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Thread: Metal-Case LED Light Safety

  1. #11

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    When they come in direct from China that is bypassed because so much stuff goes unchecked at customs. Unfortunately, a lot of the "UK" sellers are based in China, so difficult, if not impossible to enforce upon them. Mention it to genuine UK sellers and they act shocked and "don't realise"!!!

    Another dodgy area is 13A plugs in the UK. Some items don't need to be earthed, so a plastic earth pin is acceptable. Class 1 appliances must be earthed and plugs must comply with BS1363. This means the earth pin should be completely metal. Some cheap plugs/ pc leads come with a earth pin with plastic at the top totally illegal!! Finally, I have purchased items with a dummy UK plug which looks identical to a real one, but.... There is no fuse holder inside!!!

    Lets be careful out there folks. The World is easier to trade with these days, but safety standards are universal!!!

  2. #12
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    Another problem with most of the metal 240/120 volt lights, is that in order to save more money, they often make the 240/120 volt cord very short, usually just a few inches:

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    This means that the rest of the 240/120 volt wire needs to be connected at this point, and almost any connection made by anyone is not going to be hermetically sealed. This connection is going to be placed directly over open areas of sump water, and therefore it’s going to get a lot of salt creep and even direct splashing. There is no fix for this; the wire should be replaced entirely.

    If you are going to DIY and already have a set of these metal-case lights, you are best advised to not use them and just get a safer light instead. At the very least, use a GFCI protector, available at any hardware store. A safer option would be a low voltage DC version of the same light, with a remote power supply that either comes with it, or that you get and connect yourself (just make sure to get a UL certified supply if it's for the USA). With a really long 2-meter DC cord like we use, the 240/120 volts can at least be placed far away from the sump. However, this does not solve everything for these metal case lights.

    Splashes from the sump, and from the top of all-in-one nano tanks, can easily reach the power supply box especially if the box is kept in the sump cabinet or behind the cabinet on the floor. A splash (or even very thick wet carpet) can short the 240/120 volt AC side of the box to the low voltage DC side, effectively electrifying the "safe" side to 240/120 volts.

    These low voltage DC lights typically are not grounded on their DC side, so when the 240/120 volts hits the LED diodes inside, the diodes are either going to fail open, or fail closed. If you are having a bad day, they will fail closed. The lights typically use Chip-On-Board (COB) designs which put the diodes within one millimeter of the ground plane, and a 240/120 volt shorted diode will easily arc to the nearest piece of metal which is probably now going to be the metal case. So you once again have a 240/120 electrified case waiting to be touched in your sump area, and you will no doubt be touching and grabbing the light to inspect why it is no longer turning on. Thus even low-voltage metal case lights can be electrocution hazards.

    The metal case of these lights is a major problem for safety. Metal obviously conducts electricity, and any 240/120 volt wire that touches the inside of the case is going to electrify the case and cause an electrocution hazard. Especially when you remember that the floor where you are standing is often, and predictably, wet. Unfortunately since the metal case is also the enclosure for the electrical parts, there is no DIY or pre-made solution for this. All you can do is disassemble each light and inspect for visible problems, and test for electrical safety. And if you don’t know how to test, get an electrician to do it for you; the metal case must be grounded to earth.

  3. #13

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    I have noticed that these lights are now on sale with a 12v supply. I have 2x 230v of these lights with 660nm led in that I have never used because of the safety aspect. I think the 12v supply is a good way to go, but finding a seller that also sells them in other than white! Another suggestion could be to remove the 230v driver from the light casing and extend the 12v side, leaving the driver outside of the aquarium environment.

  4. #14
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    This is better, yes. But for manufacturers, you can never depend on what the customer will do. They may set the 12v supply next to their sump and easily spill water on it, thus shorting the line to the case/LEDs and once again putting 230v into the case as described above.

    Also can't depend on customers using a GFI.

  5. #15
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    Another problem with most of the metal 240/120 volt lights, is that in order to save more money, they often make the 240/120 volt cord very short, usually just a few inches:

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    This means that the rest of the 240/120 volt wire needs to be connected at this point, and almost any connection made by anyone is not going to be hermetically sealed. This connection is going to be placed directly over open areas of sump water, and therefore it’s going to get a lot of salt creep and even direct splashing. There is no fix for this; the wire should be replaced entirely all the way into the case.

    Some scrubbers, both DIY and pre-made, have an open top. We created the first open-top scrubber box, but decided even in 2008 to put a cover over it because of the large amount of spray and salt creep coming out of the top. Here is one of our forum posts in 2008 showing the design:


    Before this design in 2008, scrubbers were either dumping buckets or horizontal rivers. Those worked but had even more problems than our waterfall, and the buckets/rivers were not 2-sided like our waterfall was (with lights on both sides of the growing surface; very important for filtering). But even with our waterfall, the screen sometimes would fill with growth and would clog the water slot, causing water to spray up and out of the box, onto the lights. Back then we watched for this, and DIY people even expected it. But using metal-case lights on a open-top box could have water spraying directly onto the lights, which as shown above, could leak right into the case through a seal that is no longer sealed.

