LED shoplight wiring

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Forum topic by xeddog posted 02-07-2016 11:26 PM 2896 views 1 time favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View xeddog's profile


207 posts in 3182 days

02-07-2016 11:26 PM

I have been looking into LED shop lighting like many others. I am currently set up in a three-car garage (yup, all of it). I have very low ceilings due to there being two bedrooms over most of it. They are barely 8’ throughout most of it, but the big beams that support the two bedrooms come down to under 7’.

Anyway, I currently have have “adequate” lighting using fluorescents. Most of them are 8’ T12 HO lights (seven 8’ two tube, and three 4’ two tube) with varying color temperatures. They are all wired directly using standard Nomex, either 12-2 or 14-2 with ground. I have not been able to find any 8’ LED lights anywhere, so to replace an 8’ fluorescent requires two 4’ LED lights inline. I would be looking at somewhere around a total of 20 4’ two tube LED fixtures. So far, I am trying two of the lights sold at Costco, but they have non-replaceable cords that require a standard grounded receptacle. First impressions are that they are very bright, but not “intense”. I opened up the end where the cord goes into the fixture. It was a small area filled with the circuit board (as small as it was). No way to run ROMEX into that small space without damaging something.

I have looked at several other lights on the Internet and they all look to be just about the same thing, non-replaceable cords included. Has anyone found lights of this ilk that have NO external wiring, or at least some where the end panel can be opened up so the ROMEX can be run directly into the fixture?



24 replies so far

View toddbeaulieu's profile


815 posts in 3179 days

#1 posted 02-07-2016 11:40 PM

I have a number of different lights hard wired from Home Depot. They have 4 ft singles and even 2×4 panels. Some can be dimmed, but it’s hard finding info on the dimmers. I can help more if you remind me.

View MadMark's profile


979 posts in 1627 days

#2 posted 02-07-2016 11:43 PM

Check out


-- Madmark -

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1094 days

#3 posted 02-08-2016 03:14 AM


My suggestion is check in your area for a lighting showroom. If there are any near you, they may be able to guide you in solving your lighting problem. The experts there should know what is currently available in LED lighting and can help you pick the correct type and number of the LED lamps.

This is the route I took when I remodel my kitchen and found their knowledge impressive and very helpful. I later used what I learned about LED lighting to upgrade my shop lighting with LED recessed lights.

View DrTebi's profile


267 posts in 3441 days

#4 posted 02-08-2016 10:02 AM

You should build your own out of a fixture and separate tubes…

I have three double 4’ fluorescent fixtures in my small shop converted to LED. Two fixtures are from home depot, but they kind of sucked: sharp edges, flimsy etc., don’t get these:

The third one that I installed later is from Lowes, and is actually quite nice, much better quality:

The LED tubes I use in all of these are from Phillips:

The tubes are pricey, but they rock. Instant on, very bright, low power usage, great color rendition, and never had a problem in 3+ years.

To install them, I had to completely rewire the fixture. Take the ballast out, rewire everything according to the diagram that Philips provides. I also have a low ceiling, less than 8’, and therefore did not hang the fixtures, but instead drilled a couple of holes into the top of the fixture and attached them directly to the ceiling (making sure to hit the joists under the drywall).

I would not see a problem wiring the Lowes fixture to Romex wire. The internal wire is of a smaller gauge, maybe 14 or even 16, but with proper connectors it shouldn’t be a problem. Personally, I prefer to solder everything…

I hope that helps. I suggest to check out fixtures in the big stores, and just open the boxes and inspect them in detail (I did that). Some fixtures or so cheaply made, they seem to be more of a hazard than anything else.

View shipwright's profile (online now)


8132 posts in 2972 days

#5 posted 02-08-2016 03:11 PM

Locate your lights, cut and splice the wire (in boxes), and run them all to a switched outlet in one line. They only draw ~1/3 of an amp each so 20 would only draw around 7 or 8 amps. Locate the switch(s) near the door(s) and you’re in business. I have these lights and really like them.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View xeddog's profile


207 posts in 3182 days

#6 posted 02-08-2016 07:24 PM

toddbeaulieu – I’m going to Lowes and Home Despot today. I’ll check them out.

MadMark – I was hoping for something a little less expensive, but I do need to check them out anyway.

JBrow – Closest showroom is probably 30-40 miles. To far for me to drag my lazy butt. :-)

DrTebi – I have thought about converting some of my existing lights, but the 4’ lights that I have are much easier and less expensive to just replace. Besides, then I would just have more florescent tubes to get rid of.

shipwright – All of my existing lights are already hardwired to a wall switch by the door. There are few junction boxes now (only two if I remember right) , so adding several of them is more work and expense. I want to keep the wiring changes to a minimum in both cost and time. I realize I sound like a whiner, and I’m sure am am whining some. But I also realize that it might not be a bad idea to rework it all.

Thanks for all the replies.


View brtech's profile


1049 posts in 3097 days

#7 posted 02-08-2016 08:17 PM

Pay attention to lumens. Your 96T12 HOs put out 7-8K lumens per bulb. Make sure whatever you replace them with has about the same, or more, output.

