Bright Light! Bright Light!
Over the last couple of days I added lights to brighten the shop.
Shop Light Envy
After seeing the lights in Les Hasting's shop I was motivated to install more lights in my own. There is nothing like shop envy to motivate a guy.
The Original Lighting
The original lighting situation in my shop was poor and inadequate. I had three 4’x4’ units with 6 bulbs over the assembly and finish area. There was only one of these 4’x4’ lights over the tablesaw, planer, and sanding machine. This is the milling area.
In this picture it looks like there is ample lighting and there was – but only in the daytime. As you can see, I have large 5’w x 4’h windows that let in plenty of outside light and ventilation.
The light was spread thin over the shop. The inadequate lighting left dark spots in the shop. There was always a shadow cast on the sides of a project and it was necessary to pull a project into a bright spot for critical viewing.
It all started by removing the diffuser panels from the 4’x4’ lights. I was originally cleaning them but I was thinking how much brighter they were without the diffusers. At this point I removed all of them and decided that this would work better.
You may wonder why use the diffusers to begin with? The diffusers more evenly distribute the light, and with an inadequate number of lights on the ceiling, this is a bit more important but also a trade-off. You cast the light out further by the prisms of the diffuser panel, but it is also reduced. It almost seems to have a veil over the light.
Over time the panels also tend to turn yellow which further reduces the light. The first thing that struck me by removing the panels, was how much whiter the light appeared.
This Just Ain’t Enough
I decided that this was still leaving me with a woefully inadequate lighting situation. I used to do maintenance on commercial buildings and had 6 strip lights in storage left over from this work. I decided it was time to divert from my projects and install the lights.
I started by removing the single 4’ x 4’ surface mount light from above the milling area.
Layout followed and this can be difficult when you are working alone. I use a paint pole to help me do layout because I can hold it over a long span against the ceiling and walls. I simply transfer my measurements to the pole and then transfer them to the ceiling.
The area was basically broken into thirds. I consider the work area to start at the shelving, not at the wall. That means I consider the shelving to be the wall or perimeter and the work area is inside of that.
Updating The Lights
The lights were new in the box but they were actually several years old. Being old light fixtures meant that they had the old magnetic starter ballasts. I had electronic ballasts for replacement on hand so I changed them out. The magnetic ballasts would have worked, especially because my shop is heated, but I prefer the quick-start of the electronic units.
The city has a collection point for things like the old magnetic ballast because they contain chemical compounds like PCB’s. I will take them to that collection point for responsible disposal.
The Lights Go Up
I installed backers in the ceiling between the trusses because the light were falling only on the sheetrock with no good backers.
After that I put the lights up and it was easy by myself. The 4’x4’ units are not that easy when working alone.
I also did a quick calculation and determined that I would use a new breaker so I dropped in a new circuit for this bank of lights. These lights are also switched separately from the other units so I wired in a couple of 3 way switches. They worked properly on the first try.
Rearranging the 4’x4’ Lights
The 4’x4’ lights needed to be completely repositioned to add in the fourth light. They would stay on the same center line but I would move the end units out about 1 1/2’ on each end. Then I would divide the space between them, move the third light over and raise the fourth light into position.
These lights are very heavy and unwieldy when working alone. To make things manageable, simple, and safe I fabricated brackets with moving tracks to hold and slide the lights by myself. These brackets butt against the side of the light fixtures and screw to the ceiling trusses.
These brackets allowed me to remove the screws in the light fixtures and allow it would drop about 1/4” onto the bracket. I was able to slide the light over into it’s new position and then reattach it to the ceiling. After the light was securely in position I removed the brackets from the ceiling.
In this picture you will notice the parabola reflector lights under the stereo speakers. I needed to use these because I was having trouble seeing in the poor lighting. I joyfully packed them away as soon as the install was complete.
I was pretty excited to fire up all of the lights and see how they lit up the shop. I couldn’t wait until it got dark to see the real difference.
WOW! I can’t believe the difference, it is sooo bright in my shop now. It is now a wonderfully lighted shop and it is just in time for the longer hours of darkness that are starting to come upon us as fall and winter are rapidly approaching.
I am kicking myself for not doing this sooner. I have been struggling with poor lighting all this time and to think that I had everything that I needed to do this in my storage or on the shelves. The total cost for this project was $11.00 because I needed to buy a few bulbs.
The total power consumption of this lighting setup is 1224 watts.
The light bulbs are 4’ long T12’s. I use the low energy 34w bulbs instead of the 40w bulbs. T8 bulbs burn 32w. So really, if you are using T12’s you can further save energy by installing the 34w bulbs instead 40w’s. There is a slight loss of lumens rating when going to 34w bulbs but it is not bad.
Total wattage if using 40w bulbs would be 1440w. I am saving 216w over 36 bulbs.
I hope that you were able to glean ideas and information from my experience.
Providing Nutrition for Woodworkers
-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com