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    The DIY and the pre-made solution is to close the top of the scrubber box. However this does nothing during cleaning/harvest time, because the pipe and screen need to be lifted up and out of the box, and this causes lots of saltwater to drip down directly onto the lights. Even pieces of algae will fall onto the lights, seeping into the seal:

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    Our solution with our RAIN design was to switch to a dome with our submersible non-metal GEM lights:

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    Another hazard of our previous waterfall design, especially when there is no top “shelf” covering the light, is that in order to lift the screen out of the box (for cleaning) you need to place your other hand onto the box to hold it down; the proximity of the lights (to the top) causes your hand to touch the metal case when doing this. This is the worst case scenario for electrocution because as you learn when repairing televisions, it creates the most direct and shortest path of electricity from one arm to the other, directly through your heart. The DIY solution for this is to make a large top shelf over the lights that will absolutely not allow your hand to touch the lights. The pre-made solution can be similar, but the real solution is to change the power supply to a remote low-voltage, AC/DC isolated, UL certified power supply. Like we did.

    A safer solution that all DIY and commercial scrubber makers can use is a remote “switching” power supply with at least 3000 volts isolation from the mains, with a long 2 meter DC cable so the 240/120 volt box can be far away from any splashing, wet carpet, interested children, pets, etc. The power supply needs to be UL certified with the “eXXXXXX” number on its label, so you can cross-check its manufacturer yourself on the UL website. We have had more than one Chinese supplier say they had UL certification, but upon checking, they were actually using the number from another company and thus providing an inferior untested product, even though the price was increased! Lastly, the enclosure for the lights should not be metal, even if they are low voltage. This will protect the customer even if the power supply box is splashed because the 240/120 volts will not have a metal case to conduct to, and injure, the customer.

    Speaking of injury, when a personal injury attorney contacts a commercial scrubber maker because of an injury claim, it might go something like: “So, you are saying that your 240/120 volt device, being sold in the U.S., has no UL certification. And it places 240/120 volts within a single hand’s distance from saltwater. And the pink light, known to attract children, is visible from outside the aquarium cabinet, and the floor in front of the cabinet is often, and predictably, wet. And your device has no GFCI or RCD circuit or other means of breaking an electrical short. And, these waterfall scrubbers are known to spray water upwards and outwards, onto surrounding surfaces, such as the surface that my client’s child touched?” This will be indefensible.

    240/120 volts simply has no business being inside of a non-hermetically sealed metal enclosure that is subjected to hand placement, salt creep, and direct splashing by saltwater. The commercial pre-made scrubbers using these lights are the only aquarium equipment I know of that does this, and they need to be made more safely. So I challenge all pre-made commercial scrubber makers to replace their metal case lights with safer options. Yes these options will cost more, and you will lose a lot of your profit. But I bet you can do it. Like we did.

    Further, all customers that already purchased metal-case lights should be offered to have the lights replaced with safer alternatives. Each month that goes by allows corrosion and salt creep to penetrate into the seals further, and so the sooner these hazardous lights can be replaced, the better. Eventually, all the seals will leak.

    Commercial scrubber makers have the final say in obtaining professional electrical safety design advice; specifying safe components; assembling the components properly, marketing them accurately, and standing behind them with personal injury liability insurance coverage. Here is a checklist that you can send to anyone you want to buy a pre-made scrubber from (you can also use it for buying just the lights, although some of the questions will not apply). The fewer answers you get from these questions, the more concerned you should be:


    - Is their overall scrubber design certified by an electrical engineer, electronics engineer, electrician, or safety technician who can testify as an expert witness in a personal injury court if required to?

    - Do they have personal injury liability insurance for their customers?

    - Are they a licensed business in their city?

    - Do they have a DBA (Doing Business As) license in their county?

    - Do they have a reseller's permit in their state?

    - Is the enclosure for the 240/120 volts certified (in the USA) by Underwriters Laboratory, with an "eXXXXXX" certificate number printed on it?

    - For metal enclosures, has every enclosure had it's ground path tested to the ground pin of the power plug before shipping?

    - If the lights are dropped into saltwater, will they continue to function?

    - If a remote power supply, and if the power supply box gets wet, is the metal case insulated from the 240/120 volts?

    - If the 240/120 volt cord goes into the enclosure for the lights, does it have a non spliced length all the way to the plug?


    Thank you for reading, and for wanting improved safety in your home!

    Note: The above is one person's professional opinion on the safety of algae scrubber lights. You should consult your own professional advice and opinion from an independent electrical engineer, electronics engineer, electrician, or safety technician.

  6. #16
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    Now I would like to point out an even more dangerous light: the open-metal-frame indoor plant grow light. The "waterproof" lights I covered above are bad enough, but now people are starting to actually use indoor non-waterproof lights that not only have an open-air frame for water and algae to get into, but also have open 240/120 volt connections in the direct path of water:

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    Not only are these lights not going to last in the salt air humid environment of a sump, but out-of-the-box they create an extreme electrical hazard:

    - The open frame allows water to drip down directly onto the high voltage components inside.
    - Salt spray is going to get pulled through the unit, via the fans, which will corrode and/or short internal components.
    - The open high voltage power cord connections are in the direct path of splashing, dripping, and even simple accidental dropping into the sump.
    - Internal condensation, which already happens with the "sealed" type of lights when moisture eventually gets inside, is going to happen on the first day with these open-frame lights.
    - Placing these lights into enclosed scrubber boxes reduces the circulation of cooling air, which further stresses the internal components.
    - Using this type of light is the same as putting a lab benchtop power supply on top of saltwater; all circuitry is directly exposed to water.

    Since these lights are clearly labeled (or should be labeled) as indoor-only, any usage of them in a worse-than-outdoor situation (such as a wet saltwater sump) puts a manufacturer or distributor in a very bad situation of negligence and possibly willful negligence. Please do not use these lights, ever.

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