle the combination of one bulb at F32 Watt and one bulb at F36 Watt 3) old electronic ballasts that need to be replaced.

I've had these endcaps and electronic ballasts in continuous daily use for about 8 years. Perhaps the endcaps become dry and more vulnerable to heat over time. I do have replacement endcaps on hand, but before I use them I'd like to find out what the cause is.

Currently I'm using the best bulb combination I've ever used - each ballast is running 2 bulbs, one Phillips Aquarelle TL89 F36T8 10,000K one Phillips Advantage F32 ADV850 5000K bulb, for a total of 4 48 inch T8 bulbs in the hood. The hood is well ventilated.

Some possibly important clues:

1) The endcaps that have fried are both on the right side of the aquarium feeding off of the red (hot) white and black wires from the ballasts (the endcaps on the other side where there was no meltdown feed off the blue wires coming from the ballasts).

2) Also, the first fried endcap was on an Aquarelle bulb; the second one today was on an ADV850. So I'm not sure if it's the bulbs. Perhaps it's the combination of the 36 Watt (Aquarelle) and the 32 Watt (ADV850) on the same ballast.

3) The first endcap to fry was fed by one ballast; the endcap that fried today is fed by the other ballast.

I'd sincerely appreciate your advice - not just for the health of my tank, but for the safety of my family and other pets!
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Old 05-17-2007, 06:57 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

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Originally Posted by fishstein View Post
I'm hoping someone out there can tell me why one of my endcaps "flashed" - the plastic/rubber partially melted to the end of the T8 bulb and scorched the inside of my wooden tank hood a few months ago; and then another end cap started to burn/melt today - I suddenly smelled burning plastic/rubber and noticed it was coming from the hood - and then pulled the power. The heat was high enough on that endcap to partially melt it, burn a hole through the side and fuse it to the end of the bulb.

I suspect that the culprit is either 1) age - that either the endcaps needs to be replaced after many years use or the ballasts need to be replaced OR 2) the ballasts not being able to handle the combination of one bulb at F32 Watt and one bulb at F36 Watt 3) old electronic ballasts that need to be replaced.

I've had these endcaps and electronic ballasts in continuous daily use for about 8 years. Perhaps the endcaps become dry and more vulnerable to heat over time. I do have replacement endcaps on hand, but before I use them I'd like to find out what the cause is.

Currently I'm using the best bulb combination I've ever used - each ballast is running 2 bulbs, one Phillips Aquarelle TL89 F36T8 10,000K one Phillips Advantage F32 ADV850 5000K bulb, for a total of 4 48 inch T8 bulbs in the hood. The hood is well ventilated.

Some possibly important clues:

1) The endcaps that have fried are both on the right side of the aquarium feeding off of the red (hot) white and black wires from the ballasts (the endcaps on the other side where there was no meltdown feed off the blue wires coming from the ballasts).

2) Also, the first fried endcap was on an Aquarelle bulb; the second one today was on an ADV850. So I'm not sure if it's the bulbs. Perhaps it's the combination of the 36 Watt (Aquarelle) and the 32 Watt (ADV850) on the same ballast.

3) The first endcap to fry was fed by one ballast; the endcap that fried today is fed by the other ballast.

I'd sincerely appreciate your advice - not just for the health of my tank, but for the safety of my family and other pets!
It's not a good idea to drive two unbalanced loads with one ballast. I'd change the electronic ballast and check all wiring. Pay attention to age and moisture. Check for good isolation between the driving elements and ground. Most electronic ballast are designed to drive 32 Watt 4' T8.
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Old 05-17-2007, 08:25 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

"It's not a good idea to drive two unbalanced loads with one ballast. I'd change the electronic ballast and check all wiring. Pay attention to age and moisture. Check for good isolation between the driving elements and ground. Most electronic ballast are designed to drive 32 Watt 4' T8."

So I should not be mixing a 32 watt ADV850 bulb with a 36 watt Aquarelle on the same ballast? Would it be better to drive 2 36 watt Aquarelles on the same ballast and two 32 watt ADV850s on the other? It's also possible that my ballasts are not designed to handle the 36 watt bulbs - I might need something a bit more robust.

By checking aging and moisture, do you mean to check moisture and cracking on the wires? There's no visible damage and it's highly unlikely given where the wires are.

How can I check for good isolation between the driving elements and ground? I'm not an electrician - can you be more specific?

I sincerely appreciate your advice. This is a major safety issue I have to solve.
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Old 05-18-2007, 06:59 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

I ran this question on another planted tank forum and this is what we've come up with so far:

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Get some cooling fans first!!
__________________
---
75 Gallon
Rena FilStar xP3, Aquarium Systems Visi-Therm 200W (2), Coralife 48" Aqualight 260W 6700K

---
10 Gallon Hexagon
Hagen AquaClear 30, Visi-Therm Deluxe 50, DIY CF 20W 6500K CF, Hagen Natural CO2 System :: Bloodfin Tetra (1), Red-eye Tetra (3), Black Skirt Tetra (3), Harlequin Rasbora (6), Platy (1), Otocinclus Catfish (1) :: Rotala Indica, Hygrophila Difformis (Wisteria), Cabomba Carolina (Cabomba fanwort)
---
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Old Today, 12:16 AM #3 (permalink)
Fishstein
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The lack of a fan is not the cause - I've used these end caps and the same hood with 4 T8 48" bulbs for years without any problems. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

For all of the years I've run these end caps and ballasts except for the last 6 months, I've used them with 4 identical F32T8 48" Verilux full spectrum bulbs. $ of the same bulb.

