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News & Updates

May 10, 2017

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UVB Meter Owners, Thread Excerpt


Frances Baines of UV Guide UK has posted the following message on the UVB Meter Owners Group, and given us permission to re-post it here.

Hi, everyone.

Yesterday, I spent over an hour on the phone with Bob MacCargar, owner of ReptileUV, and I put all these worrying questions across to him and he has told me the full story. I have his permission to relay everything he told me to you all. However, some of the problems were very personal family issues - which I will not go into on a public forum.

The problems you've all been having with lamps and orders from ReptileUV are NOT because it's a scam, or a fraud, or anything like that, at all. Robert Allen recently asked a very reasonable question on this forum, he said, " I think it would help us a bit if we at least knew even a little bit about what the problem is: ie. quality of deliverables, or lack of enough manpower to run a business, or illness, etc. "

The answer is, all three of these things. Please bear with me and I'll explain in full.

First, "lack of enough manpower to run a business." ReptileUV is not a company like we imagine a company - with CEO and directors, offices and office staff, warehouses and research-and-development department, advertising department, sales department. ReptileUV is one of the best institutions in modern society, but one of the most vulnerable - a tiny family business. (I have known this for a fact since I first started testing lamps, and Bob MacCargar sent me a Mega-Ray to test, in 2004.) ReptileUV is one room set aside in a busy little car repair workshop, called C&G Paint and Body. http://www.candgpaintandbody.com/ The CEO of ReptileUV is Bob; the Shipping Manager right now is his very young son Sam. There are no other staff at all. The entire stock of lamps are in a room at the back of the workshop, and the R&D room consists of a bench with a long row of fixtures.... and Bob tests every single lamp by hand (more about the lamp problem later...)

Bob runs the car workshop - also a family business - with a very small staff, including his elder son, and in the present financial climate he has to spend almost all his time under a car. Sam, his younger son, has only just started work with ReptileUV and is learning fast how to take orders, process them, find the lamps, pack them in boxes and take them to the mail, and how to answer emails from the many upset customers after the problems with the lamps (more later). Several of Bob's friends and family have acted as Shipping Managers in the past, the most recent one was Jimmy Kuhn who lives 200 miles from the premises, so he had to do almost everything online - so even though he did his very best, as you can imagine this didn't work out. Bob never intended ReptileUV to be a big online reptile lamp supply company, the sort that accepts hundreds of orders one day and ships them the next. He invented the lamp (with an idea given to him by seeing the UV curing lamps he uses on car paint) as part of his work as an iguana re-habilitator and then discovered that people wanted to buy it.

My impression is that the demand was already almost outstripping their ability to supply it, toward the end of 2009, when everything crashed. And that brings us to point two: "quality of deliverables".

In 2009, Bob's MegaRay mercury vapour lamps were becoming known as some of the best available, and sales were going well. Research into a metal halide version was well under way, and small numbers of metal halide kits also went into production. I tested these and the lamps got an excellent report, but unfortunately there were big problems finding a reliable ballast. All these lamps were being made on one production line, by a small Canadian company called Westron. But unfortunately, things went badly wrong. It's history, now, that towards the end of 2009, all the reptile lamps made by Westron - mercury vapours and halides, (and not just those they made for ReptileUV) started to emit very short wavelength UVB, owing to a problem sourcing the right glass. Not all reptiles were affected but some were developing photo-kerato-conjunctivitis and skin problems, because these wavelengths are hazardous. I helped in the analysis of the problem. Bob MacCargar acted immediately, and recalled hundreds of lamps and offered refunds. This was a financial disaster of course. Westron were unable to obtain the right glass, and could not find a way of re-creating the original safe lamp output. Bob spent months trying to find a way of re-coating the hundreds of lamps ReptileUV had in stock, to block the short-wavelength UVB. I tested many of their "coating" prototypes (as I have tested many prototypes for other companies, too.) Unfortunately, although they found a satisfactory coating, it turned out to disintegrate with prolonged use, so in the end it was useless - more lamp recalls, more losses. There would be no more of the original MegaRays - no mercury vapour lamps and no halides. Bob MacCargar had no option, but to source his lamps elsewhere. The problem was that the glass and interior coating that made the MegaRay such a good lamp required a very fussy manufacturing process. You can't just buy these cheaply, mass-produced and straight out of a Chinese factory.

Lamps sourced from a variety of manufacturers never quite met Bob's specs, although all through 2010 he managed to source small batches of clear-faced PAR38 mercury vapour lamps from China, which he tested individually to ensure none had hazardous short-wavelength UVB. There were no more halides, though, once the remaining early production samples from Westron were sold.

In the fall of 2010, Bob negotiated with Stefan Immke of Econlux, a small German lamp importer and distributor, who sells UVB reptile lamps in Germany under the brand name Solar Raptor. (As it happens, I tested the Solar Raptor mercury vapour lamp earlier that year - it had a very narrow beam, but a good UVB output with no abnormally short-wavelength UVB.) Together, Bob and Stefan arranged for the lamp to be redesigned a little, with a wider beam, made in USA voltage, and packaged in a new black box with both ReptileUV and Solar Raptor logos. This was launched in the USA and Europe in 100w and 160w versions. Solar Raptor also market 35W and 70W metal halide kits. Bob took various samples of these as well, with the aim of becoming a distributor for Solar Raptor halides if they could find a suitable USA voltage ballast.... and all went well at first.....

But then, although both 100W and 160W European versions, and the 160w USA version of the new Solar Raptor MegaRay have been proving successful, problems soon developed with the 100w USA lamp. The filament used for 100w in USA voltage was weak, and a high percentage of 100w lamps were burning out prematurely. This has been a catastrophe. Bob is now individually testing every 100w lamp before shipping, again, and is buried under another mountain of returns and refunds. He is about to start replacing all the 100W Solar Raptor MegaRays with 130W lamps (the extra strength of a 130W filament should remove the problem) which have been ordered but - since they are being made specially for him - the order is taking a while to arrive. As soon as they have arrived, Bob says he will be shipping out both new orders and "replacements" for the warranty returns. Their ordering system is close to meltdown at the moment, with so many returns and complaints, and Sam is trying to work his way through a huge tangle of emails. People will be offered a 130W lamp instead of their 100W lamp, if it fails in the warranty period.

ReptileUV will not be selling Solar Raptor halides, in the near future, at least. Bob wants to get the MegaRay mercury vapour lamps sorted out first. So I'm afraid there are no halides available at all, right now... (unless the 35W prototype that was initially offered to the guy who's been posting, is still there and has a working USA-voltage ballast... but I forgot to ask him about that, sorry..)

And finally... "or illness, etc." Yes, a member of Bob's family is seriously ill. Bob himself is okay (though he's had a bad heart for years, it's fairly common knowledge) but his family life has been in turmoil these past months. There are considerable private issues ongoing.

I hope relaying all this helps in some way. I suppose because of all that's been going on, I have never received the samples of the USA "Solar Raptor MegaRays" that Bob was going to send me in February. But during my phone conversation he has promised to send me samples of both the 100W and 160W versions and, when they finally arrive, a 130W one as well. I have, however, tested the 100W and 160W European versions, sent to me by the European distributor, Darren Dunnage. I finished testing these last week, and I'm writing the reports over the next week. Basically, these are nice little lamps with no hazardous very-short-wavelength UVB. The beams are, like all clear-faced PAR38s, a little narrow for my liking and like every mercury vapour lamp I have ever tested, from any company, their output is quite variable from lamp to lamp, but I have no major concerns with them.

Best wishes,

Frances