View DrTebi's profile


267 posts in 3441 days

#8 posted 02-09-2016 06:00 AM

I agree, pay attention to the lumen of the LED lights you will eventually decide to buy. Those HO bulbs have quite a lot of lumen, that’s hard to beat with LED.

View splintergroup's profile


2341 posts in 1397 days

#9 posted 02-09-2016 05:42 PM

LED replacement tubes are great in that they usually are drop-in (they work with the original ballast), they have full brightness when cold, and they don’t dim with age as fast as fluorescents.

The key as brtech points out is the light output, or lumens. Many people don’t realize that these LED lights typically only produce 50% of the lumens of the original fluorescent. This gives the impression that they are twice as efficient (use 50% of the power) when in reality LEDs and fluorescents are basically equal at around 100 lumens/Watt. The trick is that the LED has all the light directed downward whereas the fluorescent has it directed a full 360 degrees and relies on the reflector to recover some of this ‘wasted’ light.

That being said, I have replaced a number of tubes in my 4 foot fixtures with 2400 lumen LED tubes. These fixtures are 4-tube, with pairs of bulbs controlled by separate wall switches. This lets me use half my lights most of the time and switch on the other 50% when I need things really bright.
I replaced two of the tubes in each fixture and when the fixture is fully energized (two LED and two fluorescent), the LEDs are a tad brighter. I also wired these in to bypass the ballast, saving a few watts.

The LEDs were about $11 each (free shipping) so now the money game comes down to will these last about 10x longer than a $1 replacement fluorescent tube?
I sure do like the instant-on full brightness and total lack of hum!

View ClammyBallz's profile


449 posts in 1311 days

#10 posted 02-09-2016 07:04 PM

These fixtures from lowes can be surface mounted and hard wired through the ceiling.

If you want to connect the fixtures together, there’s a disconnect, but I don’t remember seeing the adapter in the box. You can take the disconnect off the end of the fixture and use a step drill to drill out the rectangle for a 1/2” romex clamp. Or better yet, use some 1/2” conduit so it looks better.

I tried some of these LED fixtures and while they are good for certain areas, I ended up using 8’ T5 HO fixtures from HD.

There’s separate circuits for left & right, but I rewired them for front/back. In the summer when it’s warm and sunny, I turn on one row. At night or during the winter, I run both. Since they throw off some heat, they help warm up the shop. Lamps can be found online for as little as $3.

View ClammyBallz's profile


449 posts in 1311 days

#11 posted 02-09-2016 07:06 PM


View xeddog's profile


207 posts in 3182 days

#12 posted 02-09-2016 07:33 PM

I have picked up some things to experiment with. First, I went to Lowes and got a pair of these LED strip lights. They are 3600 lumens, 40W, 4000K color temp, 80 CRI, linkable, direct wire units and cost about $50 each.

The next thing I bought was two of these. I bought two of them thinking (ok HOPING) I could just replace some T12 lamps in an existing 4’ fluorescent fixture. Did more research and found that this may not be my best idea I’ve had. I called my son and he happened to have two brand new T8 fixtures laying around that he was not going to use. They are the 4 tube 8’ type with two pairs of tubes end-to-end, so I had to go back to Lowes for two more of these tubes. This should yield 8000 lumens per fixture at 4000K temp, using a total of 72W per fixture. CRI is unknown, but at $12 each I am not thinking that it would be too great.

The 8’ fluorescents these will be replacing are various wattages of 75W, 95W, and 110W each, so the 8000 lumen LED will be replacing either 8500W (75W and 95W), or 15300 for the 110W fluorescents. Oddly enough, the fluorescents that APPEAR to be putting out the most light are the 75W, and the dimmest APPEAR to be the 110W. Weird.

So that is what I’ll be doing over the next few days. I’m having some foot problems so I can’t spend much time standing or walking for now. But I’ll git-r-done sooner or later.

I wish some BigAss lights were in the budget, but for the price of going this route I could only get one BigAss.


ClammyBallz – it looks like I was typing my response while you were. Those are the ones I bought.

View toddbeaulieu's profile


815 posts in 3179 days

#13 posted 02-09-2016 08:00 PM

You’ll have to remove the ballasts, right?

I’m fortunate in that I received quite a few light assemblies for free in exchange for reviews. I like the wide panels (2×4) and also the narrow form factor that’s not trying to look like an fluorescent retro fitted. They’ve finally realized that they can just make a modern light and abandon the old appearance.

View DirtyMike's profile


637 posts in 1076 days

#14 posted 02-09-2016 08:02 PM

I am slowly replacing my 8 foot t12s with these leds They require a little modding to be flush mounted but that is no biggie. for 35 bucks i am amazed at the quality of light they produce. i am rewiring my ceiling with outlets, so i have the freedom to move the lights or add overhead power or a filtration box. good luck

View xeddog's profile


207 posts in 3182 days

#15 posted 02-10-2016 02:22 AM

You ll have to remove the ballasts, right?

- toddbeaulieu

No. These lamps are a drop-in replacement for the t8 lamps. No changes were required to the fixtures. You just remove the t8 bulb and drop one of these in. Done.


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