Living On The Edge…
- please check out safety recall at the end of this posting.
The edge of a lighting technology revolution, that is. When it came time to light the new workshop, I wanted two things; lumens and economy. I am a “make do with what you have” sorta guy but try to not take that to a fault. You have to achieve your end goal or saving money is false economy.
Around 18 months ago, LED lighting seemed terribly expensive with around $8 required for a 60 Watt equivalent bulb. At these prices, I would want them to generate electricity and sell it back to the POCO.
T8 fluorescent technology was a proven commodity but I had no experience with it. I simply knew that the inexpensive “shop lights” from my t-12 trials of old had little longevity in a dusty and humid workshop.
Incandescent and halogen bulbs, though tried and true, make the meter spin so fast while producing unwanted heat that I could not consider them for general lighting. I ended up with a 4-part approach to shop lighting that I’ll describe further.
1) CFL bulbs seemed like a good way to go for me. I doubt that many live up to their life expectancy, but at just a few dollars each, a 23 Watt investment to get 100 Watts of lumens was interesting. I needed fixtures to accept these bulbs and decided to use keyless ceramic fixtures and add a reflector to direct light downward. I also wanted to protect the bulbs from accidental breakage so I added a wire cage to the set up. The end product looks like this. I bought chrome paint to enhance a white reflector.
Ignore the string of party lights
Just ignore the party lights; they get plugged in for special occasions only. This gives me a standard socket that can be used for an LED bulb when the prices get better. I bought a couple of Y-splitters in case I wanted two bulbs per fixture in a couple of places but this has not been needed and it would eliminate the ability to use the wire cage. Each assembly ran around $20 and I’m using 8 of them.
2) I ordered one T-8 fixture, an inexpensive shop light with a “residential” ballast and hung it under the carport when I moved all the tools there. That was only part of the lighting in my temporary shop but I was surprised at how well that particular fixture performed. (more on that fixture later).
3) After a bit of research telling me of so many happy customers with T8 technology, I accepted five 4-bulb troffers from my electrician nephew. Four 48” bulbs per fixture promised lots of lumens and the price was right. I removed the acrylic lens. Painted the inside chrome, and installed new ballasts and bulbs. $125 invested in the five for a lot of lumens.
2) revisited – I decided to buy six more of the 2-bulb “shop lights” when I found them for $15 and I wanted the same exact Cooper Lighting fixture that I’d tested under the carport. So there’s roughly $150 in new fixtures and bulbs.
There is a row of these fixtures running parallel to a row of the 4-bulb fixtures in half the shop. In the other half the shop, there’s a storage loft that takes up half of that half the shop. The two-bulb narrow reflector fixtures were perfect for mounting between the floor joists of the loft. You can see in the pic above how one 16” cavity was skipped between the two pair of fixtures. There’s lots of lumens here.
4) The fourth component of my lighting was task lighting that I placed along exterior walls above benches. I used track lighting that was an assortment of different brands. A good friend who worked in retail retrofit and new construction, passed along new and used components over some years and I had to buy a few pieces of track to overcome incompatibility among and between brands. I spent around fifty dollars to enable me to use most of the $300 worth of track heads that I already had. Even if you don’t have such a benefactor, this stuff is readily available at reduced costs buying through popular auctions. You just have to study the compatibility issues. Some manufacturers, such as Juno, make two different lines that may not fit when mixed. The particulars are usually available through the manufacturer’s websites.
These fixtures are installed above workbench areas and are switched at the bench. I used mostly halogen bulbs that will make the meter spin so these task lights are generally used when needed and not left on. I’m currently experimenting with a couple of LED downlights in two of the track heads and they are holding their own so far. Here’s a pic of two different groups along the east wall. Don’t call the design police – I know they don’t all match!
An interesting point for anyone planning a new shop build, make sure your shop interior reflects as much light as possible. I painted all the framing as I built thinking it would help protect the wood while I worked alone at snail’s pace. I’m not sure that I did much for protection but a second coat when I painted all the inside of the sheathing yielded a bright interior. I also bought OSB roof sheathing with a foil face for only $1 per sheet extra. I installed the sheathing shiny side down so my look from inside is: REFLECTIVE ceiling and white walls.
I put a layer of double bubble foil over the roof decking and installed galvalume metal on 1-1/2” stripping (air space required for radiant barrier). Yes, there are three reflective surfaces between me and the overhead sun. I have exposed stud wall cavities 5-1/2” deep and no interior insulation and yet I keep the shop comfortable with one 8000 btu air conditioner in the Louisiana heat. It worked out better than anticipated.
In summary, put the most light in the middle of the shop where you’ll need it for setting up machinery. In doorways and in storage areas have adequate light to find things but you will not need enough light to discern 64ths of an inch here. Have task lighting to boost the light in areas where you might work for a limited time and lastly, have a good old fashioned pole lamp that can easily be moved to help in any area. Most people have thrown away one or two of these.
I spent around $500 total in fixtures and bulbs. I have not needed more light than I have and therein is gratification for the scheming.
Be creative about how you get light to where you need it. Adjacent to the shop I have a carport for my small camper. I lowered the lighting from the tall structure by bending some emt conduit and strapping it in place with u-bolts, getting the light much closer to where it is needed. This is not unlike what I did in the tallest part of the shop where I used plastic pipe to lower fixtures.
Now back to #2 again.
Watch out – there’s a product safety recall in effect for a number of different models of fluorescent fixtures. 18”-48” Fixtures manufactured for Cooper Lighting are effected and the plastic ends MAY melt and catch fire if the bulbs are not seated properly. Sold through Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, Menards, Mills Fleet Farm, True Value and other retail stores nationwide from July 2011 through April 2015 for between $13 and $67. Check out the CPSC posting here:
One part of the lighting scheme in my workshop uses 2-bulb 4 ft fluorescent fixture. These were fairly inexpensive with “residential” ballasts. After the first one survived my carport over a damp winter and spring, I bought more to use in the shop. Now, it seems, I’ll have them replaced.
-- Like Guy Clark sez - "Sometimes I use my head, Sometimes I get a bigger hammer"