Fluorescent lighting... fix, replace, ?

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Forum topic by ben posted 12-01-2007 05:56 AM 7399 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ben's profile


158 posts in 3893 days

12-01-2007 05:56 AM

Topic tags/keywords: shop lighting fluorescent t8 flicker

My garage turned workshop has fluorescent lights in it. Three 4-foot, 2-bulb fixtures. They flicker incredibly, and are slow to start. It’s cold out in NY, so the slow start is no surprise. In any case, my guess is that they were the cheapest thing sold at Lowes, based on the way the former owner of this house did things.

I read about T8s, and replaced the T12 bulbs, and found that the light was better, but the flickering has gone unchanged. I’ve done some more reading, and it seems that I should be able to get new ballasts, and if so, electronic, high frequency is the way to go.

Are there alternatives I should be considering? Non-fluorescent of some sort? I’m sure that the total lighting in the garage is also inadequate, so I wonder if I should plan on just doubling the number of fixtures as well… the space is 23’x22’.

Thoughts? Ideas? What do most of you do for lighting?

10 replies so far

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3897 days

#1 posted 12-01-2007 06:58 AM

Adding a few different types of lighting is the way to go. Keep the fluorescents, maybe you could improve the bulbs and ballasts, but also get some direct and “task” lighting. The combination is the best thing. There is no one best type of light.

-- Happy woodworking!

View waynet's profile


22 posts in 3897 days

#2 posted 12-01-2007 04:47 PM

If you bought the $9.99 level lighting fixtures you may want to start over like I did. I’ve gone through 6 sets of them and 5 of them have died completely. If they do work they screw up the bulbs as well. I finally upgraded to the $19.95 level strip with the electronic ballasts and they work great. Instant on and no hum or flicker. They are well worth the extra $10.00.

-- Wayne, Tennessee Mallard Design

View Hutch's profile


106 posts in 3920 days

#3 posted 12-01-2007 04:59 PM

Look into HO (high output) fluorescent fixtures and bulbs. They start at much colder temps with less flicker. Most fixtures that you’ll find are 8’ two tube fixtures. But like Blake mentioned, adding some incandescent light is also nice.

View bryano's profile


546 posts in 3956 days

#4 posted 12-01-2007 04:59 PM

Hi Ben. As an electrician I install a lot of lights. stay with the more expensive t8 HO lighting fixture from an electrical supply house (2’x4’ with a parabolic lense with a crome reflective finish would work well). The fixtures at the big box stores are cheap and wont last. I also agree with Blake about the localized lighting

-- bryano

View Myron Wooley's profile

Myron Wooley

226 posts in 3919 days

#5 posted 12-01-2007 05:45 PM

As we age, our need for light increases. A kid can get by with not much light at all, but a 50 year old needs a considerable amount.
When I designed my shop (24’x 30’), I wanted at least 100 footcandles of glare-free illumination. Given a ceiling height of 9 feet, I used commercial T8 HO fixtures with electronic ballasts. Three rows of six 48” two-tube fixtures, evenly spaced. The fixtures are paired up lengthwise. The corner and center sets are on one circuit, and the other four are on another circuit. That way I have a little bit of brightness control.




Task lighting can be added as necessary. It is a real pleasure to be able to see what I’m doing, rather than struggling with flicker and shadows.

-- The days are long and the years are short...

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4013 days

#6 posted 12-01-2007 07:02 PM

OK…Stop the bus for a minute.

The old style fluorescent fixtures had a crummy slow start, eat a lot of power and flicker away ballasts. They’ve been replaced with the new technology type HO (High Output) jobbies that use the T-style bulbs. You can buy these new ballasts but sometimes it’s just cheaper to buy the whole enchalada. The biggest thing you need consider is what kind of brightness you want. For a woodshop, direct sunlight is the best, except of course it turns cherry dark and causes skin cancer and stuff like that. So the next best thing is the bright white you get from sunlight. Look at the printing on your bulbs. The new ones have a “color temperature” rating with a number like 4100K. That’s kinda yellowish, like your 40 watt incandesant bulbs. The sun shines at like 9500K…that’s really bright white. So the lower the number, the dimmer the lamp. Brighter lamps make the details stand out better. So the new ones have virtually no flicker, they have more light and suck up less power!

Placement is also a consideration. You should be able to stand at your table with no shadowing present. So placing lamps behind you is not gonna help. Your lights also need to go up high so as not to shine into your eyes. The bulbs should be protected by a plastic sleeve, should swingin’ that 12 foot board suddenly complicate your day. Don’t breathe this stuff either, it can be detrimental to your health.

Also consider CFL (compact fluroscent lamps) to replace your incandesant bulbs. Sylvania makes the kind that turn on instantly, and the light “color temp” is comparable too! You can also get them in 3-way. They won’t work with a dimmer though…bummer. But I’ve replaced all my frequently used bulbs with them and it’s pretty cool how well they work, except they’re butt ugly, so they need a shade or frosted glass dome. Oh you can place them in your outdoor crystal entry fixtures, but then everyone will know that you’re a dweeb.

OK…Lets get this bus rolling again!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Myron Wooley's profile

Myron Wooley

226 posts in 3919 days

#7 posted 12-01-2007 11:47 PM

Also, the higher the “Color Rendition Index”, the better. A CRI of 100 is the same as natural daylight. Look for CRIs of at least 80 as a minimum.
Dept. Of Energy Lighting Info Site

-- The days are long and the years are short...

View ben's profile


158 posts in 3893 days

#8 posted 12-02-2007 05:10 AM

Thanks for the all the info guys. Hopefully come monday I’ll have this all ironed out :-)


View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4423 days

#9 posted 12-02-2007 05:20 AM

OK all you electricians and know-it-alls. What is the impact of having the bulbs higher up. My ceilings in my shop are 16’. The previous owner put 2 – 8’ double bulb light at about 12’ from the ceiling on each side and they were mounted on the walls. I’ve added some wall furnishings (the floor is full so i’m now going up.) and I’ve caused shadows and no direct light on some of my work surfaces. What would be the effect of putting new fixtures on the ceiling. maybe similiar to what MyronW has done.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Myron Wooley's profile

Myron Wooley

226 posts in 3919 days

#10 posted 12-02-2007 08:02 PM

Higher ceilings increase the fixture count requirements, because the light intensity falls off rapidly. I would probably add an additional row or two if my ceiling was higher. Or you can suspend the fixtures at a better height.

Here’s an article from FWW discussing lighting for the shop that I referred to while I was designing my shop. It turned out great.
Lighting for the Workshop

-- The days are long and the years are short...

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