Richard Aspinall investigates TMC’s first luminaire
Images: Richard Aspinall
TMC can rightly be said to have been at the start of the LED revolution in the aquarium world with the AquaRay all those years ago. Since then the UK-based company has continued to produce modular units that have seen regular updates to include the newest LEDs, lenses and a fair amount of waterproofing. Despite the company’s leading position in the industry, it has never had a luminaire in its range, until now that is.
I first saw one of the iLumenAir units at last year’s Aqua tradeshow. Shop owners (and me), were invited into a small room, offered coffee and introduced to the light. I think we all knew that the ‘mystery’ product was going to be a luminaire, but we were keen to know how it would perform and importantly, where it would sit amongst its peers in terms of price. The 900 it turns out will be available at £399.99, which is not a bad price at all.
The unit comes in a slim box, along with the mounting kit, controller and instructions, a hanging kit is available separately, but appears to use the standard ‘grip’ fittings. To secure the unit on top off a tank, two aluminium legs are inserted into each end of the unit and secured using grub screws. These are then screwed into a plastic plate which rests on the tank’s sides. Retaining clips can then be fitted to stop the unit sliding one way or the other.
The whopping power supply comes in a separate box and is fitted with a long cable to allow you to hide it well out of the way. The 24v power output is supplied to the iLumenAir and secured using an O ring-sealed screw-fit coupling – a nice touch. The aluminium cased PSU has its own power switch.
On powering up, the unit quickly ramps up to whatever time its memory is set to, before you then determine the time and the program you wish to set.
The iLumenAir is in effect a large heat sink. Sitting on top are two fans which blow air onto the unit’s chassis to provide cooling where it is most needed, in this case, on top of the two multi-chip ‘white’ LED arrays. I could hear a little noise from the fans, but they weren’t troublesome and of course will not activate continuously, assuming you set the unit in anything other than purely daylight mode. According to the instructions, the fans will activate at around 38 degrees centigrade, you may find you can amend your program to stay under this threshold.
The chassis is trimmed with two acrylic strips that run on the outside edges of the unit. These are illuminated by blue LEDs which are hidden in the unit’s ends. These look great, but can be turned off if not needed.
Underneath the unit you note that the separate LEDs and the two arrays have a frosted glass cover that has clear areas directly over the LEDs themselves. This cover is secured using six Allen-key type screws which have collars of silicone around the threads to limit water ingress. However the edges of the glass plate are not sealed where they rest against the chassis of the unit, so do be careful of splashing. On either side of the glass plate are two plastic covers that can be slid aside to access the connectors and electronics inside. I assume that this is to make repair and perhaps upgrades easier in the future.
As noted, the white component of the iLumenAir’s output is provided by two multi-chip LED arrays, with an output of 6,500 Kelvin. The actinic/blue component is provided by 24 blue LEDs (465nm). The third channel uses three green (530nm), three red (640nm) and three amber LEDs (605nm). When all the LEDs are running the unit’s rated output is 170watts.
I had at first expected that the multi-chip LEDs might cause noticeable hotspots underneath them and even some shadowing, but this wasn’t the case and is borne out by the PAR readings. I liked the glitter lines provided, which weren’t too obtrusive and those lovely 465nm blue LEDs gave a great colour during the moonlight mood. As for the sunset and sunrise modes – they look great and if you’ve never seen your zoanthids under red and yellow frequencies then you’re missing a treat.
Programming of the three channels is quite straightforward and is carried out with the wireless remote control. This slim unit, smaller than a pack of cards, controls all of the unit’s functions, leaving the iLumenAir free of buttons and the salty fingerprints that they attract.
When you power the iLumenAir for the first time, you to set the time and then cycle through the five time period modes setting the levels of the three channels within each one. For example, the mauve button refers to the ‘dawn’ mode. In each mode you set its duration and the level of each channel before moving onto the orange button (sunrise) and so on through daylight, sunset and finally moon. Helpfully TMC offer some suggested settings for different coral types within tanks of differing depth and deploy this information in the instructions along with images of the unit’s display screen to ensure you are inputting the correct settings.
Users can turn the unit off or on, run through various demos and tell the unit whether it is slaved to another unit. I assume this will be achieved via linking two or more units together in series using cables (there is a 3.5mm socket located near the ‘IN’ mark). There is also a button (on the remote), and a function that allows users to display the temperature of the unit as well as the unit’s power consumption in watts. Users can also select a storm mode.
It is just about impossible to adequately test one LED against another, unless you have banks of tanks, set up with identical corals with identical water conditions and all set up to run for several months. Without the funds or space for such a laboratory we are left with few objective measures other than PAR readings.
|Depth (cm)||Horizontal distance from centre of unit (cm)||0||10||20||30|
PAR readings in μmol m2 per second, using an Apogee MQ 200 meter. The iLumenAir was suspended at 20cm above the water surface and all channels set to 32 (100%). Readings taken from centre can be assumed to be identical in either direction along the unit’s main axis. This was borne out in testing with only a minor variation (less than 5%) – this was not considered significant
The first thing to note here is the unit’s power – don’t sit this atop a tank and turn it on to 100% – you’ll no doubt cause some bleaching! Clearly the bulk of the power is coming from the white channel, so this is the one you are going to want to focus on when acclimating corals.
Secondly, look at the even nature of the power output, You can have even PAR distribution down to 30cm (and presumably more), across a horizontal distance of 40cm, this will make placement of corals much more easy with a known area of the tank in which lighting conditions are roughly similar.
Overall, you get a fair amount for your money. High PAR, with an even distribution, great functionality and wireless control. I can’t really find much to fault with the iLumenAir, this is a unit that will happily light tanks just over a metre wide and at this price it deserves to be on everyone’s consideration list.
The iLumenAir is ideal for TMC’s Signature 90 aquarium and will, when the iLumenAir 600 is released, be ideal for the Signature 60. Having said that, it will look great on any tank and is a very welcome addition to the market.