DIY, heavy-duty, weather-proof UV light and photo-switch system

Perhaps you are like me and need to run a UV light for insects even when it rains, or especially when it rains (think rain beetles). I have chewed through a bunch of the off the shelf UV lights over the years because they are not made to get wet. Neither the ballast nor the photoelectric switch from BioQuip is designed to be exposed to rain. Plastic bags and duct tape can only do so much.

At lest BioQuip is up front about the limits of their gear.

At lest BioQuip is up front about the limits of their gear. “Protect from dampness?” When am I not damp in the field?

Given my need for a ‘rain or shine light,’ I looked at the kind of materials used in off-road vehicles, marine applications and home, 12 volt solar systems to see what was being used to run lights that must stand up to the elements day in and day out.

The system I built has a number of advantages over the pre-made systems; 1. minimum 16 gauge wire for better flow of current and less heat, 2. fully sealed aluminum circuit box protects the ballast from water and acts as a heat sink, 3. in-line fuse protects ballast from over amping, 4. the marine-grade photoelectric switch is completely weather proof.

The cost of materials is very similar to the pre-made systems, with the DIY one a bit cheaper ($115 v. $134).

Itemized list of items needed to make the UV light system w/switch and costs compared to standard BioQuip equivalent. Shipping and tax not included in prices.

Itemized list of what is needed to make the UV light system w/switch and the costs compared to the standard BioQuip equivalent. Shipping and tax not included in prices.

The BioQuip light + switch system is smaller and lighter. If you need light weight for a long hike then this is not the design for that. If you use cheaper materials you can make a very basic fair weather light cheaper still, but you get what you pay for. There is the advantage that when you buy a system you don’t spend the time and effort to build it and if it fails you might be able to return it for repair or replacement (But not if you leave it out in the rain. Remember “protect from dampness.”)

But if you like to DIY then here is some more information that can help you see how I built mine.

The complete system looks like this. The numbers refer to items in the table above. The wires are quite short for my application, but given the gauge they could be much long and still work very well.

The complete system looks like this. The numbers refer to items in the table above. The wires are quite short for my application, but given the gauge they could be much long and still work very well.

This shows the circuit box with the ballast mounted inside. The red 'a' indicates where I drilled a hole to run the wires through the external mounting holes. This was then filled with marine-grade silicon sealant (10).

This shows the circuit box with the ballast mounted inside. The red ‘a’ indicates where I drilled a hole to run the wires through the external mounting holes. This was then filled with marine-grade silicon sealant (10).

In order to hold the ballast firmly in the circuit box I made a small clip out of sheet aluminum (c) and used the tab on the ballast (a) to hold one end and the internal grounding screw (b) to mount it to the box.

In order to hold the ballast firmly in the circuit box I made a small clip out of sheet aluminum (c) and used the tab on the ballast (a) to hold one end and the internal grounding screw (b) to mount it to the box.

The photoswitch (4) was mounted using one of the box's external mounting hole and the wires were run out the other. Marine-grade silicon sealant (10) was used to seal around the wire exit hole.

The photoswitch (4) was mounted using one of the box’s external mounting holes and the wires were run out the other. Marine-grade silicon sealant (10) was used to seal around the wire exit hole.

The end of the tubes fit perfectly into a cut off standard 50ml centrifuge tube that was drilled for the wires (b). The ends then are wrapped in shot sections of the tube mesh cover and secured with a zip-tie (11).

The end of the tubes fit perfectly into a cut off standard 50ml centrifuge tube that was drilled for the wires (b). The ends then are wrapped in short sections of the tube mesh cover and secured with a zip-tie (11).

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About Kip Will

I'm an insect systematist with expertise in carabid beetles, who is always happiest in the bush.
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