A few months before the first end cap fried, I mixed an F36T8 Aquarelle with an F32T8 ADV850 on each of the two ballasts - perhaps running an unbalanced load on each is a problem.
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Old Today, 12:29 AM #4 (permalink)
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Fishstein,

Did you say whether you were using ODNO? If not, are the ballasts mag or electronic? If using ODNO, the caps like yours are covering part of the lamps, which get much hotter than w/ NO. Don't know how good an idea that'd be anyway.

Ballasts can & do go bad. I worked in maintenance during college & replaced a lot. Normally they don't cause probs when going bad, but...
Problems w/ any ballast, esp electronic, could be intermittent - but usually aren't. But I saw a lot that'd work ok for a few days, then act up, then normal again.

Unless you have equip to test current draw, etc., it might be better to replace ballasts. How did the metal connections in the endcaps look (before melt down), and how were the pins on lamps? Make sure all connections are clean, tight and not corroded.

Do you have glass between water & lights? If not, it's a good idea. Were both ballasts same brand / model? If they're mag, don't know how flexible those are for running diff wattage lamps at same time.
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Old Today, 12:47 AM #5 (permalink)
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** Thanks so much for the info. See ** below for answers

Fishstein,

Did you say whether you were using ODNO? If not, are the ballasts mag or electronic? If using ODNO, the caps like yours are covering part of the lamps, which get much hotter than w/ NO. Don't know how good an idea that'd be anyway.

** By ODNO, do you mean over-driven normal output? I don't know how to set that up. My ballasts are simply standard F32T8 electronic ballasts, each designed to handle 2 bulbs. Perhaps the ballasts can't handle the 36 W bulbs or can't handle balancing a 36 watt and a 32 watt on the same ballast. I'll also ask my local lighting wholesaler - I hope they know.

Ballasts can & do go bad. I worked in maintenance during college & replaced a lot. Normally they don't cause probs when going bad, but...
Problems w/ any ballast, esp electronic, could be intermittent - but usually aren't. But I saw a lot that'd work ok for a few days, then act up, then normal again.

Unless you have equip to test current draw, etc., it might be better to replace ballasts. How did the metal connections in the endcaps look (before melt down), and how were the pins on lamps? Make sure all connections are clean, tight and not corroded.

** There may have been some corrosion after so many years, especially since I don't keep glass between bulbs and water. I'll have to check. Is it possible that all I need to do is replace the old end caps that might have corrosion on the leads?

Do you have glass between water & lights? If not, it's a good idea. Were both ballasts same brand / model? If they're mag, don't know how flexible those are for running diff wattage lamps at same time.

** I don't keep glass between the water and the bulbs because it really reduces the quality of the light getting into the water, and my tank, while it's not super deep, is a 75 gallon 48" L by 18" W and 18" H, and with this setup, and the bulbs I have, I can get great growth without using more lights and more power by not using glass. A lot of aquarists I know recommend not using glass between the bulbs and the water. The bulbs are about 6 inches above the water and the hood is very well ventilated by cutouts on the back and top of the hood.
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Old Today, 04:26 AM #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishstein View Post

Do you have glass between water & lights? If not, it's a good idea. Were both ballasts same brand / model? If they're mag, don't know how flexible those are for running diff wattage lamps at same time.

** I don't keep glass between the water and the bulbs because it really reduces the quality of the light getting into the water, and my tank, while it's not super deep, is a 75 gallon 48" L by 18" W and 18" H, and with this setup, and the bulbs I have, I can get great growth without using more lights and more power by not using glass. A lot of aquarists I know recommend not using glass between the bulbs and the water. The bulbs are about 6 inches above the water and the hood is very well ventilated by cutouts on the back and top of the hood.
I'm sorry to say, but your aquarist friends reccomendations are making your tank electrically unsafe for the sake of a tiny light loss. Using a shield is pretty much necessary in a closed hood. If you're going to suspend lights above an open tank with a good air space, it might be better. I'm not sure who would tell you to suspend a light 6 inches above the water with no shield. This very well could be the cause of your short circuit - one fish breaking the surface of the water or a particularly high evaporation cycle would be all it would take to douse a fluorescent endcap with water. If you're worried about light problems, you can make a shield out of acrylic or fused quartz as they interfere very little with the spectra, but you need something in there to isolate the electrical system from the water area.

-Rich
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Old Today, 09:16 AM #7 (permalink)
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Did you have the little gaskets in place and are you using waterproof endcaps? If not, there may have been corrosion in the endcaps which caused arcing.
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Unread Today, 10:56 AM #8 (permalink)
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I'm using Coralife/Energy Savers water-resistant end caps (water-resistant, not waterproof). I am 99% sure the problem emanates from corrosion in the end caps.

