I first laid eyes on the NanoCustoms Par38 LED spotlight in Atlantic City, while attending MACNA. As a long time proponent of spotlight and coral specific lighting, I was admittedly drawn to the flexibility that these medium based LED lights provided. The NanoCustoms PAR38 LED spotlight incorporates 5 Cree XR-E leds, optics, heatsink and constant […]
I first laid eyes on the NanoCustoms Par38 LED spotlight in Atlantic City, while attending MACNA. As a long time proponent of spotlight and coral specific lighting, I was admittedly drawn to the flexibility that these medium based LED lights provided.
The NanoCustoms PAR38 LED spotlight incorporates 5 Cree XR-E leds, optics, heatsink and constant current driver into the shape of a typical PAR38 lamp. Like an everyday incandescent bulb, the PAR38 LED lamp can screw into a standard household (E26/27) socket allowing many commercial fixtures to be used over the aquarium. There is no arguing that the lights are easy to use; however, as more aquarists are tempted by their form factor, the serious question is, just how bright are they?
A 12K model consisting of 2 royal blue LEDs and 3 whites, all of which were fitted with the lamp’s standard 40 degree optics, was evaluated. Photosynthetically Available Radiation (PAR) measurements were taken through open air, every 1/2″ over a 24″ square area using a calibrated Licor PAR sensor. Three separate readings were taken at 24″, 18″ and 12″. Note: Distances indicate from the base of light socket to sensor–for actual LED to sensor distances reduce the height by ~3″. Additionally, note that different optics are available for this light ranging from 8 degrees to 80.
Measurements in the charts below are measured in µmol/sec/m2 shown in gradients of 25 units for the flat chart and 50 units for the 3D chart.
[click to enlarge]
As the graphs depict, our analysis found that NanoCustoms PAR38 LED lamp can emit intense light in relatively confined areas. This makes them very practical for supplementary spotlighting or as a primary light source on nano aquariums. At this point I am hesitant to recommend employing multiple units to achieve even lighting over a large area. They can provide the intensity when used in numbers, however, given the cost of $120 per lamp and driver efficiency losses (when compared to standard external constant current drivers), full fledged LED or T5 luminaires can quickly become more attractive–never mind the limited on/off functionality of the PAR38s.
NanoCustoms does not provide an average lamp life. The stock version of this lamp from Sunpark indicates 50,000 hours for its 3,000K and 5,000K models. I have little doubt the light will illuminate for this long, but luminous decay must be considered and is where the heatsink comes into play. [Until these variables are found it is near impossible to calculate an accurate average cost of operation.]
One concern with longevity stems from the operating temperature of the lamp–the heatsink is very hot to the touch. [Heatsink temperature is not always indicative of junction temperature, but inadequate thermal management of LED lights will lead to reduced output and lifespan.] The NanoCustoms lamp does use Cree XR-E LEDs which are very robust and rated for 50,000 hours with a 70% lumen maintenance (the amount of light emitted at at time zero compared to some point in the future, in this case 50,000 hours) provided junction temperatures are maintained at or below 135C. See the graph and quote below, via Cree, for more information.
Based on internal long-term reliability testing, Cree projects that white XLamp XR-E LEDs will deliver median 70% lumen maintenance after 50,000 hours of operation at a forward current of 700 mA. This projection is based on constant current operation with junction temperature maintained at or below 135°C and ambient air temperature maintained at or below 25°C.
Cree projects royal blue, blue, green and white XLamp XR-E LEDs to maintain a mean 70% lumen maintenance after 50,000 hours, provided the LED junction temperature is maintained at or below 90°C and ambient air temperature is maintained at or below 85°C.
Due to the design of the lamp it is impossible for us to measure the actual operating junction temperature and/or model them, to see if they are in line with Cree’s recommended numbers. I would advise that these lights be used in open areas (read: no hot canopies or enclosed household light fixtures). Additionally, fans blowing on or around the lamp are a good insurance policy for long term efficiency.
Overall these lights have proven easy to use and can be incorporated into a myriad of aquarium set ups. There is no question they can emit the intensity and spectra required for our reef inhabitants, but we have yet to accumulate hard numbers on reduced light output over the life of these lamps.
Disclosure: These PAR38 LED lamps were provided by NanoCustoms for review purposes. However, as always we maintained our independence and objectivity throughout this review.