Shop Lighting Upgrade

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Forum topic by Windpants posted 03-15-2012 12:05 AM 2733 views 1 time favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 1686 days

03-15-2012 12:05 AM

I would like to replace the overhead flood lighting in my high ceiling garage shop with T8 Fluorescent fixtures with electronic ballasts. The shop area is 24’ x 16’ and the peaked ceiling height is 14’ – 20’. The power is 110-120V and currently there are 4 exterior floodlights on the switch used to light the shop.

I wonder if anyone knows how many and what size fixtures would work in my shop? Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.

18 replies so far

View RandyM68's profile


693 posts in 1740 days

#1 posted 03-15-2012 01:37 AM

My shop is smaller than yours. but I hung one double T8 over my work bench for direct lighting, and several $5 jelly jar fixtures around the walls over my miter saw bench and where ever else I thought I needed them. I ran my own wiring, so I just put them where I wanted. If I wanted to light your whole shop, I would hang 6 t8 fixtures on 8 foot centers. four feet from the walls. The higher they hang, the more area they cover, but they lose clarity. You might want to hang a couple lower ones too, over your tables and benches.

-- I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you. I'm sorry,thanks.

View joebloe's profile


157 posts in 1716 days

#2 posted 03-15-2012 05:15 AM

My shop is 16×24,I have 6,4 ft. 4 bulblight fixtures.on two switches.flip 1 switch and 2 bulbs in each fixture lite .that is usually enough lite,they are a T8 bulbs /w electronic ballast,which makes a big difference.the sides of the ceiling are at a 4/12 pitch,I have 2 fixtures in the center and two down each side.they are stagered,my thinking was that it would reduce shadows when measuring and marking,it works pretty good.With your high ceiling,I would get some chains and hang then at 9-10 least 4 ,4 ft fixtures,with the T8 bulbs,and ballast. The ext. floods just don’t cut it.The shop I used to work in,before I retired had them and 4 8ft. floresent fixtures, they where about 14 ft.above the floor and the lighting sucked. Go the T8 bulbs and fixtures you’ll be glad you did.

View SawdustTX's profile


239 posts in 1746 days

#3 posted 03-15-2012 05:46 AM

Not sure how “old” your eyes are, but with mine, the more light the better. I hit a sale and picked up 20 of the 4 foot long shop light two bulb fixtures. Hung them in 5 rows of 4 fixtures each, in my 26×32 shop/garage. Wired them on four switches so I can turn on what I need. But honestly, I almost always run them all on!

The most important thing was the bulbs. I upgraded them all to Phillips “Daylight Deluxe” bulbs, and what a difference! Especially for finishing, or working fine detail, the lighting is fantastic. The full spectrum daylight bulbs (any brand) cost a little more, but to me, more than worth it.

For the trouble of wiring and hanging fixtures, it’s not much more work to put up a bunch of them, and at least for me, well worth a little extra expense and effort.

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 1870 days

#4 posted 03-15-2012 09:14 AM

I don’t feel fluorescent is the way to go with such high ceilings. I suggest looking into metal halide. It produces more lumens per watt (more light per watt), making it much more energy efficient than fluorescent lighting. It also doesn’t have the strobe effect like fluorescent.

As well, metal halide mimics natural sunlight very closely, providing a much more natural looking light than most other options. As well, since your body reacts to sunlight in many ways, one being improved mood and happiness, it can even help make your work shop more enjoyable to work in. I’m not making that up either, if you research it, you’ll see it’s been proven.

I suggest replacing the 4 flood lights you currently have with metal halide fixtures, at least 100 watt fixtures too, and maybe adding 2 more for a total of six. Or, as an option, use 4 metal halide lamps and add 2 high-pressure sodium fixtures (also known ad HPS fixtures. HPS lighting has a more of the yellow/red color spectrum, where as metal halide is pure bright white. The HPS will make the lighting even more natural appearing, and will really give you about the best lighting possible

Indoor greenhouses also use metal halide and HPS lighting because it is the closest match to natural sunlight and provides more light per watt than most any other system.

Metal halide does have a high initial cost, but the energy savings alone will make up for that in a year or two at most. The bulbs will outlast fluorescents by a good bit too, making up for more of that initial investment.

You can find 100-150 watt Metal Halide flood lamps for $40-$90 if you shop around. Like this unit for $89 at Home Depot.

Look around, you can often find good deals on HID lighting (HPS and metal halide are called HID lighting) in discount stores and such.