I once dropped one of the end caps (when it was off) in the tank and though I let it dry for two days, that was the end cap that originally fried a few months later. As for the other end cap that fried, that was probably related to cumulative corrosion in the end cap over a period of 8 years. I think my best first bet is to replace the end caps with either new water-resistant end caps (I have enough spares to replace them all), or better yet, to replace them with fully waterproof end caps (just saw Ice Cap waterproof end caps for T8 here: http://www.aquariumplants.com/Ice_Ca...ir_p/ic738.htm ). Anyone know of any other waterproof end caps worth checking out?

Two things that I'd like to verify:

1) whether or not the ballasts can safely handle one 36 watt and one 32 watt on each ballast - in other words, can the dual F32 electronic ballasts handle the mixed wattage - everyone I asked in electronic stores when I bought them said yes. But I want to double check.

2) I have glass shields that go over the top of my aquarium water. However, they are very thick (about 1/4-1/3 inch glass) and do cut a lot of light, and are a real pain to keep clean and clear; they also keep the water temp higher and cut down on gas exchange to keep good oxygen in the water. What I might consider, if it was safe, is to use clear T8 tube covers the likes of which I have on my 48 in. F32 T8 Verilux full spectrum bulbs that I have in ceiling fixtures in my home office. These are clear tubes that cover the entire bulb and protect it from splashes, dust, etc. and protect people from a shattered bulb. The Question is whether these plastic sleeves, when used inside a hood (granted a hood with a lot of the back cut out for ventilation), keep too much heat around the bulb. Anyone ever use these clear plastic tube shields inside a hood?
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Old 05-18-2007, 09:06 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

I'm 99% certain at this point that the issue was just corrosion in the end caps after many years use (and in the case of one end cap, from a dunking in water) - they've been in use for more than 8 years over water. I'll share anything I find out from my local electronics suppliers as well. Using waterproof end caps rather than my water resistant end caps would probably help.
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Old 05-18-2007, 09:21 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

This is what a poster in the other planted tank forum suggested just now:

"It's not a ballast/bulb combo problem and cooling fans won't stop it. The problem is the contacts in the endcap are loose. This causes a bad electrical connection, which makes for a high resistance and it sometimes arcs and always gets hot. You may be able to "squeeze" the female connectors in the endcaps a little with pliers to tighten them up. It's a common problem on molded endcaps for a lot of types of lighting."

Either it's a loose connection and/or corrosion in the end caps. Both explanations are highly likely.
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Old 05-18-2007, 01:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

Thank you for all the good research. I run 4 x 32watt T8 Philips on my canopy. BUT, i've wanted to add a different bulb or two into the canopy because of the CRI of the philips daytime deluxe bulbs. I'll be watching my endcaps very closely to see if i find anything of the sort...

BTW Where did you get your flourcent fixtures?
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Old 05-18-2007, 03:05 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

I built them - picked up the electronic ballasts at the local electronic/lighting store and the end caps from That Fish Place (they are Coralife/Energy Savers water-resistant). Then I took some cheap extension cords to make the extra wiring I needed, and used electric tape to make the connections. I never had a problem for more than 8 years until this end cap issue.

I'm 99.9% the issue is the end caps - either corrosion or bad connection.

I spoke with several electronics suppliers - all said that there should not be a power issue with the F32 watt dual ballasts running a 36 W and a 32 W - what winds up happening is that your 36 W is a little underpowered what it could be. But given how bright it is already, and how amazingly beneficial the Aquarelle wavelength is for photosynthesis and for highlighting certain colors in your tank, believe me you don't need that few watts of extra power.
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Old 05-18-2007, 03:13 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

By the way, I did find out Ice Cap makes waterproof end caps, which might not be a bad idea, and I might use polycarbonate tubes with very thin walls to protect the tubes and electric leads from moisture and corrosion (see my post on the polycarbonate tubes in this same forum).
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Old 05-18-2007, 11:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help! Sudden Melting/burning Endcaps

Quote:
Originally Posted by fishstein View Post
"It's not a good idea to drive two unbalanced loads with one ballast. I'd change the electronic ballast and check all wiring. Pay attention to age and moisture. Check for good isolation between the driving elements and ground. Most electronic ballast are designed to drive 32 Watt 4' T8."

So I should not be mixing a 32 watt ADV850 bulb with a 36 watt Aquarelle on the same ballast? Would it be better to drive 2 36 watt Aquarelles on the same ballast and two 32 watt ADV850s on the other? It's also possible that my ballasts are not designed to handle the 36 watt bulbs - I might need something a bit more robust.

By checking aging and moisture, do you mean to check moisture and cracking on the wires? There's no visible damage and it's highly unlikely given where the wires are.

How can I check for good isolation between the driving elements and ground? I'm not an electrician - can you be more specific?

I sincerely appreciate your advice. This is a major safety issue I have to solve.
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.
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