Question about T8 bulbs/fixtures

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Forum topic by DonnyBahama posted 07-10-2011 05:51 AM 11398 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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215 posts in 2528 days

07-10-2011 05:51 AM

I was in Home Depot today, trying to get a handle on what it will cost to light my shop. I noticed that most of the fixtures were 32W (I didn’t see any that said 40W) yet they do sell 40W bulbs. To me, it seems like brighter would be better, but can 40W bulbs be used in these 32W fixtures? Or are the ballasts not set up for it?

-- Founding member of the (un)Official LumberJock's Frugal Woodworking Society -

19 replies so far

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3459 days

#1 posted 07-10-2011 05:58 AM

I would look more at the color or temperature of a bulb as opposed to the wattage. Look for a bulb with a higher temp rating, usually in Kelvin. The higher the number the closer to natural sunlight. There was a real good articel published in FWW a couple of years ago about lighting the shop.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View bubinga's profile


861 posts in 2665 days

#2 posted 07-10-2011 06:04 AM

The 32W are newer t8 bulbs and put out more light. Here is a little info that will help: T12-Magnetic to T8-Electronic Ballast/light
I also suggest you do a google search on, t8 lights vs t12 lights

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View DonnyBahama's profile


215 posts in 2528 days

#3 posted 07-10-2011 06:23 AM

I understand about color/temp and am looking exclusively at Daylight (5500K) bulbs – but they were available in both 32 and 40W versions (both T8). Obviously, either one will fit (physically) into the fixture, but I still don’t know if 40W bulbs can be used in 32W fixtures. (EJ, thanks for the link, but when 40W bulbs/ballasts are mentioned, they are talking exclusively about T12.)

-- Founding member of the (un)Official LumberJock's Frugal Woodworking Society -

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2983 days

#4 posted 07-10-2011 04:02 PM

The 40W bulbs will fit into the beefier/older/less efficient fixtures, but you’re not going to see any actual change in brightness between the two of them. The 32W and 40W bulbs will appear equally bright, assuming the colour temperature and length of the bulbs is the same.

I have been looking into lights to light our shop. We’re going exclusively with T8 32W Electric ballast lights. They don’t flicker like the magnetic ballast, which is one of the things that generally bugs me with fluorescent lights. They’re also more energy efficient.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View DonnyBahama's profile


215 posts in 2528 days

#5 posted 07-10-2011 04:07 PM

Thanks for the claification, Lis.

-- Founding member of the (un)Official LumberJock's Frugal Woodworking Society -

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2682 days

#6 posted 07-10-2011 06:09 PM

I wouldn’t overload the listed rating of the fixture (there are electronics involved) nor do I think you’ll be unhappy with 32W.

I have Menards here and haven’t been to a HD in years but based on memory, if you’re looking at hanging fixtures, spend a few $ more and get the one that used to sell for about $20 for a double 4 ft bulb unit with the pull chain and bulb guard. their cheaper ones used to define “you get what you pay for”.

If strip lighting (8’ fixture holding 4-4ft tubes), I’d paint the ceiling and walls a high-gloss white. My shop (30 ft wide, 40 ft long) has 10 ft ceilings with white steel all around and I installed 2 banks of 3 fixtures each (12 tubes per bank). plenty of light for even my tired eyes.

View DonnyBahama's profile


215 posts in 2528 days

#7 posted 07-10-2011 07:07 PM

Thanks, Teejk. I’ll stick with the 32W bulbs. The 8’ long-4 bulb fixtures are $40 and don’t come with any sort of bulb guard. I don’t like the idea of exposed bulbs, so I’ll probably make a simple suspended frame to hold a couple of diffuser panels. The idea of painting the walls & ceiling sounds good, but I’m going to see how well-lit it is with the fixtures before taking on the extra work and expense.

-- Founding member of the (un)Official LumberJock's Frugal Woodworking Society -

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3426 days

#8 posted 07-10-2011 07:18 PM

You will not be happy with the suspended ceiling. You’ll lose a lot of light, they collect dust and bugs like crazy, and you lose height between the fixtures.
The clear bulb protectors are not that expensive.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View mikelaw's profile


