Shop lighting questions

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Forum topic by Vrtigo1 posted 12-22-2010 02:46 AM 3114 views 1 time favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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434 posts in 3020 days

12-22-2010 02:46 AM

I’ve noticed more and more lately that I need to do something about the lighting in my shop. My shop is my converted 2 car garage which originally had only a 60 watt light bulb. I installed two of the cheapo 4’ fluorescent fixtures from home depot when I moved in, but it’s still very dim out there and I have a lot of problems with shadows because the lights are in the middle of the garage and I stand between them and whatever I’m working on 90% of the time.

I read a lot about shop lighting here and at other sites and it seems like T8 lights are a popular choice. I did some research and found these fixtures at home depot: along with these bulbs: Am I on the right track?

I found an online calculator at GE’s website that said I would need about 15 of these to get 100 foot candles of light, which is what I’ve seen as the recommended light level for a shop at quite a few woodworking websites. I was thinking I could do three rows of four fixtures each and then use task lighting as needed. That would put me at a cost of around $350-400 which is at the upper limit of what I’d like to spend. I realize you get what you pay for, but since this is just a hobby for me, I can’t see spending more than that.

So what do you think? Am I on the right track? I assume this will make a huge difference going from the 2 fluorescent fixtures I have now?

25 replies so far

View RetiredCoastie's profile


999 posts in 3211 days

#1 posted 12-22-2010 03:11 AM

I have a shop in my 2 car garage and I installed 4ea 8 foot long T8 fixtures with the highest rated bulbs. Each fixture uses 4ea 4 foot bulbs and they provide excellent illumination and I don’t really have shadows. I also have the walls drywalled and painted white which helps a great deal. On some bench top tools task lighting is still used but for overall lighting the T8s are the way to go and they aren’t noisy like the older fluorescent fixtures. When I have all 4 lit it’s like daylight in the shop. I hope this helps!

-- Proud Supporter of Homes For Our Troops

View HorizontalMike's profile


7758 posts in 2942 days

#2 posted 12-22-2010 03:48 AM

I have six double 8’ T-12 fixtures in my 24’x30’ plus three 300w halogen floodlights in my garage/workshop and I still do NOT consider it OVER LIT. You are correct in assuming that you get what you pay for. Count them, 1-10 fingers… Go ahead, B&M about the cost, at least while you have ALL of your fingers.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3790 days

#3 posted 12-22-2010 04:20 AM

My “Workshop in the Woods” has nine of these T-8 fixtures;|0||p_product_quantity_sold|1&pl=1&currentURL=%2Fpl_Fluorescent%2BLighting%2BAccessories_4294896174_4294937087_%3FNs%3Dp_product_prd_lis_ord_nbr%7C0%7C%7Cp_product_quantity_sold%7C1

I selected the “daylight” T-8 bulbs because they have the highest color rendering index (CRI). To further improve the lighting level and the CRI, I also installed six 200 watt standard incandescent bulbs as they have a CRI = 100.

T-8 fixtures have two advantages; They have electronic ballasts that operate at hig frequency, around 21000 HZ , thus no flicker or hum. They also start much better at low temperatures than the old magnetic ballast fixtures.

You will also be amazed at how white ceilings and walls improves the lighting.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Brian024's profile


358 posts in 3429 days

#4 posted 12-22-2010 05:11 AM

Has anyone ever used Natural light tubes instead of Daylight? I’ve noticed the Daylight has a slight blue tint to it, which for some reason gives me headaches. I changed them out for Natural and they went away, plus I’ve noticed the quality of light is better, not quite as bright but the true color of the woods and finishes seem very close to when I take them outside in the sunlight.

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69 posts in 2940 days

#5 posted 12-22-2010 06:12 AM

I put (2) of the (2) T-8 bulbs plus a 2 bulb shop light like the one you linked in my 30 by 20 ft garage this summer before putting the insulation in. I only use two of the bays for my woodworking, and didn’t want to put lights above the garage door since it was open most of the time. Well now it’s 20 deg outside, and I wish I would have put twice as much insulation in and 3 times as many lights. I now find myself working a majority of the time right underneath where I didn’t put lights.

I think this summer I’ll take the (2) units down and put (4) bulb units up and install the (2) bulb units above the garage door.

I would suggest the wrap around lights instead of the shop lights. I have both and I feel the wrap around give a more ambient light. These are usually $30 or $40 for a 2 bulb and $50+ for a 4 bulb at a big box.

30 bulbs sounds pretty excessive. I doubt I would ever consider more the 14 or 16.