Another source to check are discount fixtures for indoor growing. I have seen 400 watt metal halide fixtures for around $100, and 3 of those would make your shop glow like a bright summer day. Even 2 may be all you need.

Good luck, stay safe.

-- Kenny

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2263 posts in 1792 days

#5 posted 03-15-2012 12:24 PM

I have 4 48” T8 fixtures in my garage (which is my workshop). It does not have peaked ceilings so I cannot comment on that, but it is a tremendous step up from the two incandescent light fixtures that were there when we bought the house.

As was said above, the temperature range of the bulb you pick is important. I originally had the very cool white ones, which were great for working on my motorcycle, but I found that when working with wood, if I took the wood inside where we run the standard CFLs (not ultra white), the colors of the wood looked significantly different. I was restoring an old cedar chest that needed a completely new top. I made the new top and was frustrated that the color was so far off from the older portion of the chest, even after sitting for a couple weeks. I happen to bring it inside, and was surprised to see that it actually matched pretty well under normal lighting conditions.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View RandyM68's profile


693 posts in 1740 days

#6 posted 03-15-2012 02:07 PM

I like Kenny’s idea better than mine. He’s talking about the same placement, but much better lights. Flourescents suck when they are that high up, the metal halides are better. I still recomond a couple of low hanging T8s where you really need them, like over the workbench. I have mine on separate switches too. Flip on the big lights when you walk in the door, and turn on the others when you need more direct lighting. I can stand flat footed and touch my ceiling, so I don’t really have your poblem, but I have been working in machine shops with 15 or 20 foot ceilings for years. I think a combination works best. The extra cost in lights should be worth it.

-- I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you. I'm sorry,thanks.

View KMT's profile


602 posts in 2085 days

#7 posted 03-15-2012 04:04 PM

My shop is 20’x26’ with 10’ ceilings. I put in 8 – 4ft double Bulb T8 fixtures and am using 5000k color temperature bulbs, they are rated 85 on the color rendering index as far as showing true color.
My ceiling is painted white so reflects light well. I am very happy with the light in my shop.
They are mounted to the ceiling 5 feet from the walls.

-- - Martin

View Windpants's profile


8 posts in 1686 days

#8 posted 03-15-2012 06:00 PM

Wow! This is a pretty cool website! You guys have been very helpful. The main reason I asked the question here was to get some idea of reality from people with experience working with the lights.

I did look at metal halide and sodium lights online before I came here with the question, but the useful bulb life was half of what the T8 fluorescents are. I thought that was a factor because climbing up to change bulbs with a high ceiling can get perilous, especially for older guys.

I learned that electronic ballasts in fluorescent fixtures are good for cold shop starting and that the 5000K color temp bulbs have a more natural life and looking for a higher CRI (color rendering index) number was also good. Higher CRI numbers are more likely in 4’ bulbs than 8’.

But thanks to you guys, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to do now. I’m also going to recommend this website to some of my friends. Nice going people!

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 1870 days

#9 posted 03-15-2012 06:05 PM

I will add onto Randy’s advice some, but first, thanks Randy for the kind words.

Task lighting is important. Adding some flex shaft lights where needed, or using the other style that has the four rods and linkage (architect lights maybe?) For task lighting will help immensely. Even in the best lit shops, there are still shadows, and if your leaning over a piece, you will be creating a shadow. Task lighting will help with that a lot.

Consider using halogen bulbs, the kind that fit in a standard socket, for task lighting. They provide a very nice light that is much brighter, doesn’t fade as much over distance as fluorescent, and in my opinion looks more natural.

TThe easiest way to maximize your lighting is with reflactive walls and ceilings, ie: white painted walls and celings.
If your walls are not white, buy some good flat white paint and paint all the walls. Flat white is much more reflective than gloss, and is the best for light reflection.
BIN or KILZ is some of the best stuff for workshop walls. I know BIN is shellac base and will go over anything, and it cover grease stains, etc. very well. It will cover in much fewer coats, sometimes ust a single coat is enough.

Also, if the ceiling isn’t sheetrocked, consider adding black and white poly as a ceiling of sorts. It is a thick and durable plastic sheeting material (I believe it’s 6mils or better) that is flat white on one side, and black on the other. You could fasten it to the beams as a sort of ceiling and it will make huge difference in reflected light. It will also help keep heat down where it’s needed in colder months.

If you are interested in the HID lighting,let me know. I’ll see if I can find you some good deals.

Really, once you go HID, you’ll never go back to tubes! You’ll wonder how you ever got along without it!