51 posts in 2580 days

#9 posted 07-12-2011 01:56 AM

Three weeks ago I bought an 8 foot, four tube T8 fixture. There are two types; the one I bought is dubbed “HO” for high output (can’t remember the designation for the standard T8 bulb). It lit up my workbench far beyond my expectations so now I have one less excuse to screw up my hand cut dovetails. I suppose the 32 watt bulbs are OK but, wow, the high output version is perfect if you need brightest possible illumination. I also agree with Gene that suspending the light is not the best option although that probably depends on your ceiling height. All the T8 fixtures, I’m told, come with electronic ballast which should eliminate the humming that plagues the old fixtures. Finally, my Home Depot did have guard accessories available for the 8 foot fixture but you could also look into plastic sleeves covering the glass so that you don’t get mercury dust laden glass shards raining down on you should you break one. The plastic sleeves are available for standard sized tubes but I’m not sure about the T8’s. Good luck. Hope you’ve been enlightened.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3306 days

#10 posted 07-12-2011 02:20 AM

I have 15 flourescent fixtures in my shop…each with two 4Ft tubes. Eight of them are the older T12’s that I installed when I built my sho pand the other 7 are the T8’s.that I added at a later time. I am slowly replacing the T12’s with the T8’s because of the noticable difference in light and lack of humming and flickering. The older T12’s do not have daylight bulbs and the T8’s do. What a difference!
I am also using the newer fixtures with the pull chain for complete light control and reflector above the bulbs.

View DonnyBahama's profile


215 posts in 2528 days

#11 posted 07-12-2011 03:23 AM

Thanks, everyone for all the advice and input. To clarify, I wasn’t talking about suspending the fixtures or the ceiling. I was thinking of (surface) mounting the fixtures to the ceiling, then suspending a frame (just low enough to clear the fixture) to hold protective plastic panels. I initially said “diffuser panels”, not realizing that you lose light with those. I could just as easily go with clear plastic.

My goal, here is to keep from breaking the bulbs when I get sloppy with a long board. Those clear plastic tubes may keep the shattered bulb from raining down on me, but I’d rather prevent myself from breaking it in the first place.

-- Founding member of the (un)Official LumberJock's Frugal Woodworking Society -

View bdjohns1's profile


43 posts in 2689 days

#12 posted 07-14-2011 04:18 PM

mikelaw: the HO may be referring to the reflector design. I know that HD’s display tags have a “brightness” scale for the various fixtures in terms of how efficiently they direct the light where you want. Some lights have better-designed reflectors than others.

I got my shop lights for our new house at Menards – found some nice high-efficiency fixtures for $20/each. I did the plastic tube protector route.

-- Ben - resident cheese whiz.

View Camper's profile


232 posts in 2853 days

#13 posted 07-15-2011 04:30 AM

Hi Donny, the brightness of a bulb is measured by “lumens” and not watts. If I am understanding you correctly you may be thinking that 40W bulbs would be brighter than 32W bulbs. This may be true but not because of higher “watts”, you need to compare lumen output of each bulb.

Florescent lights may be standard, HO (high output) or VHO but you would need a matching ballast to get that level of performance. You can also use standard bulbs with a VHO ballast but this will reduce their life expectancy of the bulb and change its color (the whole discussion about kelvins and daylights etc) . From a cost/output/usage perspective T8 standard bulbs with electronic ballasts are probably best bang for your buck for the average consumer without specialty lighting needs.

Let me also caution you that because you are getting daylight bulbs (5500K) it does not mean that through the life of the bulb you will get the same “color”(daylight) of light. As the bulb ages its color shifts so if you are REALLY picky about the colors in your shop you would need to change bulbs w/o waiting for them to burn out (fairly costly).

In another life, I was real into coral reef tanks and learned more than I should about lighting. Disclaimer: the above information should be pretty close to fact but it has been a while so you may want to double check.

Hope this helps.

-- Tampa-FL

View Camper's profile


232 posts in 2853 days

#14 posted 07-15-2011 04:33 AM

Forgot to mention…any “barrier” you will put between the light source (bulb) and your work space such as plastic protectors, shields etc must be cleaned regularly to maintain the “calculated” light output. When these barriers collect dust,etc this GREATLY reduces the it may be a good idea to go with something that is easy to wipe down/clean.

-- Tampa-FL

View DonnyBahama's profile


215 posts in 2528 days

#15 posted 07-15-2011 05:53 AM

Hey, Camper. Thanks for chiming in. One of the hats I wear is that of a home theater designer/consultant so I have a very good understanding of lumens, color temperature, and the effects of aging, filters, lens coatings, etc. on the characteristics of any light source. The main thing I did not understand was the relationship between fluorescent bulbs and ballasts. Posts like yours have been very helpful, though. I wish, though, that manufacturers would use apples-to-apples ratings on everything. If the fixture is made for 40W bulbs, call it that – not HO or VHO!

-- Founding member of the (un)Official LumberJock's Frugal Woodworking Society -

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