View dbhost's profile


5726 posts in 3260 days

#6 posted 12-22-2010 06:41 AM

I have 6 of the el cheapo T 12 fixtures in my 18×20 garage workshop and it is plenty bright in there, I am however not happy with the flicker of the T12s. The T12s were given to me (4 of them) and 2 of them I installed 10+ years ago…

Once the case of T12 bulbs I have now burns out, I am planning on replacing the fixtures and bulbs with T8s.

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile (online now)


18293 posts in 3704 days

#7 posted 12-22-2010 07:22 AM

Brian024, Naturals should give you a lot warmer light that the daylights which are perceivably brighter than the old cool white.

When you guys change bulbs in your fluorescents, only one will be burned out. If you put a new one with an old, it will cause more stress on the old one. If you put 2 news in a fixture and save the old one that is still good to put with another old, you will have a lot longer lamp life.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3103 days

#8 posted 12-22-2010 03:53 PM

This is not an answer to the subject of general lighting in a shop but you may find this thought of value.

The general lighting in my shop is okay, but not great. I like to use a portable shop light with several of my tools. I bought a shop light with a flexible neck and a magnet base. I have mounted a steel plate (normally used as a cap on an electrical box) in several strategic locations. This portable shop light sheds extra light on my router, sharp smith, band saw and lathe.

For the lathe I made a bracket that attaches to the bed of the lathe and sticks up about 18” and I have a steel plate on the top of the bracket. It is usually at the end of the lathe but I can remove it if it is in the way (which is seldom).

In addition, if you already have a DeWalt 18 volt tool with a battery and charger, this is a great addition to your shop.

If you had to buy the light, battery and charger, it would be quite expensive but if you already have a battery and charger, this is a very reasonably priced light and it works great.

This extra light really helps me on a number of tasks.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3509 days

#9 posted 12-22-2010 04:30 PM

My shop is about 21 ft by 21 ft (two car garage) and I have the cheapo 4 ft florescent lights from Home Depot. I put 5 of these fixtures (two bulbs in each) down each bay of the garage ceiling so basically I have 20 bulbs. I positioned them so they are a bit closer to the walls then centered on the bay. This way the light tends to be more over the machines rather than in front of them. With just these lights on, its a very comfortable light and like an operating room in the hospital…bright, and no shadows. I also have added a few magnetic lights on some of the tools like the bandsaw and drill press so I can have extra light for detaill work.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View HorizontalMike's profile


7758 posts in 2942 days

#10 posted 12-22-2010 04:46 PM

BTW, everyone should be aware that T12 fluorescent lamps have been outlawed in the USA since July 2010.

I am still finding T12s bulbs and fixtures at HD at bargain prices, nearly half the price of T8s. I guess the question is whether or not someone has the storage capacity for a couple of boxes of T12 8ft bulbs for their existing fixtures. FWIW, I currently have 6 double-bulb fixtures installed and could slowly eliminate/replace those fixtures (w/T8s) as the ballasts give out. However, with only using these ~500 hours/year, they could last for several more years (already 6 years old). Food for thought…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile (online now)


18293 posts in 3704 days

#11 posted 12-23-2010 01:47 AM

And, the standard old A21 incandescent bulbs with be gone in two or three more years. I don’t remember the date.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3771 days

#12 posted 12-23-2010 05:10 AM

Mike THe bulbs are not outlawed the MAGNETIC HUMMING ballasts were outlawed in 2010.

The high frequency ballasts are still made and are completely legal.

In July of 2012 you will see a change in the Fluorescent lamps on the shelf as new energy efficiency standards take effect.
The Halophosphor lamps Cool White and Warm white become illegal, only very high Color rendering lamps are exempt (greater than 87 CRI) or lamps that have high enough lumens per watt (like miles per gallon) can be sold. So many T12’s go away aside from the very top end ones and the basic T8’s. So if you have something you like, you might want to buy a case before the disappear. But the lamps that will remain will be better than what you are using today as far as brightness.
That is because the bulb will still be e.g. 40 Watts for T12, but they will generate higher lumens (light output) by using more expensive phosphor coatings.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

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2584 posts in 2990 days

#13 posted 12-23-2010 04:13 PM

Don’t you just love the government telling you what to buy!

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2104 posts in 3757 days

#14 posted 12-23-2010 05:55 PM

In this case, I do like it.

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13 posts in 3772 days

#15 posted 12-23-2010 07:51 PM

The best lights that I have are VHO flourecents (very high output). They are 110watt bulbs. A lot of people use them for aquariums to grow plants and such. But they are perfect for the shop. Its almost like working outside on a sunny day, when you are standing under them.

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