Digital Light Control
It should make intuitive sense that providing both plants and animals with a more natural light cycle is generally beneficial for their well being. However, most vivariums are using simple on/off timers to control the light, as well as running at at 100% output all the time.
With this generic Chinese digital control unit, five separate 12v DC output channels can be controlled in a wide variety of ways. The stock programming assumes five lights are being used, but four lights and one channel to run fans is a well tested approach. The programs can easily be setup to your custom needs prior to shipping if the stock options discussed here don't match what you're looking for.
If you need or order a night light (blue usually), then one channel on this controller will be used to control that channel of LED lights.
When combined with a LED driver (350w output) and a light panel, you've got a fully functional system that can easily mimic solar cycles found in the tropics. To further mimic Nature, there are 11, 12, 13 and 14 hour cycles that help you simulate seasonal and regional light variations.
Included with every unit is programming that I have setup. Not only can you choose a light cycle between 11 and 14 hours, there are two options for each cycle. A "standard" light profile and an "X" version for more output.
• Standard: Peak intensity of 100% lasting for 2 hours at midday. Best for vivariums that are already grown in, or if you prefer to have less light for the sake of the animals. Plants grow very well under these balanced conditions. Intended to most closely mimic solar cycles.
• "X" (extra): Peak intensity of 100% lasting for 3 hours at midday, with more light than the standard profile on either side of that peak. "X" is best for new vivariums and maximum plant growth.
Here's the "mode" choices you will see on the controllers menu (as you scroll through the options on it). These are shipped with every controller:
- 11_Hrs (standard)
- 11x_Hrs (extra light)
The "ALL_OFF" and "ON_n%" modes are all manual run settings and the controller will not run anything automatically. The lights will continue indefinitely running your choice until you select another mode option.
The "ON_" settings are a percentage of full power. With no AC in my house, I find the ON_25 setting useful on hot days (almost zero added heat). To resume normal automatic operation, you must choose one of the hourly cycles.
The "nn_Hrs" programs are all automatic light cycles that have a sunrise, sunset and mid day peak intensity at 100% (the "X" designates the higher output program). The rest of the day the light will run at an intensity less than 100%. This results in a lot less heat being produced by the light overall (even though these lights are not hot by anyone's standards).
- 11_Hrs -- comes on at 7am, off at 6pm
- 12_Hrs -- comes on at 7am, off at 7pm
- 13_Hrs -- comes on at 6am, off at 7pm
- 14_Hrs -- comes on at 6am, off at 8pm
If those start times do not work for your daily schedule, you can go into the menu system on the controller to alter the current time. For instance, if you're running the 12 hour program (normal start time of 7am) and would like your lights to come on at 9am everyday, simply alter the current time on the controller by 2 hours.
Or, using the included program disc, USB connection cord and instructions, you can tailor your own programs to be whatever you would like them to be (including using 1 of the 5 channels to run fans or other 12v devices).
There is a learning curve, there are a few usability bugs to work around, but overall I found the programming app for this controller to be fairly easy to learn. If you can use an Excel spreadsheet, you can learn to program this controller yourself.