I learned of it back maybe 10 years ago while researching outdoor lighting for my barbecue area and my horseshoe pits. Best discovery I ever made in lighting.

Also, check with demolition companies and companies that auction off or resell industrial electrcal equipment and such. You may be able to find some used fixtures for next to nothing. With all the factories going under, this type of stuff is easy to find.

Good luck. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’ll do my best to help or find you the answer you need.

-- Kenny

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 1870 days

#10 posted 03-15-2012 06:26 PM

I know what the sites say about life of HID bulbs, and it sorely under-rated.

The shop my dad works in still has the same M-H bulbs from 8 years ago, and they’re fine. And those run 60+ hours a week, all year.

HID lamps do start to dim over time very slightly, but we’re talking years, and so little it’s not going to be noticeable without some scientific equipment.

In the average home shop, you can coubnt on 10-12 years of service from a M-H bulb, especially a 175watt. The larger 1000watt commercial high-bay lighting won’t last as long, but that’s a whole other animal.

Not to mention it’s a whole lot easier to screw in a bulb than wrestle a big long tube.

I woulldnt tell you this if I wasn’t sure of my advise. I don’t mind if you choose a different route, but I do think HID is worth some real consideration. You won’t be running up a lader changing bulbs every year or two either, not ubnless you get a defective bulb or fixture.

I’ve not seen any of the HID’s I’ve installed not last at least 8 years. The 175 watt M-H I installed on the pole in my grandmother’s front yard 6 years ago still burns strong, and it turns on every time it gets dark.

Again, good luck. And whatever you do, just be sure you’re happy, as that’s what really matters.

-- Kenny

View Windpants's profile


8 posts in 1686 days

#11 posted 03-15-2012 07:22 PM

Thanks for the tips. I agree about halogen for task lighting. I have two halogen fixtures hanging over my main work bench. Each fixture has two bulbs. It is very nice, warm light to work under. And it doesn’t bother me if they burn out once in a while because they are well within reach.

I hadn’t thought about wrestling 8’ tubes up high, but I am now. I remember when I built this two story garage/shop and was up there on the ladder inside putting up plywood, thinking “you know, I could fall off here and die.” Well I’m older now and the thought of dying in bed is a lot more pleasant a deadly fall off a high ladder.

I’m no electrician, I’m a wood guy. But I’ll look at HID again.

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 1870 days

#12 posted 03-15-2012 09:55 PM

I’ve seen big long poles like you would attach a roller on to paint a ceiling equipped with a device to grab lightbulbs so you can safely change them when they’re too high to reac, and thus can avoid climbing a ladder. I think I saw them at harbor freight, and maybe even home depot and lowes.

Even at 30, I have a hard time changing 8’ tubes on a ladder. I used to do it in a retaurant kitchen when I was a cook, and I hated it. I always felt like I was going to tip the ladder and get smashed up.

I would even recommend using halogen bulbs over tubes. If you were to use reflectors to direct the light down, 10 or 12 halogen bulbs would provide a good light, and since the fixtures are common screw in sockets, investment would be small.

I use (if I recall correctly) “Reveal” 76watt bulbs over my lathe and as task lighting, and the color of the light is excellent.

Having poor eyesight, light is a big deal to me, which is why I’ve researched lighting as much as I have.

Good luck on the search. Just be sure to choose carefully so you end up happy with the result

-- Kenny

View Windpants's profile


8 posts in 1686 days

#13 posted 03-15-2012 11:08 PM

I really appreciate your input on metal halide. But, I live in the Pacific Northwest where temperatures are usually cool. Wouldn’t metal halide fixtures take some time to warm up and come on when the shop is 45 – 50 degrees?

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 1870 days

#14 posted 03-15-2012 11:54 PM

Yes, they do need to warm up. In 50 debree temps, it should be 3-5 minutes depending on the quality of the bulb and ballast, though it could be even faster. Thats just a guess on my part too. I’ve never timed how long it actually takes to be honest. But I know that by the time I get everything on and get settled, mine are at full power.

Really, it’s not somwthing that is goig to be an issue, at least not for most people.

If you’re worried about it being too dark to see, don’t be. Even while warming up, they throw p enty of light.

I wouldn’t worry about it, it’s never bothered me.
Anyway, the cfl’s I used to run took just as long to get to full outoutput.

-- Kenny

View Windpants's profile


8 posts in 1686 days

#15 posted 03-16-2012 12:58 AM

Well, that would probably kill the idea of metal halides, even if the light would be good. At my age (69) five minutes is a lot!

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